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Summer camps

Chop the camps

As a parent, ask your children as to what they hate the most, pat will come their reply: YOU.

Hahahahah! Kids will be kids, always speaking the truth. There need not be any particular reason for children to hate their parents. This aversion of theirs is the most original and spontaneous of human emotions.

That said, parents don’t like to remain passive, they constantly endeavour to provide more reasons for their kids to further hate them. Like enrolling them in the now ubiquitous camps during the annual vacation.

When this world eventually ends, and if there is a possibility for columnising the reasons for its demise, two things will occupy the pole position: The 24-hour news channels and the annual summer camps for children.

Yes, as human civilization further evolves, there will be a time when babies will become so advanced and knowledgeable that they will refuse to emerge out of mothers’ wombs for the fear that if they come out, one of these days they will be signed up in a summer camp.

Summer camps, in principle, represent parents’ earnest desire to open up some interesting avenues of fun/recreation/learning for their wards. Remember a Vishwanathan Anand was unearthed only after his mother started playing chess with him and enrolled him in the Mikhail Tal Chess Club? A Steffi Graf emerged courtesy a pushy father who took her from one tennis coach to another.

At least this was the idea when I put my daughter in a chess coaching camp once and a tennis training centre later. I am happy to report that she indeed exhibited the talent of both these remarkable legends: She played tennis like Anand and chess like Graf. She smashed the rook with a whippy forehand and practised Nimzo Indian defence at the net.

Undeterred, I took her to a music class, lest the potential Sudha Raghunathan in her went unvocalized. Here too it was a similar story. She, as it turned out, is endowed with the voice of Raghunathan.

Okay, my daughter and her terrible flop-shows may be an extreme example and is not a reflection of the camps she was put in. But what I am worried about is what parents these days choose for their children as healthy recreation.

Karate, for instance.

In real-life situations, knowing karate is like a dog possessing the skill to walk only on its hind legs: A wonderful ability to own, except that it fetches you nothing in life, barring perhaps a few medals at competitions.

Ok, I may be overstating my case.

Karate sure does have its uses. Especially on a lonely night on a deserted street, with a violent thief ready to attack you. But before you start landing the ‘chops’ on your villain, as a karateka your first job will be to pray that he is also a karateka. Because karate is that unique martial art that becomes that unique martial art only if the opponent also knows karate.

(Also, it’s pertinent to point here, karate is most effective only when you are stuffed in a karate outfit. So your next trick is to hold off your enemy till you changed into your karate robes. If for some stupid reason you have not carried your karateka uniform with you, the most logical thing to do is to politely request the robber to wait while you scamper home and come back cloaked in your convenient combat clothing).

The rules of karate are simple:  You cannot practise your karate even against, say, a boxer, much less against a Chennai street thug, against whom it’s just a stupid flailing of arms to the accompaniment of random, incomprehensible whoops.

Yet, these days the first thing that most parents check out, when they move into a new neighbourhood, is for a friendly ‘Sensei’. If the idea is to develop in the boy/girl some physical robustness and help him/her indulge in some energetic combat, then the easier way would be to allow the kids be their natural kids self. Because left to themselves, especially young boys, like nothing more than bashing and biffing among themselves.

Another of the summer camp specialities is the handwriting workshops. The fact that you are able to read this piece clearly is a testimony to the fact that I honed my handwriting skills at a renowned workshop. It’s a skill that I later dutifully passed on to my keyboard.

Ok, I am kidding. But dear parents, if legibility or clarity is the idea, there is something more basic that humanity must attempt in the first place: Ban ‘cursive writing’. Kids, in general, start their life, writing in bold and clear-cut natural god-given fonts. And then thoughtful teachers, introduce them to cursive writing, which, I suspect, was invented by someone when fully drunk.

Let me illustrate with a practical example.

Natural writing: You are a genius.

Cursive writing: The font style is so silly that it has failed to load here.

I rest my case.