The Curious Case of the ‘Flying Thepla’

Illustration: Suraj Lokare

The other day I was taking a blissfull early morning stroll in the apartment block I live in when a UFO almost landed on my head. I jumped back in horror at the shock appearance of above-mentioned UFO but since it showed no signs of life after landing, I decided to take a closer look. It turned out to be a methi na thepla!

Am I a bit old fashioned and crotchety at fifty or has the world gone a bit weird? I grew up in a house we were taught to respect food. At mealtimes we polished off everything on the plate and even a stray curry patta had to be disposed off in the dustbin. Flinging food out of the house, to and on unsuspecting passersby would, I know, earn a well-deserved slap on the face. Since I suspected where the thepla missile originated, I rushed up to confront the said person, only to be met with a frosty glare. “I had a couple of theplas extra so I threw it for the birds,” said the lady of the house, disdain dripping from her.
“No,” I said. We don’t throw food from the balcony.Not even to feed the birds.You can try feeding them at home or go feed the homeless on the streets but spare us the flying saucers.

When I walk past the young moma thrower of thepla,the silence between us can be sliced like a cake but , thankfully, no more UFOs land on the ground. And I appreciate that.

On the other hand, there are the other young parent types who think the whole world and their aunts and dogs should love their children and take care of them as well. On an early morning flight to Bangalore the other day I had a family of 2 adults and 4 children probably between the ages of three and eight seated behind me. From the time they took their seats on both sides of the aisle, the children decided they had to shout across to each other in high decibel, hysterical voices. The youngest, a toddler who hated being excluded from the conversation made himself heard by setting up a constant wail like an agitated banshee, while the parents on both sides of the aisle conversed with each other in equally loud voices, about the batata wadas and missal they had for dinner. What a din!. For once I decided to take the high road and keep shut but when toddler started viciously kicking my seat back in a tantrum to beat all tantrums, I turned and asked him to kindly control the kid. Oh, but he is only a child, he said to me.

Children will be children. Yeah, right. Till you tell them it is not alright to throw a tantrum, they will and for that to happen, the minimum expected from parents is some focus on the kids and a semblance of responsibility for the little souls you brought into the world.

Which reminds me of my visit to a swank multiplex a couple of years ago to watch SRK-Katrina starrer, Jab Tak Hain Jaan. I am a die-hard SRK fan and hang on his every word and expression, when the man is on screen. And so, when the kids behind started singing nursery rhymes and the reciting the alphabets just as our romantic hero was gathering his woman into his arms and raining kisses on her upturned face, I saw red. “ Please can you keep them quiet or take them out? It is impossible to hear anything with the noise,” I said.
“You shut up,” said one of the middle-aged mothers , stopping in the midst of stuffing her face with caramel popcorn. “You take them out if it bothers you.”

For once, I was completely flabbergasted. It did not help that my husband and my daughter, who accompanied me, burst into shameless laughter at the turn of events. “Maybe she too is an SRK fan. How can you expect her to go out with the kids and miss the climax?” said my daughter.

Later, when we headed out for a nice , quiet dinner, at a fancy restaurant, we ran into the little devils there as well, running around the tables, knocking down expensive crockery and playing hide and seek under the tables of unsuspecting guests, while the hapless staff looked on mutely.

I am not sure who to blame for this or what to make out of the boorishness that seems to have become part of our everyday life. Is it ok for parents to turn a blind eye when their kids make public nuisances of themselves? Is it ok if we, as parents, treat public places-even the streets and parking lots in our housing societies- as trash cans, spitting chewing gum and littering it with the empty cups of the expensive coffee that you buy at hip coffee houses? If we are to set examples as parents, is this what our kids should be seeing? Is it ok for a parent to be driving a car while simultaneously checking out facebook updates and this, when there is a kid sitting on the passenger seat alongside? Is it ok to raise a generation of kids who don’t have the courtesy to not sit up from where they are slouched on the sofa, busy with their phones, when a guest walks in? Is it ok for mothers to chuck out their kids to play in the corridor outside their homes in the middle of the afternoon, so that they can have their kitty party inside? Or worse, is it ok for infants to be handed over to the society watchmen to hold, while they go for walks or catch up with friends?

I think not. But then, I am fifty and maybe way too old fashioned to understand new fangled ways. “You don’t have to worry about the safety of other people’s kids . Nor do you have to worry about their lack of manners,” my daughter tells me sometimes. Maybe she is right.

Sudha Menon

Sudha Menon

Sudha Menon is an Author, a Writing Coach and a Speaker on Gender and Diversity.

You can reach her on or her twitter handle@sudhamenon2006
Sudha Menon