Dec 16, 2011

Life || The Practices of the Highly Imaginative Indian Parent

I read somewhere that Indian parents of the 80s and 90s were an unimaginative breed of people. I politely beg to differ. I don’t know about you folks, but my parents were indeed, highly imaginative members of the human race. So much so, that they constantly indulged in the practices of the greatest minds of all time.

Photo Credit: Harlequeen (Creative Commons)

Writers, artists, leaders, great thinkers, I saw a glimpse of all such figures within my own home, in the very people who brought me into this world. I’ll share with you some of the performances that were commonly staged in my family, me being the victim, er… audience of them all.

Note: Translations to Italicized words are provided at the bottom of the post, in order of appearance.


Long before I took the GRE exam, I was quite comfortably aware of and used to the concept of analogies. I did not even have to write down the frequently-asked examples of analogies on flash cards and memorize them. So well did they teach me, with real-life examples, such as:

Badam:Brillance, as Butter:Badam Halwa.

The more, the better! Needless to say, I was regularly fed with soaked and peeled badams (non-fat variety).

Logical Reasoning

Similarly, LR was taught to me at a very young age.

Najiba = III A
Sumitra = III A
Hence Najiba  = Sumitra

Najiba = 100/100 in Maths
Najiba = Sumitra
Hence, Sumitra = 100/100 in Maths!

Simple, yet profound. 


Yes, my parents were quite accomplished when it came to delivering lectures. I would receive one whenever they felt their oration needed some practice.

One of the most popular lectures was titled, ‘Studying children will study anywhere’. This one was rendered particularly in the homes of relatives, family friends, etc. when I was expected to bring a book along to study, while the adults watched TV and chatted. A single complaint about the lack of amenties such as table and chair, lighting, mood, etc. would act as a trigger. 

Since my father is Telugu and mom Tamilian, I was subject to dual-language versions. So I was alternately told, “Padikere pasanga enga venalum padipaange,” by one parent and, “Chaduve pillalu ekkadaina chaduvutaru,” by the other. An inspired version would include examples of the likes of Abraham Lincoln who studied under street lights.


For my benefit and the betterment of my general up-bringing, my parents routinely invited their own parents, siblings and closest friends to provide the much needed guest lectures. Some of the whackiest ones were given by my Grandma, whose words I still cannot forget.

My beloved Paati wasted no time in telling me that I would grow up to be like Kanthamma, our maid, if I did not study. “See Kantham, she cannot read or write. Unaku kooda ade gadi thaan, if you don’t study. You will have to wear torn sarees given by others and wash dishes for a living.”

Quotable Quotes

Russell Peters was not kidding when he quoted his dad, “Somebody gonna get a hurt real bad.” This was routinely chanted in my house too.

Again, I got multi-lingual versions of this. “Yaaro nalla adi vaanga poranage ippo” by mom, and “Evvaro baaga thannulu tintaaru ippiudu,” by dad. Unlike Russell, I always knew it was me. No siblings, you see. 

Another quote that got thrown around a lot was the one about the well. As in:

“Dad can I go to the sleep-over?”


“All my friends are going”

“If all your friends jump in the well, would you too?”



As all great personalities, my parents also narrated fond memories of their childhood experiences. Of course, these narratives always included a lesson, something for me to learn.

“What? Raise in pocket-money-aa? When I was a boy, I took the five annas my father gave me and saved it by walking five miles to the school in the next town. Children these days…” <Head bent and shaking>

Inda kaalathu pasangalukku bhayame illama pochu.  Naanga chinnapo we were so scared of our parents. Why, even now, at this age also I am scared of my mother.”


Ahh yes, the concept of planting an idea was discovered by my parents long before Christopher Nolan. In fact, multiple dream/idea planting sessions were conducted frequently, and I did not even have to be asleep for them. Example of a common post-lunch scenario:

Dad (Looking up from Newspaper): Sumi, what to you want to become when you grow up?

Me (Looking up from Hardy Boys): Umm…

Mom (Running in from the kitchen, Beaming): When she was born itself, I told Amma. Our daughter will become a doctor. First in the family.

Dad: You know, Mr. Verma’s son has gone to America to study his masters. One day…

Mom (Dreamy-eyed): I always wanted to learn the Veena when I was younger. Alas, my parents could not afford. But our Sumi…


Yes, I was required to recite several things as a child. Multiplication tables were one of them. When I was in the second grade, my mother took it upon herself to permanently imprint my mind with tables. So she mysteriously procured audio tapes of ‘tables-songs’ that promplty replaced the Suprabhatam. Paavam,  M.S. never knew that ‘times-two tables’ were actually her greatest competitor.  Every morning, I had to listen and sing-along, accompanied with the correct taalam.


Several rituals that mirrored the lifestyles of the accomplished were religiously followed in my household. The one I remember most vividly is the summer ritual of ‘Five Words’. This practice required me to read 2-3 articles in the editorial section of the newspaper every day of my summer vacation. I had to underline five difficult words, look up their meanings in the dictionary, and copy them down into my notebook.

 As my laziness grew with age, I was pardoned, and the ritual was reduced to ‘Two Words’.


This was perhaps, the most brilliant of my parent’s accomplishments. They were firm believers in the third law of motion propsed and proved by Sir Isaac Newton.

Every action, indeed, had an equal and opposite reaction in my house. Like if I told a bad word, my face would immediately be plastered with a slap. If I did not come home from playing immediately when my mother called me, the front door would promptly be locked. If I behaved badly in public, a tiny, discreet, yet painful pinch would follow on the underside of my arm, when no one was looking.

If you grew up in the 80s and 90s and cannot relate to anything I’ve written, I am sorry to inform you that your parents were quite unimaginative, as my reading-source states.


Badam - Almond
Badam Halwa - Gooey, Yummy, Almond sweet
Padikere pasanga enga venalum padipaange/Chaduve pillalu ekkadaina chaduvutaru - Studying children will study anywhere
Paati - Grandmother
Unaku kooda ade gadi thaan - You too will suffer the same fate
Yaaro nalla adi vaanga poranage ippo/Evvaro baaga thannulu tintaaru ippiudu - Somebody gonna get a hurt real bad
Annas - old Indian currency
Inda kaalathu pasangalukku bhayame illama pochu - These days kids have no fear
Naanga chinnapo - When we were kids
Amma - Mother
Suprabhatam - A religious chant to be heard at the crack of dawn.
Paavam - Poor thing
Taalam - Way of keeping track of rhythm in Indian Classical Music

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  1. Hi Sumithra,

    Nice hilarious blog :) :) Newtonism was followed in my home too. That too slap will be replaced by beatings :) But other things i have not suffered :) really you have been brought up under a strict parents :P :P Good writeup :)

  2. I was nodding at every word of yours.. Been through all of that.. Even now,sometimes I feel that I live my life in certain ways to keep up with the expectations of my dad, but I never regret it because I owe him that. He let me go on my daring endeavors and I, at the least, do not want to trample his expectations and dreams even if I could not fulfill every one of them:)

  3. My parents were definitely imaginative and in some ways like yours :)

  4. LOL, I *still* get a dose of most of those including concerns about my body weight:P Ah, the vagaries of still living at home...

  5. And this? "When you grow up and have your own kids, you'll understand".

    Prophetic words, those. Which brings me to a quote by a great man (bows head):

    By the time I realized my parents were right, I had kids who thought I'm wrong

    "Kaala chakra", as they say 'n all that... ;-)

    Wonderful post. I can imagine my daughter writing one such post a few years down the line.

  6. 'Padikere pasanga enga venalum padipaange' is a favorite of my Amma. I've also got doses of 'unakkum adhe gati', 'you'll also jump into the well?' and the difficult word ritual. I've also been a victim of that secret pinch punishment.
    Hilarious post, this! :D

  7. OMG, you are a lifesaver Sumitra.

    I was starting to feel a slight pinch of homesickness from the morning; in all the nodding I did through the post you reminded me of home and all the ROFL'ing that followed for exactly 7.52 minutes made the homesickness disappear without a trace. So a big thank you for that.

    The maid comparison, Jumping in the well dialogue and 'Padikere Pasanga enga venalum padipaanga' is something the kid sister is subjected to - to this moment.

    The Secret Pinch, Multiplication Table Suprabhatam and Inception were techniques employed on me.

    Awesome post, Had a whale of a time reading it.

    Cheers :)

  8. @Ravi: Thanks! Aww, no my parents weren't that strict. I might have taken a few 'artistic liberties' with them. But, all in good spirit. Yep beatings are what every Indian child goes through, though. It builds character!

    @Keirthana: Glad you could relate to the post. Living up to expectations? You are a good girl there. I'm the worst. I've managed to shrug off every one of their's. The last they expected was that their daughter would quit her job to do some 'writing work'. But, they're quite understanding.

    @Purvi: :-) Oh, by the way, you can participate in the giveaway, I forgot to tell you. If you have someone in India who can receive it on your behalf.

    @PeeVee: Oh, weight. Now that I'm married my mum isn't so bothered, but before she used to nag me about it all the time.

    @Phatichar: Haha, yeah I got those too. Oh no no, I'm at the stage where I say "I will not do the same things my parents did. No, no. Never." Soon I will get to where you are.

    @Sruthi: Thanks! I think you're almost a decade younger to me. Glad to know things didn't change too much after my time.

    @AS: Wow, that's always something I love hearing from readers. That I helped make their day better. Thank you, Thank you for laughing!! I can truly empathize with your sis.

  9. haha.. I loved the post! Parents and their ways.. hilarious indeed :D I still go through all these!

  10. :D Parents!!
    And are you serious about the mathematics-table song? Seriously? Ayyo!! :D

  11. @Chandana: Thanks! Ahh, yes you will continue to as long as you live with your parents, no matter if you're not a kid anymore. I still get it when I stay at my mom's.

    @Spiff: Yup. Every morning :D

  12. i can related to most of them except the one with MS. Did u hav to hear the goodness of eating ghee (for good memory), okra (to excel in Math) etc?

  13. Hey Sumitra,

    Awesome post ..this is the first one I read so far. Took me back to my childhood!!! One other thing my Dad did was hire a person to wake up at 5A.M and make me do my exercises and jogging...he really pushed it, I must say! And there was a slight variation on the 'maid comparison' at my home.If I didn't do well in an exam (this one came from Bharath when my mom would be scolding me - basically he acted as a catalyst!), he would say, "She's so dumb to be able to make something of herself,its best you find her a rich man and marry her off, Mom!" And my Mom would say," She's so dumb, who would want to marry her." LOL! And Mom used to always draw comparisons with Deepu (Sudevi Aunty's son), who apparently was the ideal son! LOL! Anyways, great post! I'll try to visit ur website as often as possible. Keep posting!

  14. Wow! Thats what I call perspective. You can make a world out of anything, isn't it?

  15. @Kalpana: Oh, no ghee for me, but the okra thing, yes. Mostly the day before the exam. As if it'd make me suddenly know all the formulae.

    @Bhargavi: OMG! First I thought it was someone else, and then when I saw 'Bharat', I figured out it was you. Thanks so much for visiting here!
    Seriously? Uncle hired someone to make you jog?? No Way! Was this in India or Saudi? Oh yea, I remember the comparisons to Deepak. My mom used to go on about how studiously all the kids worked at Sudevi aunty's tutions. Those were some days. Do come by again!

  16. @Vikas: Yup, apparently. This wasn't even a planned post, just spur of the moment. Thanks for coming by!

  17. Spot on! Mine has even more imaginative ways to make me eat. And it changes with age too. laughed out loud on the replacement for MS bit :) So funny!

    1. Thanks Archana! Ah, I've always been a good eater so mine had imaginative ways to make me diet :D

  18. Everything, I repeat - every single thing which you have written about has occured to me.

    This is an E.P.I.C post... *quietness shattering applause*

    1. @zackandme: Thank you so much! :) Glad to know I was not alone.

  19. Loved this one. Mmmmm...I have done quite a few of the things you have said your mom did too and some, because I had TWO boys and everyone knows how hard it is to raise boys :D :D

    Would love to know how you found my blog?

    1. @zephyr: Welcome! Thanks, glad to know you liked my post :) I don't have any brothers so I was quite unaware of the fact that it is hard to raise boys. Nevertheless, I suppose all parents do these things and I'm sure I will too, someday :D

      It's funny, as soon as I read a blog for the first time, I just blank out about how I even got there :D But I think I found you on Indivine.