Not without our kids

Not without our kids


Not without our kids

It’s a relaxed weekend. You are peacefully exploring the mindboggling choice of cereals available at the supermarket, humming a carefree Mohammad Rafi song, when it appears as if the great Khali has landed a punch in your stomach. In fact, it’s just someone’s precocious brat who has run full tilt into you, ricocheted off a rack, knocking down the display and is lucky enough not to be seriously hurt or killed.

“Kids not allowed!” Would you want that sign placed prominently outside the supermarket and, besides it, a few salons, coffee bars, cinema halls, libraries and restaurants for a few hours of adult only space?
Blasphemous as it sounds in family-centric, kid-loving, we-go-nowhere-without-our-brats India; do singles (and even harassed dads and moms) clamour for kid-free space? A place where they can just sit down for a quiet dinner or simply sip a silent cappuccino, with nothing but the tremor of a forming wrinkle disturbing the peace.

And most certainly without a loud wailing child hastening the ageing process from somewhere in the background.   

Alas! You can’t be by your grown-up self in Pizza Hut or McDonalds, the movie hall, the gym or even the most exclusive restaurant at a five-star hotel. The little monsters are everywhere (if not yours then someone else’s).  So even if you do find a babysitter for that romantic anniversary dinner, rest assured there will be someone else who is having a late evening birthday party with the little emperors running amuck  — giggling, screaming, pulling each others’ hair – ensuring that  you spill the champagne on your best sari.

“In all probability, the kids decided which hotel the family would have dinner in, so naturally they are around,” laughs Sunil Rawat, manager with a top-end fashion retail store.

“In India, family comes first. Children are not just the drivers of decisions, they are often the decision makers. Be it a holiday/ movie/ restaurant, kids often decide what the grown-ups will do. Naturally, businesses wouldn’t dare annoy them”. Rawat, 29 and single as yet, says he often yearns for kid-free space.

“I feel there should be reservations in certain public places like movie theatres, restaurants, shopping malls or at least ‘no children’ zones because at times children can be a real nuisance. But I understand we cannot afford to offend children and their families because this would be disastrous for business. After all, kids bring the maximum business to a company.”

Would people be happier having better behaved children around? At the risk of getting some more brickbats, we do have worse-mannered children than most other countries.

Santosh Kumar, a Government employee posted in the United Kingdom tends to agree. “I don’t find it harder with kids around, only that our kids are a lot noisier and undisciplined in public places, which is annoying at times. But then, that is the way of our upbringing,” he says, adding, “and we really don’t know which one is better in the long run”. Kumar feels that with the increasing trend of “modernisation” it is inevitable that such steps will creep into our system. “However, since we are not a homogenous society like the West, is that really going to affect us that much?” he wonders.

Delhi-based artist and designer Richa Verma (45), also single by choice, has no problem having kids around. “What’s wrong with it?” she asks. “We live or have lived in joint families, we have cousins visiting all the time, and we are used to having children around. That’s how we are as a society.”

Besides this, she feels Indian parents are responsible enough not to bring kids to bars, the theatre, classical music performances or a certain kind of movies. “Either they will find someone to leave kids with or they will sacrifice and not go to places where they feel kids would not fit. I have no problems with that,” she says.

Businesswoman Renee Garewal, who trots the globe for work, agrees. “I find western society a sham and a farce. You have to behave a certain way, dress a certain way, eat a certain way, take appointments from your own friends and family. Thank god we are not like that. We can walk into our friends’ houses late at night and demand dinner and a drink.”

Renee feels Indians are more boisterous, loud and open but also more warm and friendly. “Our kids are the same,” she says. Indian kids might be noisy and naughty till they are eight or nine but after that they are generally very well-behaved.

“Taking them out with us everywhere is part of the social bonding process we Indians have. I’m fine with it.”

So there you go. Forgive the kid that bumped you in supermarket, you don’t have a choice. Just because they’re kids we cannot get away with discrimination. At least not in India.

Earning brownie points

We don’t have restaurants that give us peace and quiet and kid-free time. Right! So, do we have restaurants that welcome kids with open arms and tell us not to cry over spilt cola, scattered noodles or sambhar spills? No, again. Which is rather tragic, isn’t it? For such a kid-loving, family-centric nation, there are precious few places (if we discount McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Food Courts  and a few others that can be counted on the fingertips) where our little ones feel welcome.

Isn’t it high time some restaurants realise that even parents look for happy (read undisturbed by their own children) time at the dinner table. Entertain those brats while mom and dad eat and win goodwill and love for a lifetime (also good business, which is what really matters). 

All it needs is some dedicated service, a play area with skid-free flooring, maybe crayons and comics and a special kiddie menu.

Rest assured they aren’t even going to notice if the plate has a stain or the napkin is not folded properly. The parents are sure to patronise the restaurant forever. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

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