Monday, February 28, 2005

Is it time for play school?

Its 16 months since delivery day and the pressure to put junior into play school mounts. Yes, he is becoming somewhat of an antisocial character who seems to be able to deal with other children only through biting, punching and pulling. Yes, 'no,no,no' seems to be the only words necessary while supervising him at play in the park. And yes, he is starved for companionship of children his age, given that we live in an apartment block where the youngest inmate is 3 months and the other youngest, excluding junior is 9 years. Given the differential finding him play companions does seem to be a bit of a problem. That apart, he has a fair enough idea of what needs to be done with a ball (throw it, and mom or another lackey will play fetch), what needs to be done with food (open mouth wide if hungry or else throw on the floor and eat the mixed with dirt remnants) and what needs to be done with teeth and nails (bite and scratch and then laugh). Playschool or not, remains a dilemma. After all, potty training is still a long way off, for another I still dont trust playschool attendants to being sensitive to my baby's inarticulated needs and for yet another, I still feel playschools are a money making racket. 20 months is what another friend tells me my deadline should be to put junior into playschool--at least he will be able to make himself understood much better compared to his dialogue delivery right now.
Inputs would be welcome, as would experiences at playschool with toddlers. Email me at

Hepatitis A now okay for one year olds
And yes, the Indian Academy of Pediatrics has now approved the Hepatitis A vaccination for one year olds, so get your one year old vaccinated now. With babies, they dont turn yellow with jaundice so all you think is that the kid has a cold, cough and fever, when actually their poor little livers are suffering damage. And yes, boil that water for 20 minutes before giving it to a child, even if it is filtered water.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Whats that kid doing in that ad?

This article was published in The Maharashtra Herald and deals with children in advertising

They’re cuddly, they’re cute, they’re innocent and they can compel you to open your wallet wide and spend on whatever they’re hawking. This isn’t a new phenomenon. Remember the little girl all upset because her doggie dirties up her party dress, and the Videocon washing machine comes to her rescue. Or the little runaway who returns home only on the promise of mom’s garma garam jalebis. In more recent times, the Hutch kid and the pup broke all the barriers in terms of audience acceptance, and are still going strong. The same child was earlier seen in the Mirinda ad with the topiary inspired hairdo. And categories where you would think a child had nothing to do with the product also do show a child, take the Hoodibaba campaign for Bajaj Caliber 115cc as a case in point, or the more recent one for Kinetic that goes AAHO or even a TVS commercial which has the child being taken out of the rain zone to enable him light his Diwali crackers. All these have a child as an integral part of the storyline, for a product which is essential a male purchase. Other products like mosquito repellents, household cleaners, skin and hair care products and even over the counter medications for ailments like cough and cold, or muscle pain use children in their advertisements to demonstrate the product benefit, and to get audience interest. Take for instance, the Clinic shampoo ad which shows little girls with straight shining tangle free hair. At an age where the child should be more concerned about running the fastest in the sports ground or maxing her exams, the ad places her in a position where she should be concerned about whether her hair shines as brightly as her friend’s.
And yes, the perennial parental concern about the child’s vision getting affected by television comes tops with LG Golden Eye. And another concern about the child eating healthy food comes through with commercials talking about the energy levels of the child on X brand biscuits or health drink or even the computer busting intelligence of a child who regularly wolfs down his Kelloggs. And yes, sometimes it’s just the child feeling the softness of the fabric as in the Raymond’s ad to project the complete man. Or even the child in the Indian Airlines ad who teaches the flight captain to open his food tray and how to put his seat belt on. Why are children everywhere in our advertising?
According to Prasoon Joshi of McCann Erickson, “I don't think it is as simplistic as just the cutesy factor. Societal changes that are taking place have a huge role to play. Families are smaller, kids fewer, parents a lot more self centered that the previous generation. E.g.: Today if a couple is not getting along; although painful they will go ahead with the divorce unlike previous generations where rightly or wrongly they stayed together for the sake of the children. Plus today the career demands on the parents is much more and traveling on work or late hours mean less time with the children- leading to a sort of guilt factor. On the other hand kids due to media explosion and exposure to net are much better informed and competitive. All this has led to an increase in 'pester power'. The kids demand things and invariably parents give in. Add to this the age old factor of kids and their inherent innocence and cuteness and you have a strong influencing factor. Hence the role of children in advertising has increased. How well or badly the role of the child in the ad is carved out or depicted - depends on the caliber of the creative team.”
The fact is also that advertisers cannot afford to ignore kids. Pester power has now become a legitimate term in client briefs, and advertising creative teams are being asked to come up with ads which can harness this pester power. After all, this does translate into huge sales for the brands. Kids influence on purchases extends beyond the products targeted at them, and even involve decisions on consumer durables, vehicles, mobiles, airconditioners and home décor, areas one would think they didn’t even think about. Interestingly, the potential market for children in India is bigger than the entire market potential of Western Europe. Is it any wonder that marketers are sparing no opportunity to rope in kids in the marketing message, often regardless of whether the product actually is of immediate relevance to them. And consumers in the age group four to 12 are increasingly vocal about brand choices and are influenced by ads which appeal to them. On the flip side though, Kids are also not very loyal consumers, a new appealing campaign, a celebrity they like endorsing a product, and they will switch. According to research, tweens (8 to 14 year olds) are 40 per cent less loyal to brands when compared with adults.
Creating ads that use kids and target kids is not as easy a task as it might seem.“I think it's always interesting to see things from a child's point of view. Steven Spielberg did ET, a movie about life on other planets. He also did Jurassic Park, a movie about dinosaurs. Children were central to both films and this is what made the films so endearing. But at times, in TV commercials, kids are used for the heck of it and, worse, they are made to spell out product attributes like "this toothpaste has dirt busters" or "this TV has flatrex technology" and that's quite a downer. That's quite offensive. It reduces the child to a salesman,” says Vivek Kamath, Director, Matrix Consultants.Some categories by their very nature exclude kids being used in their advertising. Says Prathap Suthan, National Creative Director, Grey Worldwide, “I don't see kids being used in categories like lingerie, underwear, condoms, whiskies, OTC drugs, cigarettes, corporate fashion wear, sanitary napkins, birth control pills, breast enhancing implants, muscle builders, and other products and services that are generally erotic in nature or adult in consumption. If we use kids in these areas, yes, we are over using/exploiting kids. But then, look at almost every other category, and there will be, or there is bound to an interface that the product or service will have with children. Right from burgers, pizzas, colas, candies, cars, bikes ( kids love riding with their dads),clothing, home cooking gas, refrigerators, computers, washing machines, music systems, cameras, mobiles ( children do speak to their grandfathers through cell phones ), fax machines ( children can send paintings or poems to their friends through them ), housing loans (children do like the idea of living in their parents' homes ), medicated shampoos ( lil girls and boys do invite lice into their hair ), banks (even they seem to have something for children's future and savings and stuff like that), health drinks ( shouldn’t they be drinking horlicks?), televisions, flavoured milk, airlines ( the last I checked kids were allowed to fly ), to even corporate imagery ( large companies, refineries, telecom giants, media conglomerates, television companies, sports channels, do make products and services that touch the lives of children ). Then again, from a marketer's point of view using a child lowers a lot of resistance and widens the aperture of the consumer. In marketing warfare and love, everything is fair and square. And please do not forget the cliché that the child is a big influencer, and an absorber, and a referee, and an information base (children do remember finer details of information that adults miss out or don’t retain), and best of all, the child is the one person in the family who spends time in front of the TV more than the parents. The more children are equipped with information and knowledge, whether trivia or genuine facts, they make thought-out choices in their daily lives. I bet everyone has examples at home to prove that. After all they are the future buyers and customers.”
At the Nickelodeon-Brand Equity Kid Marketing Forum held in Mumbai this year, Jamie Lord, director, marketing & business development – Asia-Pacific, Millward Brown, stated categorically that today’s tween (8 to 12 year old) was tomorrow’s consumer, therefore spending time and resources to understand and attract the tween was essential. Sharing findings from the Millward Brown international research document, BrandChild, he stated that there are three fundamental aspects to kids marketing – pester power, the fact that kids and adults form similar associations with brands and the fact that children influence purchase even in traditional ‘adult’ categories.To quote him, “Kids can request brand names by the age of three, can associate with brand values by the age of 10 and display loyalty to brands by the age of 11. Brand loyalty peaks at the age of 11, but drops off by the age of 13. Clearly, the trick here is to catch them young.” Lord also points out that if brands are to retain loyalty among children, clarity and consistency of the communication message is a must. “When it comes to kids, having good products is not enough. You have to tap into kids’ emotional needs.”Speaking at the same forum, Neerja Wable, senior vice-president & executive director, IMRB, and head of Millward Brown India, stated, “Fifty eight per cent of kids admit that their opinion is sought (by parents) and given, even in non-obvious categories. In some ways, kids almost provide expert opinion, especially since they know a lot about modern technology. In fact, in rural India, kids are often better placed to advice parents as the kids are the literate members in the family.”To quote ad film maker Prahlad Kakkar, Genesis Films, “Kids do not see advertising as advertising, but as entertainment. If you appeal to kids and adults alike it’s good for you, but if your advertising doesn’t appeal to kids, you lose half your audience.” With his extensive experience in shooting with child models, he feels that letting the child models enjoy themselves thoroughly on the set makes for a great ad. After all, we all know how difficult it is dealing with a kid who is off mood. And Kakkar adds, talking down to kids in advertising does nothing for the brand. Instead, treating children as equals is what works. And using a celebrity in an ad targeting kids will only work if the celebrity seems approachable and friendly. If the celebrity is condescending, it would go against the product being advertised.
In an interesting example of how an essentially adult product has targeted a child is the animation film done by Lowe, as an extension of the Hoodibaba campaign for Bajaj Caliber 115cc. To quote R. L. Ravichandran, Vice-President (Business Development & Marketing), Bajaj Auto Ltd, "Animation films are possibly seen in children's categories, such as biscuits. Nobody had done animation films for a serious product like motorcycles, so we, along with our agency, decided to try it out for the first time in the motorcycle category." The father in this commercial comes as a hero on the Bajaj bike to rescue his son from an escaped lion. This was a serious attempt to tap pester power and gets kids to convince their fathers to buy a Hoodibabaa bike.
To take a slight diversion, where do famous child models go? Most turn to films and television serials as a natural extension. Baby Guddu, perhaps one of the most famous child model a couple of decades ago is not in the glamour world. Jugal Hansraj went on to Masoom and then disastrously into Hindi films as a hero where he failed to cut ice with audiences. The gale mein khich khich girl, (with Jayant Kriplani) in the old Vicks ads is VJ Ishita Arun now. More recently, Hansika Motwani who started out in a movie which never got released, went on to ads, moved on to television serials and now back to the movies. Her first ad interestingly was for Hyundai Santro, with Shah Rukh Khan. She was then spotted and signed for Rakesh Roshan's Koi Mil Gaya. The ads she’s been in include Ujala, Samsung Microve, Onida AC and Bournvita to name a few. Apart from this she is also on Hum 2 Hain Na, Des Mein Nikla Hoga Chand, Kyunki and Shakalaka Boom Boom. And Samir Khan, who started off with the Sony Max promos with Kapil Dev, is now a Pepsi model as Toss Ka Boss, and also on Sony promos for their recently held Amitabh Bachchan festival. The Hutch boy continues in the Hutch commercials. Most of the children on ad shoots, schedule their shoots on holidays or on the weekends, and a few candidly confess to bunking school for the occasional days when rearranging the schedule cant be helped. Interestingly, the children are aware of the money they earn and know that they are building up their own bank balances, which is a major motivator for them. Add to this the minor celebrity status they get from being a familiar face, and modeling is fun to them—the long hours, the stress, the harsh lights and the pressure to perform apart.
As to the children viewing these ads, they are the prime target simply because they are the most avid television viewers in the house. A survey of seven to 12-year-olds in France and Switzerland by the newspaper Journal de Geneve showed that they spend an average of two and a half hours in front of their sets every day. German children watched less, while American children watched between four and five hours of television every day! In the United States, the Consumers' Union says each child sees 30,000 commercials a year.
"More than ever, children are making decisions and voicing their desires at an increasingly early age," says Claude-Yves Robin, general manager of the French children's cable television network Canal J. Interestingly, according to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, "Many studies have shown that children under eight cannot tell the difference between a programme and a commercial. We consider that advertising aimed at children is deceptive." In the U.S., many psychologists criticize advertisers' methods, arguing that they sometimes border on mind control.
Interestingly Sweden has banned all advertising targeting children. While it may be a while till India gets to that, it may be worth the while of parents and teachers to be wide awake to the messages a child gets from the advertising he or she views. And if necessary be ready to counter these messages with factual explanations and demonstrations. Even if it means keeping a fallen tooth in a glass of cola overnight.

Where did my libido go?

This article written by me was published in New Woman. And I'm sure every new mom would be asking herself the same question.

Dday has come and gone, and you have a tiny angelic cherub to show for the nine months of waiting. But along with the tiredness and the constant demands on your time and attention, something goes into the bin. Your sex life.
Ninety per cent of women report a drop in libido post partum. While no research on this has been conducted in India, a random dipstick survey conducted across a cross section of respondents for this article found that of 50 women surveyed, 38 reported a loss of sexual desire post partum, with some the period of low sexual desire extended upto as long as a year post delivery. And a few even stated that they never got back to their earlier pre pregnancy levels of sexual desire, even a few years post childbirth. Says Rashmi Chaughule, 26, mother of a six month old, “I earlier thought my absolute lack of sexual interest was due to the pressures of being a new mom. But now, even with having settled into the role, and my body almost back to its prepregnancy state, I still feel absolutely no desire for sex. Is something wrong with me?” There isn’t much research available on the average time of abstinence after childbirth but an Australian study found that six weeks was the median time for women to begin intercourse again. This study also found that about half the women surveyed had problems initially and these problems persisted through the first year post childbirth. Yet another survey found that around 20 per cent of first time mothers took around six months to get back to their previous levels of physical comfort during sexual relations. The median time with this survey was around three months. But, most disturbingly, yet another survey found that 12 months after childbirth women were still not comfortable with sexual intercourse and were having less frequent sex than they did prior to their pregnancy. With most women this lack of libido exacerbates post their second delivery, and in some cases lasts for as long as four years.
The traditional ban on sex post partum with most gynaecologists and obstetricians is for six weeks after giving birth. This six week period is decided to allow the uterus to contract back to its prepregnancy size, and also, most importantly, to allow the woman’s genital tissues to heal, and to allow for the epistiomy scar to heal. Other doctors may specify only a four week ban and still others might allow sex when lochia (the menstrual like bloody discharge from the vagina post delivery) ceases. Another reason was also to avoid infection. The period of the no sex moratorium varies from doctor to doctor and from each woman’s medical needs. Says Dr Prakash Kothari, sexologist, “If a woman so desires, she can safely have sex three weeks after delivery. This is provided the episiotomy scar has healed, there is no uterine or vaginal bleeding and she feels like having intercourse. But,” he adds, “there could be a hormonal imbalance which could lead to a decline or loss of sexual desire, but it is not always the case. Very often, it is the sheer pressure of the changed lifestyle that causes this lack of libido. One must remember that pregnancy and childbirth are not pathological, but physiological changes.”
For many women, the pain that accompanies initial sexual intercourse post delivery is enough of a deterrent to create a mental block. Combine this with low libido and you have a problem. Many women do not desire sex after childbirth because of experienced pain, or fear of pain during intercourse. What is critically important in this is the birthing experience the woman has undergone, a traumatic labour and pregnancy, a forcep delivery, internal vaginal tears, the breakdown of the perineum (the region connecting the vaginal canal and the anus) all contribute to painful sexual experiences post delivery. Also, the episiotomy stitches and their healing is also important. If the stitches get infected, their healing could also get delayed and lead to a further loss in libido.
Breast feeding is another cause of low libido. During breastfeeding, the menstrual cycle is delayed. During breast feeding, Also the milk let down reflex might be triggered during lovemaking, which might be libido buster. Also sore nipples with constant breast feeding don’t make for a woman feeling sexy and alluring, an essential component to an increase in libido.
To quote Drs Laura and Jennifer Berman, Co-Directors, Network for Excellence in Women's Sexual Health, Co-Directors, Female Sexual Medicine Center, UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, responding to a query on lack of libido post childbirth, “While there may be some part of your lack of libido that is caused by psychosexual issues like exhaustion, depression, anxiety, etc., you should certainly be evaluated for what we call Post-Partum Androgen Deficiency Syndrome, which seems to be typically experienced in women after their second child. All your doctor has to do is order a simple blood test looking at your total and free testosterone levels there are some connections between breast-feeding and sexual response. First of all, because of the hormonal shifts, many women experience problems with vaginal dryness and lack of genital sensation. Furthermore, when you breast-feed, your body releases a chemical called Oxytocin which is the "feel good" chemical (this serves an evolutionary purpose because it makes you want to keep doing it!). However, there has been some evidence to propose that Oxytocin represses testosterone. However, even if your levels are low, it is certainly not advised to be on any kind of hormonal replacement while breast-feeding or pregnant. As for the non-medical side, if you have two young children and are breast-feeding, it is likely that you are exhausted, don't have much time for yourself, and don't have much energy to put into your relationship. Besides just having sore nipples, your body is not completely your own, much less available to your partner.” Plus for some women, the complete association they have with the child creates a circle that leaves the husband out. Sex, by inference, would be a break of that circle, and therefore becomes the last on the list of new priorities.
Also a culprit is hormonal contraception which could cause headaches, nausea, depression as well as lower libido levels. Getting your hormonal levels checked to find if lower testosterone levels are a part of your problem is an option. Post partum depression, also experienced by many women is a possible cause of low libido levels.
Another important factor is that of self image and self esteem. ‘I felt and looked like a sack of potatoes, “ says Shruti Meswani, 31. “I felt my husband could never desire me while I looked so ugly and did everything I could to avoid relations so that he wouldn’t see my body so misshapen.” With many women, the pressure to be physically in shape, given the hyperaesthetic world we live in today plays a major role in the loss of libido. According to Dr N S Bajaj, gynaecologist, “It is women from the upper middle class, who are acutely conscious of the need to maintain their bodies, who suffer from this fear of losing their attractiveness to their partners. Also the pressures in taking care of an infant, given the rise in the nuclear family with both partners working makes for no time or energy for sex. Most working mothers get back to their fulltime work within three months, leaving them no inclination for sex.”
Another factor is the lack of the husband’s help in parenting and household duties. “You’re busy, you’re tired, you put the needs of the children first. And also, a lot of women are disappointed with the lack of help they get from their husbands and become resentful of them,” says Valerie Davis Raskin, author of Great Sex for Moms. “After my son was born, I would barely get three to four hours of sleep a day, while my husband wouldn’t bother to even change a nappy. Subconsciously, I was so annoyed with his attitude that I punished him the only way I could, by withdrawing sexually from him,” says Ritu Savla, 28, mother to a five month old.
Taking care of an infant requires a complete change in lifestyle and brings with it completely different pressures altogether. While your own body heals, the child can be exhausting and unforgiving in his or her demands on your time and energy. Constant breastfeeding, diaper changing, colic attacks and the accompanying tiredness, exhaustion and depression can all contribute towards a lack of sexual desire.
The lack of sleep caused by the almost constant breastfeeding also can cause sex to become one of the last priorities for a woman. But do remember, that this too will pass. As the child grows and your body comes back into shape and you start getting time for yourself once again, your libido will come back. And if it doesn’t, do consult a doctor. Becoming a mother is no reason to accept abstinence.


This is a blog from one parent to another. Especially for parents like me and my friends—career women, who lived through one deadline to another until sperm met egg and spawned zygote, foetus and now kid. Having a kid makes all what you’ve achieved so far in life seem trifling nothings. Ask me. Though no high flier myself, my resume had some pretty good notches on it, until I decided biological clock was ticking way too fast and I had to do something about perpetuating my gene pool. A reluctant husband (he’s still moaning about the change in the quality of our life, especially during the still continuing 3 am feedings) was persuaded and child conceived. And now life revolves around a 16 month old terror who holds an entire house, three adult members, four servants including part time help and driver to ransom. But no regrets and no complaints. In fact, becoming a mommy is the best thing that could ever happen to me and I am happily dispersing unsolicited advice to new moms and yet to be moms (something I always hated when I was sans kid). Having a kid divides your life into pre kid and post kid eras—you become humbler, you start believing in a God and you start appreciating your own mother more. And yes, the career can jolly well get put on the back seat.
Here’s to our tribe.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Why karmickids?

This is, in my own little way, a shrine to motherhood and the dirty diapers that accompany it. Through this blog, I wish to share the joys, sorrows and sleepless nights, not to mention the overflowing laundry basket that go into making me, well, a mom.
It is a thankless job. As Gibran says, your children are born through you but are not yours. The only thanks one can ever get is perhaps a smile, a hug and the sheer pleasure of knowing you've done your bit to perpetuate your gene pool.
My son is 16 months now, and with all the attendant mischief that comes with the package. And why karmickids? Because I believe kids are the gift of karma.If you are destined to have a child, be grateful and do your best to create a good human being. And like the Bhagavad Gita tells us, parenting is the ultimate proof of action with thought of results or benefits.
And yes, thank your parents too.

Edited to add: Major correction. "Parenting is the ultimate proof of action without thought of results or benefits." My goof up.