If six-year-old Aditya Shah knows what the word ‘budget’ means, it’s because Daddy talks shop with him. On holidays and other special days, Keais Shah, his father, takes Aditya to work at the big retail showroom the Shahs run.
Certainly, there are benefits of taking your child to work, besides the obvious ones, such as having your child around you all day long. Chances are that your small wonder will fiddle with the office software, pick up the paint or just soak in the atmosphere of your workplace. In the West, many offices even have a take-your-child-to-work day.
Aditya tells me the share market is down after this year’s budget. I ask him what a budget is, and pat comes his reply: “The money you get and the money you spend for the whole country.” He’s visibly impressed by the scale of it all.
“I take him to work, so he gets a macro idea of what business is,” explains Shah, a partner at C. Bhogilal, the bathroom interiors store.
Aditya plays ‘shop-shop’ much like Puffin editor Vatsala Kaul’s children play ‘meeting-meeting’. Or like actor Konkona Sen Sharma who, when she was 10, played ‘director-director’. “Ever since I can remember, there would be production meetings at home,” says Konkona, who’d sit with her mother’s assistants and draw up make-believe production schedules and cost sheets.
So, is this something you should do? Reinforce nature with nurture, stepping back into age-old systems of ancestral apprenticeships? “No,” says NDTV business analyst Ashu Dutt. “Stock markets and exchanges are not conducive to kids. Let them grow up as kids and enjoy their childhood.” Rohit Gupta, executive vice-president, Sony TV, agrees with the no-shop-talk policy. Rohit’s teenage daughters don’t discuss work with their father, unless it’s a one-off career counselling sort of thing. “He doesn’t like to bring work home,” says Gupta’s wife, Rina. “He keeps home and the office compartmentalized.”
Most corporates choose to do that. Parents who are into the arts are far more inclusive. Paris-based painter Sakti Burman tells a wonderful story of how he kept baby canvases in his studio for his children to mess around with. Suchitra Krishnamurthy does the same with six-year-old daughter, Kaveri, taking her along to her Juhu studio to paint.
Does exposing your child to your workplace pressurize him or her to emulate you? Kaveri’s father, director Shekhar Kapur, who takes her to work all the time, cautions, “I would love to share my work with my daughter. But sometimes, children can perceive that as subtle pressure to follow in the parent’s footsteps. It’s also a kind of peer pressure.”
Anjali Raina, training director at Citibank, looks back at her branch manager days at Grindlays when her little toddler would come in to work after school hours. “I’ve never kept her away from my work. She’d meet my office colleagues, say hi and play on the playground opposite.” It could be serendipitous having a playground opposite the office, or being dispatched like my brother was, to my father’s office (Dad was director of budgets then) on Sundays because that was the boys’ day together, no matter where. But exposure like this can benefit children a great deal. “Being part of my work world built self-confidence in my daughter and helped her deal with all sorts of people,” says Raina.
It could also mean travelling together and introducing children, like six-year-old Kaveri on the sets of The Golden Age, to the mechanics of film-making. “Kaveri could be introduced to an infinite world of audio-visual expression, a world that encompasses not only film-making and storytelling, but also concepts of new media such as YouTube,” says Kapur.
The little boy who doodled figures in his director-of-budgets father’s office has now returned from Wall Street and works in private equity. The little girl who divided time between her mother’s bank branch and her father’s advertising agency is with McKinsey’s Worldwide. And the baby who played with paint in her father’s studio is the artist, Maya Burman.
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