Friday, March 4, 2011

No playdates - hanging out the Indian way.

I was unpacking boxes in the guest room – about one week after we moved into the house in Bangalore – when I felt the presence of someone behind me. I turned and was surprised to see our neighbour’s son there. “Where is Ankit?” he asked. I was still shaken but pointed him to Ankit’s room. “How did you get in?” I asked him. “The kitchen door was open” he answered, all matter of fact, before running off to find Ankit. Few minutes later Ankit asked if they could go out to play and they were gone.

Years in Seattle had weaned me off impromptu drop-ins and kids owning the entire neighborhood. In India, I don’t remember a play date being arranged while growing up. Play dates in India meant a kid popping into a house, looking for the kids or a grownup that would direct him to the children. If you were doing homework the friend would be asked to come later. That was the protocol. There were no phone calls and time sync ups.

In Bangalore, a few weeks later I was having a little cookie decorating party. I had invited kids that I knew from around but ended up with double the number as others dropped in. Since then our house has some kid or the other drop by after school daily. There is someone or the other with Ankit and Ashvin – cycling, playing badminton, trying Dance Dance moves on the Wii etc.

I was surprised the first day this happened but even then I had smiled when they left. Ankit had a friend even before I had had time to meet up with the parents and set it up. Now I see Ashvin roaming the sixteen houses in our neighborhood. He drops by with coconuts and gets cookies and apple juice in return. He asks for Arjun ( two houses down) to come out and play with him and has been known to sneak into Malavika’s house to watch TV on days not allowed in our house. He lets Aditi know when Ankit has come home and then stands at their door and has long conversations with her parents. He has friends and feels welcomed by all around him. India has been an easier transition due to this for them.

India is changing too - we setup time with friends that live far away from our house but in the community you live in your attitude makes all the difference. If it is secure enough and it is a good neighbourhood it is best to keep a open door policy and let kids ( and their parents come in) and feel welcome all the time. I keep extra packs of popcorn and treats in the pantry too. It is really nice for kids to have more kids around and it really helps them miss their old home and friend less.


  1. I lived for a decade in Bangalore, appreciating and benefiting from what you outline above. But it gets even better when, apart from friends, there are family members (most notably grandparents and cousins) that drop by now and then ... love to be back in my home state and 30 minutes drive from parents and inlaws ;-)

    ... Pati (P-ush knows who)

  2. Having lived in India all my life, I like the Indian way of how people and esp kids connect and interact with one another. Somehow I don't connect to the concept of playdates. But I guess it works well for other environments.