In the whole relocation and its subsequent settling-in process, one thing that we had imagined to be a cakewalk is what is proved to be a challenging one.
In UK, the apartment block we lived in had 18 flats and there were 4 or 5 children to play around. Despite the fact that there was not any opportunity / knowledge to play any team games (coz of the age of the kids), all the kids used to play together at the same time and will be visibly happy. However, most of the time weather will play spoilsport. Before moving to Bangalore, I thought this element will be addressed and expected Anirud to be outdoors most of the time.
At Bangalore, we have moved into a huge gated community that comprises of more than 1200 apartments and has all the amenities one could ask for including a huge park, two swimming pools, play area for the kids etc. Given the fact that there are so many families, in any age group there are atleast 60-100 children. Thanks to the absence of extreme weather like in UK, we could see children playing in groups all through the place.
By nature, Anirud is not an extrovert. Whether it is with adults or kids, he will take his own time (matter of hours, not days or weeks) to gel with new people. Once he is comfortable with the person, he will talk chatting / playing with them incessantly. When we moved into Bangalore about six months back, quite surprisingly (for us!), Anirud found the whole place boring because of two main reasons.
1. Other children found it difficult to communicate with him due to his heavy British accent.
2. Some of the children were really, really rude and Anirud was visibly hurt when they snubbed him whenever he approached those kids.
In order to pep up his morale, one of us made ourselves available with him after school and went to the park to play along with him. That was by no means, a permament solution to the issue and it complicated the issue even further when he got so comfortable with this arrangement that he started demanding more of our time whenever he felt like playing.
In the meanwhile, on his own he managed to get one friend (RG) whose parents also had moved back from abroad (US). RG had the same issue as Anirud and his parents were also saying that their son also had difficulty in making friends with other children. For at least couple of months, Anirud and RG were playing with one another and if RG is not around for some reason, Anirud preferred to be indoors and watch TV.
Although the issue didn’t give us nightmares, it was always at the back of our mind and we felt uneasy whenever anyone (ofcourse, with all good intentions) asked if we had settled in well. Over a period of time, while his accent changed a lot, we decided to take the other issue head-on. He was clearly not comfortable with certain kids, as they have snubbed him quite a few times. While we edcuated him patiently numerous times about people getting upset with something and come across as rude characters, we did respect his preference and did not push for him to strike friendship with anyone.
We encouraged him to go out to the common areas, hang around and see if he can play with anyone. Most of the days, he came back home saying that there isn’t a single character to play with. One fine evening when Anirud was wandering in the garden with his cricket bat, he was approached by three boys of his age if he cared to join them. He immediately said ‘yes’ and joined them and played for an hour or so. He not only had a good time with the boys, he seemed to feel very comfortable with them.
This is a small incident, but we never expected this to be a turning point. Being invited to join them is something that might have given our boy some confidence. For the last 2 months or so, Anirud simply runs out of home around 5 pm, walks straight into a group who are playing already and joins the gang. When he returns back home, buckets of sweat tells us what he has been up to. In the process, he has made some friends as well. It took a while for him to find friends here, but we are pleased that he adapted to the locale eventually on his own.