Advice Unasked

It’s strange how many people think they should participate in the upbringing of your kids. And I don’t think this is particular to us because we are an adopted family – I think this is generic to India as a whole.

See, I take the twins to the neighborhood park every evening, where they sit in the grass and watch the activity around them, usually without deigning to participate much. Lots of people congregate around this area of the park. Apart from small grassy patches, there’s a large sand-pit, and some other play areas. Kids of all ages get together and create chaos, under the watchful eyes of parents and care takers. This is also where a lot of people sit around just to watch the kids at play. A few are parents of much grown-up children, perhaps re-living earlier days; many more are the grandparent variety.

The twins’ appearance in this park generated intolerable curiosity amongst the kibbitzing (?) parents and grandparents. Unfortunately, the difference in our complexions and theirs does not pass unnoticed and lots of people wanted to know all about it.

First came the questions – where, how, when, why, by what means, for how much, and more; then came the suggestions.

  • Feed them ragi
  • Feed them almonds ground into milk
  • Feed them amla paste with honey and ginger
  • Massage them with cod liver oil
  • Or at least with warm mustard oil
  • Three times a day
  • Rub a mix of besan (chickpea flour) and milk on them before bathing
  • Give them only boiled water
  • Cover their heads and feet (or they’ll catch cold)
  • Don’t give them boiled water
  • Nor cover them up with sweaters, socks, and scarves
  • You’ll only weaken their immune systems
  • Let them play in the sand pit
  • Don’t let them play in the sand pit (they’ll only eat the sand)
  • Aren’t they walking yet?
  • Aren’t they talking yet?
  • Aren’t they weaned from the bottle yet?
  • Aren’t they toilet trained yet?
  • Get them a walker
  • Don’t get them a walker, they’ll never learn to walk
  • My children/grandchildren learnt to walk/talk/use the toilet when he/she/they were only 3/4/5 months old

On and on and on… it’s amazing the amount of advice people will give if you don’t ask for it. I think they feel that because we’ve only had the kids a couple of weeks, it is their bounden duty to advise us with regard to their upbringing.

There’s also another common and contradictory reaction to twins which I find inexplicable. A lot of people look at them and then ask me, “How do you tell the difference?” To which, my reply generally is, they look different. I mean, they do – they’re not identical twins, you can see the differences quite easily, even though it might take a day or two to be able to sort them out.

Yet, other people ask me: “Twins? Twins, eh?” I’m like, of course they are twins! Don’t they look alike? Besides, here they are, clearly of almost the same age, most likely closely related, sitting together in a twin stroller, being carted around by the same person – do you really think they’re either siblings, or completely unrelated?

Well, I suppose all this attention will gradually reduce. After all, there can’t be more than about 10,000 people within walking distance of this park, and as approximately 9,000 of them have already made their inquiries, we probably have only another 1000 or so to go.


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