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About Me

I am an independent writer and multi-award winning blogger who writes on parenting, humour, fiction and general lifestyle topics. - Sid Balachandran

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Hello, Can you hear me?

Hello, Can you hear me?

 

 

Have you ever wondered how it would feel if you could hear nothing? Not the chirping birds, the whoosh of the wind as it rustles through your hair, your favourite music track or those squealing peals of laughter of your little one, as they splash around in the pool. How would your life be without these sounds? Or worse yet, not knowing what these sounds were. I shudder to imagine a life like that. 

 

I’d like to start with two questions for all of you reading this.

  • How many of you have had an eye test done?
  • How many of you have ever had a hearing screening done?

 

Even without counting your answers, I can almost blindly (forgive the pun!) say that the number of people who’ve had eye tests far outnumber the ones who’ve had a hearing test/screening done. Have you ever thought why that is the case? I mean, after all ‘hearing’ is one of those five key senses that a human being has. So then, why is it not given the same level of importance as say, sight, smell, touch etc.?

 

While there is no correct answer to this, the very ugly truth is that loss of hearing or deafness is something that is very real and affects millions of people all around the world. Over 300 million of us in fact, if a WHO report is to be believed. And almost 11% – around 32 million – of them are children. A quick look at the stats will tell us that almost 1 billion young people – i.e. between the ages of 12 – 35 years-  are at risk of hearing loss due to recreational exposure to loud sounds. Yes, it’ll serve all of us well to remember that the next time we play that bass-heavy song at an ear-shattering decibel on our headphones or watch a movie with the volume turned up high.

 

But here’s the part that is not all doom and gloom. Half of all cases of hearing loss are avoidable through prevention. In fact, about 60% of childhood hearing loss is preventable – but yet, it exists. And that’s where we need to act. Now, before we go into some detail about all this, let me tell you why I’m going on about hearing loss.

 

Recently – on #WorldHearingDay to be precise – I was invited along with a select few other bloggers to attend an event organised by Cochlear India, who are pioneers in the field of cochlear implants for hearing-impaired people.  And surprisingly, the organisers wanted me to bring my 4-year-old son along too.

 

Now, I have to confess – I didn’t think it was a good idea. Mainly because little kids are as unpredictable as the famed English weather. They can be bright and cheery one moment; and dark and moody the next. And not to mention the potential ‘storm’ that they could unleash.

 

But do you know why I decided to take him along? No, it wasn’t because he’d get to meet the famous Aussie pacer, Brett Lee. In fact, on seeing Brett, he loudly asked – ‘Who’s that boy?’. See, that’s another reason why I didn’t want to take him – they have no filter. But more on that in another post.

 

The reason that I took him along directly from school was because of this little nagging feeling that I had in the back of my head. Yes, about his hearing. Now, if you’re a parent, I am certain that you’ll agree with me when I say that ‘we’ve often wondered if our kids have ears for decorative purposes’.  While the smart parent in me had the inkling that he was merely pretending, the slightly overly concerned parent side of mine wondered if he had some hearing disability. So, I was keen to also get a hearing screening for him done by a professional. Plus, I also had the chance to meet Brett Lee – I mean, any cricket fan worth their salt wouldn’t give up an opportunity like that.

 

For those of you who’re wondering, Brett is the Cochlear’s First Global Hearing Ambassador. In fact, you can watch his message right here:

 

If I’m honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the hearing screening. My 4-year old is notorious for running out of the chair when his paediatrician just wants to check his chest for congestion. So yes, I was a little bit nervous. But what amazed me was not just how professional the technicians who did the test were, but also how relatively stress-free and simple the whole thing was. In fact, I think the test took less than 10 minutes and the results were promising. Well, promising in the sense that my 4yo had perfect hearing. So apparently he just had selective hearing when his parents called him for something 😃

 

I would be lying if I said that I didn’t breathe a sigh of relief when I saw the results. In fact, I think had it not been a public place, I may have done a little happy dance. But then I thought: shouldn’t this be done when the kids are younger, say within the first year of birth? I realised that I’ve never actually heard my son’s doctor (or any one for that matter) recommend a hearing test for newborns. It would make a world of sense to do it right at the start of their lives. And as I sat there thinking about this, the organisers brought in someone who would confirm these thoughts of mine.

 

8 year old Komal – a recipient of the new Kanso™ implant

 

The lovely girl here is Komal, who is 8 years old, is a cochlear implant recipient. Her implant is the new Kanso™ – dubbed to be the smartest, most discreet innovation in the field of cochlear implants to date. 

 

 

In fact, Kanso™ is so small and discrete that one of my fellow bloggers, Vidya Sury, who was offered the chance to try and ‘detect’ the unit, was unable to locate it without Komal pointing it out to her.

 

There was something that Komal (and her mother) mentioned that really stood out for me. It was that the loss of hearing is often not just a loss of sound. It also means a reduced ability to converse and speak. That’s something that I would have never associated with hearing loss. Often after an implant, it takes a certain amount speech therapy to get the person communicating effectively. So, it makes sense to do the screening as early as possible and ascertain if there is a hearing loss.

 

The simple truth is that hearing loss can be caused by a number of things – genetic causes, complications at birth, infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, use of particular drugs, ageing, exposure to excessive noise and so on. Some of these may be well outside out control and sometimes there’s no way to ascertain it. But there is certainly one thing we all can do.

 

And that is to get ourselves (and our family, especially kids) a hearing screening done at the earliest. 

 

Now, that’s not too much to ask for, is it?

Are your kids missing out on their last chance to grow?

Are your kids missing out on their last chance to grow?

 

Did I scare you a little bit? Perhaps. But there’s a reason why I asked you that question.

 

As a parent, I’ve always naively assumed that a lot of parenting woes about my child’s growth would end by the time he reached five. This was until I recently spoke to a fellow mother who said something that set some alarm bells ringing in my head. And I quote her verbatim here:

“I’m worried about my son. He’s just turned 13, but is quite tiny and I’m worried that he may not grow much more. He does have a glass of XYZ health drink daily, but I don’t think it’s helping much.”


Of course, I didn’t know what to say. My kid isn’t in that age group yet, but as a fellow parent, I couldn’t just remain silent. So I tried to alleviate her worries by telling her that he would probably experience some sort of growth spurt soon and that she should refrain from comparing her kid with others. But the truth was that I didn’t know if he would have a 2nd growth spurt and I was just merely trying to telling her what she probably wanted to hear. So, I started to do some research of my own and learnt a few things that I think may come handy for some of my fellow parents too.

 

Thanks to plenty of science text books (and other random information guides, the names of which shall not be revealed!) I had always known that at some point we would all go through a growth spurt. Until I became a parent though, I never realised that this spurt was actually the second one – the first being our ‘magical increase’ in weight and size during the first 12 months of our life. The one that most of us are familiar with often occurs during the teenage years. Yes, that short transitional phase of spontaneous emotional outbursts, rolling eyes and general distrust, and of course, wanting to time-travel to another decade. That weirdly confusing period when we experience a rapid increase in height, sometimes weight, achieve psychological maturity (some of us, anyway!) and cognitive developments.

 

While the age of onset of the 2nd growth spurt varies from person to person, there’s an important thing to realise here. This period often represents the last window of opportunity to gain optimal height and to prepare for a healthy adult life. Of course, we all knew that, didn’t we? But here’s the other thing. While a lot of parents do acknowledge the awareness of this growth spurt, what we often tend to overlook the fact that in order to facilitate good development during this period, there are certain nutritional requirements – things like proteins, calcium, Vitamin D and Iron, to be more specific.  [You can learn more about 2nd growth spurt here]

 

When I was teenager (seems so long back!), all I was really bothered about was trying to find the balance of not putting on weight while simultaneously satiating the enormous hunger pangs that I had. I’m not even sure if my parents knew what my protein requirements were, because they were busy, much like other parents of that generation, making sure that I did not eat too much junk food, avoided unwanted company and engaged in some form of outdoor activity. But now as a parent, I sort of realise that eating healthy doesn’t often mean just avoiding junk food. It also means knowing what your body (or in this case, your kid’s) nutritional requirements are. Inappropriate nutrition can have lasting impacts on growth, development and physical fitness of a teenager. And protein is an important part of this mix. For instance, did you know that protein requirement is DOUBLE in 8-15yrs as compared to 4-5yrs? That triggered a thought – Is the current health drink not good enough anymore?

 

If you’ve studied basic science (which almost all of us have), we know that proteins help in increasing muscle mass. But there’s more to it. It is also plays an integral role in promoting the hormone insulin (such as Growth Factor – 1 or IGF-1) concentration, which then aids in growth. See, I never knew this until I started researching.

 

Take a look at this graph, for instance (based on this report).

Between the ages of 6 – 12, both girls and boys require at least twice the level of proteins to promote adequate levels of IGF-1 in their bodies. This is what helps in longitudinal bone growth, skeletal maturation and attainment of optimal peak bone mass; in effect what could help the kids grow taller, stronger and healthier like they say in all those adverts for kids’ drinks. Seems quite achievable, right?

 

But here’s the ugly (and slightly sad) truth.

 

According to studies by the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau report (India), the intake of protein was found to be low across this age group. So in effect, children aged 13 and over were falling considerably short of the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for vital nutrients like Protein, Calcium and Iron. Which means that if these levels remained consistently inadequate, kids in that age group were likely to experience a reduction in linear growth.

 

So the short version is, make sure that we’re giving our pre-pubescent and teenage kids enough proteins in their food during their 2nd growth spurt. But there’s a catch here too. Most of our Indian diets derive a large chunk – about 60% or more – of proteins from wheat, rice, bajra, jowar etc. However, the quality of the proteins in these cereals are often quite inferior.

 

A survey from by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), stated that the main sources of protein in rural and urban India were from plant sources, and these are generally not of the same quality as found in animal ones. For proteins to be ‘good’, it needs to contain all the essential amino acids. And these usually come from egg and flesh foods.

 

But wait! Before you outrage at my suggestions, I am not saying that everyone should turn non-vegetarian here. Milk, milk products and soy proteins also provide good quality proteins. See – there’s something for everyone, irrespective of your lifestyle choice.

 

I appreciate that a lot of the information that I’ve covered in this article may be reminiscent of our high-school science text books. But think of this as a public service announcement. After all, as parents we don’t want our kids missing out on their last chance to grow, do we?

 



This post is written in collaboration with a brand and all scientific and relevant facts were provided by them. However my opinions are unbiased, and as a parent I wanted to spread the awareness about it.

The Great Indian ATM Quest

The Great Indian ATM Quest

 

‘Hey!’

 

I grimace slightly as I call out to a random stranger on the street. The grimace, partly due to the fact that I am usually someone who goes out of my way so that I don’t have to talk to people – much less strangers.

 

In acknowledgement, the man looks up from the activity that he’s engaged in, and nods; his large, bushy eyebrows moving up and down like Red from the Angry Birds movie.

 

‘Any luck?’ I continue unabashed at the matter-of-factness of my questioning. No niceties, no charming smiles, no excuse me’s. 

 

Curling his lips up, the man shakes his head. I can sense his disappointment as much as he can mine. 

 

‘Thanks, man! Hopefully, soon!’ I quickly reply, whilst continuing to walk to my next destination – a little ATM vestibule about 4 kms away, in the hopes of finding some cash to withdraw.


 

That scene was on Day Eight of Mission: ‘Find ATM with Cash’; a pilgrimage of sorts that almost all of us have been involuntarily going on irrespective of caste, religion, creed, social standing or even political party affiliations. Perhaps, the first time in a long time, all of us in India have experienced what it really means to stand in a queue.

 

For the uninitiated (and foreign readers), on November 8th 2016, the Indian government decided that it would demonetise two denominations of currency that were supposedly burdening our wallets and purses. In, what initially appeared to be a carefully planned (and well-intended) surgical strike on Black Money, the government decided that  ₹500 and  ₹1000 notes would no longer be considered legal tender. Instead, they announced the arrival of a super heroine note – the purple-pink  ₹2000; sleeker, longer and if rumours are to be believed, with state-of-the-art technology built right into it.

 

Anyway, long story short – the idea was great, but the implementation was just plain awful. What started as an assurance of ‘minor inconvenience’ for a few days, soon burgeoned into a cash shortage of epic proportions. This was a month ago, and with #Demonetisation rules changing faster than the ones we make up during a game of Monopoly, we’re still not sure when things will get back to normal.

 

Over the past month, I have paid more visits to various ATMs than I have  to all my relatives put together. From queuing up for as long as 4 hours whilst getting unexpected ‘lumbar massages’ from the paunch of various strangers, to sharing a Pizza with 50 others while standing in a queue – you name it, I’ve pretty much done it all. At one point, I’d even started having dreams about standing in long queues at the ATM and then forgetting my pin as soon as I reached the machine.

 

But here’s the thing. As much as we complain about technology and the way it affects our ‘social interactions’, I must also address one other thing here. When adopted effectively, it can really help simplify your life in more ways than you can imagine. Like, many a time while queuing up at these ATMs, along with several others, I too have found myself wondering how much easier it would be if there was some sort of real-time update that let us know the status of the ATM. I mean, there’s nothing more agonising than queueing up for hours, only to discover that an ATM is not working or it’s out of money. And since a lot of the ATMs that we’ve all probably visited are not in our local vicinity, it would certainly help to know where the nearest functioning ATMs were.

 

Thankfully, that’s where the Money View App appeared as our Knight in Shining Green armour. I’d already been using the app to help plan and organise our household budgets, and if I’m honest it truly deserves the moniker ‘India’s largest money manager’. For the past year, my wife and I have been going all out to control our spending and save more money for a special holiday that we’ve been planning. And that’s when we tried out Money View, and it has been supremely useful in planning and organising our household budgets.

 

 

But a recent update to the app made it almost feel like the makers of the app have been reading our minds. Well, at least the good thoughts 😉

I recently updated the app, and realised that the Money View app had smartly incorporated the feature that we all desperately needed. Leveraging the strength of its large user base of 5+ million people, the app had introduced a ‘Find ATM with cash’ feature right into the existing interface. Using real-time updates from the users spread across 200+ cities in India, the app can also now show you not just the status of the ATMs in the vicinity, but also the average queue length. And what’s more, it didn’t stop at just mapping ATMs. A new feature, that sets it apart from some of the other apps were that the app was also showing us active banks, petrol pumps, Big Bazaar stores as well as Inox Multiplexes  that dispense cash. Considering the amount of time I’ve spent visiting ATMs and banks in my vicinity, this app has truly been a time-saver.

 

 

Of course, while the fact still remains that the shortage of cash is no longer just a minor inconvenience for the majority of us and has started affecting our ability to go about our day-to-day business without any hiccups, it is definitely a positive step to see that our entrepreneurs are taking the effort to update their products to help make things easier for us. And of course, a loud shout out to the community of users behind Money View who take the pain to give real-time updates, so that the information remains current and valid.

 

In the meantime, if you aren’t using it already, do download the free Money View app. Or you can Find ATM with cash even on desktop before heading out.

 

 

Oh, wait. I’ve got an SMS. Wonder if it’s from the Money View app. No, actually. I’ve just won ₹ 1Cr in a lottery that I had no idea that I’d participated. Maybe I should just reply and ask them to pay it out in ₹100 notes.

 

After all, change is of the essence today.

 

PS: So, have you got any ATM tales to share with me? Or have you gone entirely digital?

 


 

This is a sponsored post, but the opinions are mine.
50 Shades of Fun : #BergerXP Indiblogger Meet

50 Shades of Fun : #BergerXP Indiblogger Meet

‘Can I go?’
‘Where?’
‘Can I go with you?’
’No!’
‘But look…there’s painting. I like to paint’.

I paused for a moment, wondering how to counter this pertinent point made by my 4 year old son.

‘In a few years, when you are slightly older, I will take you along with me.’  I started to say, choosing my words carefully. ‘ There will be a lot of boring talking and everyone will be busy writing. It won’t be fun’, I lied. He gave me one final puppy-eye look, and then moved on to discuss something with his mother.

 

Breathing a sigh of relief, I quietly left the house for yet another blogger’s meet – one that I hoped would be as fun as the rest of the ones I’d attended.

 

I’ve been blogging for a little over three years now, and I daresay, apart from a few ups and downs, the ride has been pretty damn smooth. For starters, while blogging and writing may be considered ‘lonely’ activities, the truth is that in a lot of ways, we thrive on networking. While we may at times crib about the lack of community spirit and a fraternity that can stand up for bloggers’ rights, the reality is that we do have a pretty good thing going. And a lot of it is thanks to communities such as IndiBlogger, who often go above and beyond their ‘line of duty’ and deliver events and meets that are not just informative, but make sure all of us have a fun time as well. And the recently concluded #BergerXP meet on the 10th of December 2016, was no exception.

 

If I’m honest, I was a bit sceptical about the meet. Most previous IB meets have always included products and services that related to the ‘average layman’ consumer. Products have been something we could try, test and on some occasions, even take away. But how much could we, the general blogging community, be able to relate to something like Express Painting’ or ‘Changing the way we paint our homes’? After all, it’s not an everyday product and as such, I was curious to see how things would go.

 

For a change, the day started with lunch. While the food wasn’t definitely the highlight of the event, I think it helped set the mood for the afternoon ahead. Old friendships were rekindled and new ones were formed, as we all chomped and chatted our way through the meal, only stopping briefly for dessert. The main event commenced soon after. As we tried to mentally prepare ourselves for a presentation of sorts, we were in for a little surprise. In true IB style, we had a mini warm-up activity that included Karthik helping us channelise some of our ‘inner Kung-fu Panda’ moves. This soon gave way to a fun group activity that can only be described as ‘FootBalloonBursting’. Each of us had a balloon tied to our feet, and the aim was simple : Destroy the other bloggers’ balloon while safeguarding your own. Should suffice to say that, I soon returned to my seat with  tattered pieces of my red balloon, thanks to my lack of flexibility.

 

With all of us now recovered from the post-lunch lethargy, we were now charged up for the session that followed. Chandranath Banerjee from Berger Paints India, then took centre stage, where he gave a very animated and interactive session that included a brief history of the company, their desire to keep on innovating and the thought-process behind delivering hassle-free painting solutions to their customers.

 

Chandranath Banerjee goes through the details of Express Painting.
Chandranath Banerjee goes through the details of Express Painting.

 

Berger Express Painting is a new age end-to-end painting solution provided by trained painters using automatic tools. It gives the consumer a faster, cleaner, better and hassle-free painting experience. The Express Service is provided by Berger Paints India and is executed by trained painters.*     

 

What impressed most of us was not just the fact that he decided not to do a Powerpoint presentation, but rather give us a very passionate pitch about how their service worked, and explained everything in terms that were easy to understand. The Q&A session was extremely interactive, and gave us all further insight into the colourful world of Berger Express painting and the potential benefits. We were also invited to take a look at some of the express painting equipment that they had out in the market today, and ask any questions that we may have had.

 

 

This was soon followed by the fun events that IB and Team Berger had promised. Splitting us into teams of 5, they set us two tasks. The first one was for us to get downright dirty and sandpaper a large block of wood. The aim – to smoothen the surface as much as we could by removing any dirt and abrasions. Decked up with a face mask, gloves and a surgical cap, we set out to deliver our ‘surgical strike against abrasions’. Of course, our team, aptly named Painter Dhakus, did get a bit carried away with our strikes and ended up taking off the entire coat of the paint.Fortunately, the judges gave us another shot with a fresh board, and we finished it in a record time of 2.12 minutes.

 

Surgical Strike against Abrasions
Surgical Strike against Abrasions

 

Spurred on by our fantastic team work, we went into round two, where after a crash course on ‘Mixing Paint and strainers’, all the teams were given a few categories to choose from. Our team decided to go with ‘Namma Bengaluru’ and created this masterpiece – ‘Don’t Steel Bengaluru’.

 

Painter Dhakus
Painter Dhakus with the winning painting

 

Even though, we did this in about 20 minutes, the activity gave us a really good hands-on experience about the science that goes into mixing the colours and strainers to get the perfect shade that we wanted. But the sheer mess we created made us think that we should probably leave the painting to the experts. In fact, one of the biggest USPs for Berger Express Painting is that you can get their trained and certified painters to come in, and get the painting done – even if it is just one wall – for the same cost as  you would request their normal painting solutions. What’s more is that their painters would also take care of ensuring your furniture is protected, and minimise the need for cleaning later on. So that’s faster, cleaner, and definitely better painting solution for no extra cost.  Or just head to the Berger Paint’s official site for all the info you need.

Some of the other teams put up really creative art works too, and overall it was a whole load of fun for a Saturday afternoon. While the fact that our team won the first place for the activities was great, the true success of the event lay in the fact that despite all our complaints, it is always fun to meet your friends from the blogging world and get to spend some quality time with them. And when it’s doing such fun activities, that fun just multiplies a lot more. The lovely Goodie bags and vouchers that some of us won were just icing on the cake.

 

The Blogger Bunch
The Blogger Bunch

Eventually, we all returned home, having had a fun day. Of course, I might tell my 4yo otherwise. If I tell him how much fun I had, he’ll insist on accompanying me the next time 😉

Note:

You can check out the rest of the photos from IndiBlogger’s Facebook page:


 * From the mediakit given by Berger Paints
Have you found your dream home yet?

Have you found your dream home yet?

Bruno remembered the exact moment when he realised something life-changing was about to happen.

It’d been a few weeks ago, and he was lazing on the lawn, taking in every bit of the warm Lucknow sunshine. He heard the car pull in and saw father rush into the house, yelling excitedly. Curious, Bruno entered the house where he found the entire family huddled around father’s laptop, animatedly pointing at something on the screen. He joined them and stared at the screen, but apart from the pictures of some houses, nothing made sense. However the family was ecstatic, and he joined in the celebration too.

Over the next few days, almost every sentence uttered in the household included the phrase ‘the amazing MB’. From conversations on the phone to people who visited, the phrase was mentioned everywhere. The kids even started a song with some catchy lyrics that sounded like ‘Property Sahin Milegi Yahin’ and would often break into an impromptu dance routine. At first, Bruno thought MB was a Superhero – he kids were always talking about them. Later, he overheard Dhruv, the eldest, mention that MB was MagicBricks. While he still had no clue who/what MB was, Bruno did understand one thing – it had given his family this happiness and excitement. And that in turn, made him happy.

Weeks later, when the moving trucks appeared and the family started to pack things up, Bruno realised that his family was moving homes. Suddenly he found himself wondering if they’d take him along – after all he was adopted when he was a stray pup. However Bruno soon realised that he had nothing to worry – his family had found their dream home, and it had a little kennel in the front yard for him. Though excited about the new home, a  small part of Bruno’s heart was upset; he would have to leave behind his precious collection of bones that he had painstakingly gathered over many years. And that’s when Bruno wondered if there was a MagicBricks service for animals to find their dream property.

 


Before we proceed, I’d like you to take a look at this delightful TV clip that stars a little boy and his attempts to find a home for a furry friend.

 

 

As you’d have guessed, my little tale was inspired by this advert. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every living being had such help to find their perfect home?

The simple truth is that most times, when it comes to searching for property, we’re not too dissimilar from the little boy in the advert – lost, confused and often trying different solutions. The whole journey of finding the right home is extremely tedious and what we often need is some expert guidance and advice on property buying at every step. It comes with its own set of challenges, from financial concerns to location-based implications and from number of rooms to your lifestyle choices. I still remember the seemingly-never-ending conversations that my parents had with our realtors, when they started looking for their dream home.

Our life experiences always teach us that it is easier to go through stressful processes, when you have someone who cares by your side. They can be friends, family or sometimes total strangers. Seeing my parents go through agent after agent in their pursuit to find that dream home, I’ve often wondered how it would be if they’d been given right support. Like a friend who has your best interests at heart and is there with you every step of the way.

For starters, my parents would have probably found their dream home a lot quicker and not ended up with as much ‘grey hair’ from all the stress they’d experienced. And this is where I believe an online site like MagicBricks.com steps in. Tailored to be much less a portal, and more of a personal advisor, they endeavour to be your one-stop friend that travels side-by-side with you, in the journey to find that dream home of yours.

And with expert advice available at every step of the way, finding your dream home just got a whole lot easier and simpler. I know I’ll be looking them up when it’s time to get our dream home.

 

Note:
While the post was commissioned by MagicBricks.com, the ‘creative idea’ behind the post is mine. Also, I have personally used their service to find the apartment that we currently rent. So I do endorse the experience of using the site and their service too.

 

I pledge for school bus safety. Do you?

I pledge for school bus safety. Do you?

When you become a parent, there’s an invisible agreement thrust into your hands beckoning you to sign it. An agreement that no matter what, we will worry about anything and everything when it comes to our children. Most of all, their safety when they’re away from us. So, at 3 years and 2 months, when our little one started school, we were naturally quite apprehensive about everything from the way he would adjust to school to most of all, his safety in bus that was transporting him to school and back.

 

As with most parents, we ran hundreds of perfectly possible ‘What if’ scenarios through our minds and found ourselves panicking. In order to put our minds at ease, we decided to speak to the Principal of the school that our son was about to join. After hearing our concerns, she put us in touch with the transport coordinator of the school – an affable gentleman who greeted us with a warm smile, immediately putting us at ease. Over the next hour, not only did he patiently answer all our questions, he even took the trouble of introducing us to the driver as well as the help on the bus that our son would be travelling in.

 

Suffice to say, we walked away more confident than we’d been when we entered the school. It was refreshing to see that both the school and the bus staff were open to listening to our questions and addressing our concerns. Additionally, the way they’d answered all our queries left us with the impression that they genuinely cared about the safety of our son as well as everyone else on board the bus. And finally, when our little boy hesitantly boarded the big yellow bus on his first day to school, he was greeted by a smiling bus attendant and an elder student, who together coaxed him to let go of our hand and take a seat. It’s now coming up to a year since he started to commute on the school bus, and he enjoys every moment of it.

 

Over the course of the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to speak to plenty of fellow parents and the general consensus is that there is definitely a need for a comprehensive  school bus safety program in our country today. With the road traffic growing every passing day, it is important that there is a program to help streamline the whole school bus travel experience – for the kids, the staff and of course,  alleviate any worry that may line the minds of parents. After all, hundreds of kids commute to and from school every day.

 

Keeping that in mind though, it is perhaps important to realise that school bus safety for kids does not begin or stop with merely transporting the children. In order to deliver a consistent and safe experience, it is important that the drivers and the other bus staff are trained to handle kids in a sensitive manner and encourage healthy communication with the parents. Even the smallest of gestures such as letting the parents know when the bus is delayed can make a world of difference.

 

Similarly, it is also unfair for us to lay the entire responsibility of school bus safety training on the school alone. After all, it is our kids who travel in the bus. So, the challenge for us is to realise that while the drivers and the staff are capable of looking after our kids, the onus to talk to our kids and even familiarise them with basic school bus etiquette and rules, lies with us – the parents. Therefore, it is also up to us to ensure that our kids know the Do’s and Dont’s while travelling in one.

 

Perhaps it was a similar realisation that led Tata Motors to introduce a very  novel (and might I add, much needed) initiative in 2013, called the Humare Bus Ki Baat Hai campaign. This drive aims to promote safe travel of school children by involving everyone concerned –  from the school authorities and support staff to the school bus fleet operators. 

The five core pillars of the programme that gives the campaign a very solid foundation are :

[stextbox id=”info”]Such has been their drive and dedication to the safe travel pledge that over such a short period, they have successfully conducted over 300 sessions across 41 cities and spent time with over 15000 bus staff in almost 300 schools. And that is truly a laudable achievement.[/stextbox] Here are a few images from some of their sessions so far:

 

 

 

So, as parents, how do we do our bit?

I thought you’d never ask. As the popular adage goes, the groundwork for everything starts at home.

Here are a few simple things that all of us can do to help spread awareness about school bus safety.

 

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Engage with your children and talk to them about the importance of travel etiquette. The HBKBH website has a very handy guide for both parents and children that includes simple tips for a safer school bus travel. You can check them out here

 

Discuss and brainstorm with fellow parents and devise fun group activities that are both educational and gets the children to think about school bus safety. The Yellow bus story on the HBKBH website is a very interactive piece that can help with role play.

 

Nominate your child’s school for a safety training session and the awesome folks at Tata Motors will get in touch

 

Encourage your children to do the Test your safety quotient quiz and/or solve a set of fun puzzles around school bus safety.

 

Take the safe travel pledge on the HBKBH website and invite fellow parents to do it too.

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So, what are you waiting for ? Let’s pledge to create awareness about school bus safety today. After all, we all want our kids to be safe, don’t we?

 

PS. If you have any suggestions how to spread awareness about school bus safety and make the whole experience good for the children, staff and of course, parents, I’d be happy to hear it in the comments section.

All images courtesy: http://www.hbkbh.com/

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