The whole nation or at least moms have been talking about the controversial “Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mother” by Ms. Amy Chua, a second generation Chinese American (interestingly, it was only Ms.Chua's grandparents who lived in China; her parents were raised in the Philippines). I had read the article based on the book in WSJ and Time magazine, seen the CNN HLN program where she was interviewed by Joy Behar and had followed the almost vitriolic debate that followed it. But I ordered the book only when a very good friend of mine (who coincidentally and ironically happens to be Chinese) asked me to read it. This friend encourages her kids to enjoy all the activities that Ms. Chua prohibits. And I have no doubt in my mind that these kids will be accepted in Harvard, Yale, Princeton or any other Ivy League school. The contrasting views motivated me to read Ms. Chua’s book. One thing was already clear: I could not generalize “Chinese moms”.

The book was a quick and easy read. With all that I had heard about the book, I was expecting to read a very strict “How to parent” guide. But I was pleasantly surprised to read a self-deprecating (in parts), witty and honest memoir. Just as Ms. Chua has stated in many interviews, I am a bit surprised to notice the polarizing views this book has generated. But, on the other hand, I am not stunned either. Ms. Chua may seem extreme to many, yet there is a sizeable population that identifies with several of her parenting tenets such as “To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences” or “Not allowing kids to play computer games or watch TV”. The difference, however, is the degree or the extreme to which Ms. Chua may have adopted these tenets. For example, I know several parents who insist on taking their kids to Kumon, Karate or, in my case, Chess. There may be times when the kids would rather watch TV or play, instead of doing math, yet parents insist (and probably rightfully so) that the kids have to go for lessons or practice their “extra-curricular activity”. It is just that most parents may not insist that the kids practice for 3 hours every day. Likewise, I, for one, do not encourage my children to play video games or watch TV for an extended duration but they are allowed to watch sports on weekends, play the DSI on long drives and flights and occasionally at home. What may have caused the umbrage is her extreme style. But what seems to have been missed out completely by most people is her self-deprecating style of humor in this book as when she insisted that her children will not be allowed to become lazy especially “not on my watch” or when she decided to apply Chinese parenting to her dog.
A contributing factor to the wrath against her is her generalization about Western parents who she refers to as weak-willed. In the beginning of the book she did state that she was using the term “Western parents” loosely. But that statement gets quickly nullified by the several comments she makes against their parenting style. The reality is that parenting is very personal and therefore these broad over-generalizations that Western parents encourage mediocrity and tend to give up easily can be a source of indignation to most Western parents.

But Ms. Chua also stated that over a period of time she started questioning her own parenting style. And yet, she received death threats! I am not sure how many of her critics have actually read her book and if they have, I would like to state that ultimately Ms. Chua did point out “All decent parents want to do what's best for their children. The Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that.” So, please, cut Ms. Chua some slack. Or, go buy her book – at least for all the threats she has received, her book sales have sky-rocketed. Ms. Chua (Chuha means “rat” in Hindi – no offence intended), irrespective of your parenting style, for all your honesty, humor & candor, my vote goes to you. May this rat keep roaring & growling!

Hello,

It is that time of year again to share with you our adventures in the year gone by. 2010 has been another year of magic and wonder…

Taran and Roshan turned 6 this May. How time flies! They have continued to do well at chess winning the State Championship and several other tournaments. The boys joined a new school for first grade. They are happy learners and have made many new friends. They did their first stage performance in school and are now busy interviewing agents to represent them in Hollywood.

Ritesh started the year with additional responsibilities at work. But magically somehow found time for events such as the Australian Grand Prix, golf at St. Andrews, “Making your own scotch” event at Scotland and enjoying the verdant rainforests and white sand beaches of Rio. We are a little confused about his profession – it seems he is employed by Lonely Planet rather than Infosys. We will update you when we have more clarity on the same.

Nidhi had set a goal for herself this year to learn swimming. She is so proud of finally learning the skill (at about the same time when the boys learnt it). Finally, neither of them needs a life jacket to swim in the deep. Ritesh, on the other hand, continues to swim (or in his case, fly) in the oceans of outsourcing. One blog compared him to George Clooney’s character in “Up in the Air”. Ever since, Nidhi has been very receptive of his travels. George Clooney, even vicariously, is always welcome! Ritesh, on the other hand, is more interested in the Vera Farmiga part of the equation! Good luck to him!

Sports were a big part of the Idnani family this year. The whole family bonded over the Football World Cup (soccer) this summer when Taran and Roshan were ardently following Brazil, wearing Brazilian T-shirts and growing their hair “just like Kaka”. However, the moment Brazil lost; they changed their allegiance to Spain and quickly got a haircut. So much for loyalties! They are now fast becoming NFL fans following on their dad’s footsteps. Nidhi hopes that their enthusiasm for the game doesn’t lead them to following Tom Brady’s current hairstyle.

The Idnanis were able to squeeze in a bit of travel this year. They started in the Prairies in South Dakota, were completely taken by the beauty of the Black hills and Mount Rushmore, were enchanted by the Badlands, visited Minneapolis, Canada, Washington DC, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Jersey shore, Miami and Disney World. The Idnanis spent the bulk of the summer in India visiting family and friends. Ritesh and Nidhi knew that the vacation in India was truly successful when by the end of the trip Taran and Roshan were singing Hindi songs and were imagining themselves to be Tendulkar and Sehwag while playing cricket. This was complete indoctrination!

We can’t help but feel a sense of excitement for the wonderful year we just had and the year that is ahead of us now. As we welcome 2011, we hope it will bring good luck, good health, prosperity and happiness to you and your loved ones.

Best,
The Idnani Family

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