Out of the mouths of babes: Maithili Chakravarthy

Almost every child we had a conversation with for this story, mentioned tuitions. The dreaded word that begins with the letter T. Tuitions have been part of a child’s life for years. There has been a notion prevalent that without them, a child cannot succeed. Yet mums like Prasiddhi Khare Mishra from Hyderabad choose to not let their children be swamped by the eight-letter word. Says she for Navatman, her 9-year-old son, “No tuitions. I teach him daily. I’m a full time mom. I left my job for him and I refuse a full time job because of him.” Adds Navatman, “I enjoy my time being a child. I have no pressure of exam or study… because I study regularly and don’t stress my mind. In my free time I play with Lego kits which I thoroughly enjoy. I have decorated my home with all my Lego creations.”

There is a new generation of parents who wants to be totally involved. Who don’t want to over-analyse or judge their children. Mumbai’s Hemruchi Shah, whose 5-year-old child Myra Shah, who goes to The Cathedral & John Connon School, is one such mother. Shah is expecting her second child, and we discover that Myra is elated about the arrival of her sibling. She tells us that she “wants to give my new baby a bath when she arrives.” She also enjoys playing with her grandmother and spending her day with her activity boxes.

However, there are others like Bengaluru’s 11-year-old Twisha Ray, for whom the pressures of being an adolescent in a school system that is quite demanding, have caught up. “After a certain age, you are expected to put in the work. You stop being a child. When you realise that you have all this homework to finish, you also realise that you are growing up and have responsibilities.” Ray talks about her school homework being a fun project, such as an art or craft activity that requires one to think on their feet, but also says that the fact that “I have to submit it the next day, and have a deadline to meet, sometimes takes the fun and creativity out of that activity. It’s always on my mind that I have to get it done,” she ponders. She also slips in something that we don’t expect: “I have never really gone out to play with my friends. I just don’t remember the last time I did that.”

Eight-year-old Vanishka from New Delhi seems a little apprehensive talking about how stressful school can be, but mentions that tuitions are part of life and that sometimes there is a lot of studying. Even at the age of eight.

Twisha Ray also speaks about bullying in her school. “I’m against it and don’t like how judgemental people in my class can be about others.” She explains, “There is this girl who doesn’t look like she comes from a very posh background. Once she got a Smiggle pencil box and everyone said she must have either stolen it, or that it must be a second hand one. Kids can be really mean and that hurts me sometimes.”

Eighteen-year-old Chetan Dave says that he feels powerful when he makes choices such as not to have a phone until only a few months ago. “I had a friend who behaved badly and I think it was because of his exposure to technology. I saw that and kept away from it for a long time. I had a very happy childhood because my parents never pressured me to do anything I really didn’t want to do.” He is quick to evaluate that it’s usually technology that has caused people to have temper tantrums and an inability to adjust harmoniously in the world.