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Experiences

Inexpensive ways to keep kids Busy

It’s been over 2 and a half months, and the chirping of little kids has been eerily quiet in our gated community. Last week, my 3 year old son asked me, “Daddy, when will Conora-virus go? When will the playground be open?” and I had nothing but a sigh and an unsure “soon, Anik, soon…” to mutter. Sad, right? Don’t let the occasional memory of playground or his friends fool you though. Anik has been having a gala time since the Lockdown began and he’s been a very happy child. We will give him full credit for that. Let me share with you some inexpensive ways to keep kids busy. My spouse and I have facilitated a few playing and learning experiences for him that we would like to share.

Cardboard + imagination = unlimited fun as an inexpensive way to keep kids busy.

Weekends? no! They are craft days!!We ask Anik – What would you like to “make” today and the answers are as imaginative as they can be. Spaceship, Speedboat, A Car City, A Booster Rocket. Some spare things in the house, and a bit of stationary and we sit with him and craft our way to some really cool #makercraft. This is one of the great inexpensive ways to keep kids busy. Patience is key, so is participation – for sticking, colouring, marking and all kinds of stuff the kid may enjoy. We usually start with a plan on a whiteboard and then keep iterating our way. I will let the pictures do the talking. We hope Anik learns creativity, patience, and the love for building.

Pre-schoolers make great little chefs!

The entire world has been baking during the coronavirus pandemic and we are no exception. This surely is a proven way to keep your kid engaged. Helps Anik learn textures, tastes, dexterity, and again, making. This is another inexpensive ways to keep kids busy. We have gone a step further and given him some common ingredients and let his imagination take over. We have as a result, Grape and Potato wafer canapés, Apple Pie Made up of Apple and Coarse Sugar, and many other creative recipes you will not even find in a Michelin star restaurant. Take a look at some of these!!

Household chores + role play can turn pre-schoolers into happy little helpers.

Want to load your dishwasher? This is one of the great inexpensive ways to keep kids busy. You should ask your kid for help, Anik calls it a dishwashing Robot and he loves to help. Our cleaner bot is his robot friend too, he calls it Eva (from the Pixar movie Wall-e). Anik also loves on days to clean up and show us his superpowers! This doesn’t always work but when it does it’s great!

Your house spaces and furniture are your best friends!!

A bean bag, a hydraulic bed, sofa, simple mattress, can turn into amazing physical activities for kids. Balcony / Terrace can turn into yoga spaces. You don’t have to do a lot, just don’t interfere with creativity. This is one of the most amazing inexpensive ways to keep kids busy. There is a big safety issue here, so please exercise common sense. We turn our hydraulic bed into a slide, sofa with a bean bag turns into a bird’s nest, a mattress can turn into a ski slope. My kid for instance has conceived a fun pretend swimming pool – a bedsheet surrounded by pillows and a house ladder as a diving board, and there is pretend splashing too, and we have to be there with him. I’m sure all of us can relate to jumping on the bed, but with Anik we have taken it to a whole new level. We have also brought in aspects of simulation for instance we have built a car city replete with school, hospital, garage, emergency services, roads and everything!! Anik had blast building and playing.

Technology is a means to an end – it is NOT one of the inexpensive ways to keep kids busy.

Tech does NOT mean screens. Screens are okay, I am not averse to a couple hours of screen time a day, but it surely is passive and doesn’t engender or utilise creative ability at all. We try to harness tech to keep the kid engaged and curious, this could be simply be , communicating with his friends, or helping me repair a tap, or teaching how to replace batteries in toys, and then come the science experiments. For instance at 3 although not with a lot of expectations, me and Anik have created a DC generator prototype that generates electricity from another fan and a propeller wind mill. We have also created a water pumping station using siphon action. Anik’s grandfather has designed an aeroplane shuttle system based on a rope and a few straws. It’s brilliant. You can also experiment with Augmented reality fairly easily. Finally Lego! Lego is not tech but isn’t it? Using building blocks to create fascinating things… for me there is no better definition of tech.

I don’t pretend to be a super parent. These are humble efforts that are purely born out of necessity. Who knows, they might even inspire some parents and kids!!

Can you relate? Let us know in the comments below.

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Experiences Learnings

Relocating to India – Home is where the heart is

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Relocating to India wasn’t planned. It was on our minds for a while. Your first child is quite an experience. It literally acted as a trigger that was waiting to fire for a long time.

Hey! you know what it’s like to sleep peacefully right?

Not as bad for me now but its true! Babies are side projects that will test you to your physical, and psychological limit. Its one of those times in your life when you have new found appreciation for your parents. Thanks mom and dad for putting up with me!!

Hey and by the way it’s been 2.5 years since I moved back to India. The ride so far has been exhilarating, exhausting and simply humbling. I want to take you down to the moment I realised I was going back to India. It was actually one such sleepless night when my son, Anik had been crying for more than 3 hours straight. There was nothing wrong with him, just a stressful night. If you don’t have kids, please remember this!

Human brains are wired to respond to the cries of babies, unlike anything else.

You cannot ignore it, the stress hormones will kick in. Just ride it out. People worry about labour ☺️ but with all due respect this part is harder.

Anyway the constant screaming was making me think and introspect. I was able to reach a conclusion that some unresolved thoughts in my mind were beginning to surface during that stressful situation. They were causing me lots of anxiety.

Your mind races fast during such times – it runs multitude of scenarios like in a simulation. In a minute, you weigh your options. You think about what is important to you and what is not important to you.

relocating to india

It was crystal clear. I concluded that I would be a stronger person with my extended family. We were relocating to India.

Deepika and I wanted the option of seeing our parents when we desired. I wanted my son to truly have grandparents, cousins and an extended family and not speak with them on just FaceTime. We both wanted to spend time with my parents and for Deepika to spend time with her mother, not when they are critically ill but when they were happy and fine. I have met so many people that live with regret of having prioritised their careers over their family.

One of the mental models I follow in life is to ensure I live with no regrets (much as humanly possible), I was certainly not going to live with this one. Next morning I had a long discussion with Deepika. I spoke with my mentors and my trusted friends. Finally, we sealed it. We were moving back. A lot of things transpired between now and then, finding roles, switching countries, houses, jobs, vehicles, you get the drift ☺️

After relocating to India.

I have lived most of my life in Pune, relocating to India shouldn’t have been very challenging but boy I was wrong. We were a family now. With home and office in 2 different parts of the city, and the terrible traffic meant that I had to move closer to work. Setup a new house, and everything. It all fell in place after some (actually lots of) effort. We even fell ill a lot during the first year or so but we made it alright. We are certainly happier – Anik has grandparents he can see whenever he wants, he has cousins, we have family get togethers, Deepika and I get to see old friends and yes the Sun makes a whole lot of difference ☀️!

Professionally this was a roller coaster but a really fun one. As I mentioned, the decision to move back was personal. As a result, On the professional front, I had fewer choices, including choosing a city. India is a wonderful place to work, it is the fastest growing economy in the world, and Pune was recently ranked as the most liveable city in India. Minus traffic and some air / noise pollution woes it is a sunny “Paradiso”. Pune is home to one of the most iconic IT industry corridors in India. While I had the option to continue with Vodafone, I chose to go back to Barclays as I found a better fit and a greater challenge there.

Pune has been brilliant

My Pune role has been a brilliant change – even though it was Barclays with a 8 year history I came from a commercial role to a tech role, I changed from a product owner to an engineering role. However my tech background and well established networks were immensely helpful. I have so far managed to build with support from our amazing leadership one of the best machine learning teams in Barclays and have also recently been working on building an India arm for our Barclays Ventures division. Its a big deal and my team and management has nothing but kind to me.

It’s been almost 3 years since I moved back. I have also made 3-4 trips to London since but there is only positive reaffirmation.

My mind feels lighter, there are no regrets, no burden or as they say, home is where the heart is or in this case just a little left of center.

relocating to india
Copyright to the owner Mandira