Fairy tales

I still remember every tiny detail of the day my world came crashing down. I was all of seven and the festive season was approaching. My elder sister and I were writing letters to Santa Claus stressing on the reasons why we deserved his benevolence. Mum suggested we ask for clothes instead of toys and I was appalled. For a fortnight mum had been dropping hints on how we already had enough toys.

This was not the way I saw it. How can a child ever have ‘enough’ toys? She added to my irritation by suggesting that we could request a transistor radio. Although transistor radios were coveted gadgets in the early 1970s, they could still not figure in a seven-year-old’s dreams.

I vehemently refused to add sweaters and slacks to my Christmas list. That is when she did it. My mother told me about the ‘non-existence’ of Santa Claus and how she and dad bought the sack-ful of toys that we got for every Christmas.

The explaining

As my world crumbled around me, I desperately hung on to hope and asked how a letter addressed to the North Pole could make its way to them. She patiently explained what appeared to be the biggest scam of humankind. Parents didn’t need a letter to know their kids’ wish list; they helped them draft it!

Before you form an opinion about her, I’d like to clarify that my mother is not a sadist or spoilsport. She had reasons for her actions and she tried to reason with me. We were moving back to India the next year and with the limited baggage allowance it made more sense to buy things that we could take with us instead of bulky toys we would have to leave behind. I could grasp her logic but still hated her for bursting my bubble.

While raising my own kids I have always struggled with this dilemma. Should I let my children stay in their magical world where everything is possible or should I introduce them to facts and truths which they will inevitably stumble upon at some point? More for fun than out of a sense of duty, I opted for the former and played along with my children’s beliefs, and going to great lengths to do so. Once while I was reading to my son he announced he would look for a bird nest like the explorer in the story. The next morning he picked up his tiny binoculars and searched every tree in the garden for a nest. Not finding any he returned, a dejected three-year-old. To dispel his disappointment I secretly crafted a nest with straw, took a couple of eggs from the refrigerator, blew out their gooey contents through tiny holes and placed the nest in a bush. A little later, the young explorer miraculously found a nest!

Once my five-year-old daughter had this brilliant idea of digging a hole to see the layers of the earth as taught in school. My explanation that it was like tunnelling all the way to a nearby town did not deter her. Waving a small shovel, she said she’d stop short of the mantle, once loose dirt gave way to sand, pebbles and bedrock.

It was getting dark and she had been at it for an hour when she hurt herself. It was a minuscule scratch but I told her to get it bandaged.

As soon as she left I quickly dug the hole a little deeper, put some big stones in, followed by pebbles and sand and covered it with a layer of soil. My injured but determined excavator returned to her job and squealed with joy on encountering a textbook picture of the earth’s crust!

So, did I do the right and honest thing, and did I bring them up right? My children have grown into sensitive, well-adjusted, responsible professionals, so I would probably reply in the affirmative. But all parents carve their own path, discovering joyous skills on the way. Sadly, by the time we fully understand the art of parenting the children are ready to leave.

That Christmas, among other ‘less’ desirable things I received my coveted Tippee toes doll. A life-size, battery operated baby doll that could ride a tricycle and rocking horse. I still marvel how dad could afford such an expensive toy on his meagre student stipend. It would have been so much easier if mum had let Santa Claus bring it!

( EAD57B26-F422-4692-8C08-E86C94F87152)


( published in the Hindu on 8/10/17)

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16 thoughts on “Fairy tales

  1. Balaram JK says:

    Hi mam!

    Just happened to go through your article that was published in today’s edition of The Hindu. Couldn’t refrain myself from conveying my appreciation for the same!

    It was well written, encompassing all the realities of the world n also highlighting the beauty of parenting! Loved the way u narrated!

    Keep up the great work mam!


    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for your appreciation and writing in. I also write a blog ALifeExtraordinarilyOrdinary.com Please do visit whenever possible. Your input would be valuable.

  2. Sridh K says:

    Your column in the paper is nice i enjoyed it a lot
    Thanks & Regards

  3. Sunita singh says:

    Hello Manju.
    So well written.The dilemma of all parents in bringing up their children and there are no set rules.
    Loved it.

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for the trouble you took to tell me this

  4. Sreekumar says:

    Lovely write up. Enjoyed to the last word.
    Well done.

  5. Atma Prakash Setia says:

    Parenting is an art, science, fiction and emotions all jumbled up in a complex socio -economic milieu. There is no ‘one formula’ ; that would suit each parent.
    No book, howsoever, nicely written, can ever , guide the neo- parents in parenting skills.
    Each one of us learns to manage ; by our own experiences. And sometimes by hit and trial.

    You have penned your as well as experiences of your parents ; in a nice way.
    Keep it up!

  6. SP Venugopalan says:

    Madam Manju Gupta

    wow…wonderful recollection of an important element of childhood, so beautifully written….and very nicely summed up, too. Hearty greetings! I quickly checked if I had missed to read any of your articles in the same columns…Oh my, two articles I have missed out that I quickly went through and felt so happy and there were articles published in other periodicals, too!

    Relatively speaking – The Hindu
    Mad over those doughnuts – The Hindu
    Sedition and less – The Tribune
    Unfading memory of riots – The Tribune
    And, the ones you have written in the Tribune deal with very sensitive issues and as a medical practitioner, your anguish,
    concern and disturbance on the communal politics, hatred and polarisation of common people, had all been so aptly brought out in an article while the other spoke of the gross injustice meted out to democratic dissent, especially at the Universities.

    Very well done, pl keep writing and write more!

    with regards & congrats

    s v venugopalan
    chennai 24
    94452 59691

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks mr Venugopalan for your kind words and for making the effort to find more of my articles. I started sending articles for publishing three years ago. I write a blog ALifeExtraordinarilyOrdinary.com on which i upload all my published work. Peruse at leisure. I have 65 published pieces so far.. one was carried by the week, I am a regular in HT AND HINDU. I have a column in Sunday Tribune

      Please do give me feedback whenever you get a chance to read my blog.

  7. MV Narasimha Rao says:

    Respected Ms. Manju Gupta Madam,

    Your article ” Growing up on those fairy tales” is very good to read.

    With best wishes
    M.V.Narasimha Rao.

  8. Rishabh Kantal says:

    Growing up on those fairy tales”brought back many childhood moments of mine.I am going to be a parent in a year or two,what in your opinion should be my attitude towards my children?Should I grow them up in fantasies or nurture them with rationality of real life?

    -Rishabh Khantal(DelhI

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for your appreciation. I can’t really say what would work out for you….as I have written each parent finds his own way. Because whatever we do Parenting is about second guessing and hind sight.
      Just remember to enjoy….they grow up real fast

  9. Anne Dayanandan says:

    Dear Dr Manju,
    I enjoyed your article in Sunday’s Open Page in The Hindu newspaper. You asked one of the deep questions of parenting: should I and when should I burst the bubble? I think we all remember when we first learned something like who is the real Santa Claus.
    You wrote that your children have grown up to be “sensitive, well-adjusted, responsible professionals” and I’m happy to learn that. The key to that achievement jumped out at me from your article: “Once when I was reading to my son. . ” You read books aloud to your youngsters! The key to success. That’s marvelous and I hope that they read books to theirs and everyone else in your family too. Of course, if you read books aloud to your children, you will be sensitive and sensible in so many other ways too.
    To all new parents we know, I give a small board book and the sheets attached, in English or Tamil or both. Reading books aloud with children is one of the joys of life!
    yours, Anne

    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Thanks for your kind words anne. You seem to be a keen reader yourself ( you read between the lines!). Yes i read regularly to both my children and….was read to by my father as a kid. I grew up loving books….my children depend on ebooks….i guess it is the same. I agree book readers are generally serious sensitive beings..but is it because they are sensitive that they read books….or do books make them that way.. never could figure that out.
      The attachments were very helpful. Thanks.

  10. Nilaa Raghunathan says:

    Hello Dr.Gupta,
    I read your article-Growing up on those fairy tales – published in The Hindu on October 8,2017. It was very good and heart touching to me because when i was 2 years old my father was a p.H.d student and got very little amount as stipend . The article was really nice . It remembered me of my past. I had very little time last year since i am studying 10 th std so I couldn’t mail you.But I had enough time to cut your article from the paper This year i am writing my board exams. I am having little time today so i thought i will mail you that your article was good.(Don’t mind if you don’t get a reply,i will be busy from today and may not check my mail regularly. )


    1. Manju Gupta says:

      Dear Nilaa,
      Thanks for writing in. I was hugely flattered to know that you had cutout and preserved my writeup. I am glad that you identified with it and it reminded you of your childhood. Best of luck for your exams.
      Warm regards
      Ps I also write a blog in which I upload all my published pieces. Visit whenever you have time. Will appreciate your feedback.

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