Ravichandran Ashwin, The Parent Behind The Cricketer
India’s top off-spinner, Ravichandran Ashwin, talks about his parenting style, his love for the game of ‘hide and seek’ and more in an exclusive conversation with ParentCircle
By Rajesh Viswanathan • 10 min read
Ravichandran Ashwin enthralled millions of cricket-loving Indians with a fine test century (his 5th hundred in test cricket) in the ongoing India vs England test match 2021 at Chepauk. As we all are raving about his cricketing acumen, are you curious to know how is he as a parent to two adorable daughters? Here an exclusive interview of him with ParentCircle from 2017.
Joint-fastest to reach 250+ wickets in the history of the game in his 42nd Test, and an ability to bamboozle the most reputed batsmen around the world. Well, you don’t need a spider to weave a web, you only need Ravichandran Ashwin. India’s frontline spinner is also a fantastic dad with great thoughts on parenting. In a candid interview, Ashwin talks to ParentCircle on all subjects except cricket.
Read on to know and enjoy the other side of Ashwin. It’s a ParentCircle Exclusive.
We are curious to know what kind of a parent India’s best off-spinner is...
I am very relaxed as a parent. Sometimes, I am a little strict with them. But, many a time, I allow my children to do what they do. I allow them to make mistakes. And I love playing with them. We explore new options and one of my favorite games is hide and seek.
I am sure the kids must be quite excited by it too…
My daughters are not old enough to play the game in a proper fashion. When we play the game, they hide together in the same place or wherever I hide, they go and hide in the same place the next time. So, there is a lot of laughter. I am trying to teach them how to play the game. But I'm also enjoying their version of it now. Yes, it's a lot of fun.
Were you also into a lot of activities when you were a child?
I just loved being outdoors when I was a child. It was the dawn of the era where you had video games like Segas and Nintendos coming into the market. It did fascinate us a little because it was new, but I was very much an outdoors person. In fact, we lived in a joint family and my aunt lived next door. So, we used to play together in two to three houses. Hide and seek was my favourite game and it’s not actually a surprise that I play it with my daughters too.
Every generation is dictated by what’s in front of them. When children see parents using mobile phones, they will also use mobile phones
What were your other favorite activities when you were a child?
Pretty much anything that was played on the road was an activity for me. Obviously, cricket was a favorite sport. We also used to play football on the road. The roads back then were not as traffic heavy as they are right now. If it was tennis season, that is if Wimbledon or French Open was happening, we'd feel inspired to play the game. So, we used to tie small ropes and try to play a bit of tennis with a softball. Everything was an opportunity for us to play a sport. Amongst us, we would innovate and play anything that we wanted to. Badminton was across gates in the houses within the community. And if it was too hot (we come from Chennai), we used to go back into the house and play hide and seek or even indoor cricket if parents were not working.
So, you were a big fan of gully cricket…
Big Fan. But a bigger fan of playing as such, not just cricket. Anything outdoors was a lot of fun. It was a chance to mingle with other children. I had a lot of friends in the neighborhood.
Hanging out with friends in the neighborhood. Is that on the wane in today’s world, given the amount of time children spend indoors?
It is a challenge I am also encountering on a day-to-day basis. We have friends, we have so many WhatsApp groups and we talk to them, but we don’t meet. There was a recent Tamil movie where the message given was that we all keep speaking on WhatsApp, but we never really meet. We, as parents, should also start meeting people. My life, for the last 15 years, has been revolving around cricket. So, basically my social and personal life have taken a massive hit. I am starting to discover that side and it’s very exciting. I am connecting with my friends, my academy, and finding new ways to reconnect with people. Children take after parents. When they see us connecting more with real people, they too, will. I live in a joint family and my parents live with me. My mother-in-law and father-in-law live right next door. So, we live in a place where there are people all around, which is why my kids also enjoy being with people, rather than spending time on TV or a gizmo set. So, if they see what we do, they will follow suit. It’s all about us making an effort to actually take them out and allowing them to spend time with their classmates. We need to empower them and show them the right direction – showing them direction, ‘right’ is the wrong word. Let them figure out what is right for them.
Great thoughts, indeed. When we were kids, parents were literally tired of us being outside in the sun, but today, it is exactly the opposite. Does it worry you that the generation next is not?
It is a sad trend, but I won’t say it’s a worrisome trend because every generation is dictated by what’s in front of them. When children see parents using mobile phones, they will also use mobile phones. When children see parents playing on the PlayStation, they will do the same. It’s not the child’s fault. They just do what’s in front of them. They are not born scientists who can discover anything and get hooked on to it. We are the ones who are teaching them. So, we have to be very responsible and teach them the right ways.
Today’s world has a lot of distractions, which wasn’t the case when we were growing up. What can parents of today do to stay connected with their children?
I think you really need to feel happy when you are tired after playing with your children. If you can spend as much time as possible with your children, you will be able to find out what their needs are. You will probably be in the best position to give them what they exactly want. It’s not about saying ‘don’t watch TV’, ‘do this’, ‘do that’. It’s not about dictating their lives. It’s about giving them what they want. It’s also about empowering them to understand what they want. As I play with my children, I start understanding what their exact needs are. When I was growing up, I never asked my dad or mom to actually sit with me and teach me numbers. Taking a pen and paper was something I hated doing. I didn’t want to study. But, today, my daughter takes me inside a room and she actually picks up a pen and asks me for a paper and writes down numbers and alphabets. She wants to learn more. It tells me a thing or two about what excites her. We make a conscious effort not to give them mobile phones, or allow them to watch TV all the time.
We try and do that. At the end of the day, we get tired and sometimes we need to do our work and so we allow them to see a few cartoons. It does happen. We can’t stay away from it. But despite not giving them the phone, my daughter still knows how to take pictures. She switches on the phone camera and takes pictures. These are the next gen smart kids. You need to empower them, stay with them and understand their requirements and grow with them.
What you are essentially saying is that the need of the hour is to regulate and not ban?
Exactly what I am saying. It is not about branding something as good or bad. It’s about trying to give them what they need in the right balance, because everything is needed. My daughter watches a cartoon and she understands English much better than I ever did. I never used to watch cartoons in Hindi as back then, it was not even available to me. But today, my daughter watches a cartoon and asks me what language it is in. And I say it’s Hindi. So, she asks me what Hindi is. And I explain it to her. That is a learning experience for her and in today’s world, she has got the best possible options to learn multiple languages and multiple things. Her vocabulary is far better than mine was till I was 15 years old. These are all the positives of it and when you have the positives, you have to be equipped to handle the negatives too as a parent.
It all boils down to connection, right? Is that why you make it a point to connect as a family as you end each day?
I think the most important thing for children is communication with parents. By 7:30 – 8 p.m. my elder daughter is usually in bed, she’s off to sleep. So, what we do is we get into the room, both my daughters, me and my wife and then, we give them quiet time to chat about the day’s activities. We tell them a story or two, depending on how innovative or creative or tired we are. We allow them to talk and then, they slowly drift off to sleep, post which, we come out of the room. For me, putting our children to bed is something that I really enjoy. And I would say that if parents have the time, try to put the children to bed together. It is good fun.
You have bedtime stories, your kids and you?
Yes, sometimes I give good bedtime stories and there are times my daughter tells me stories. So, we mix and match.
Your message to parents out there…
Today’s parenting I would say has lost a bit of patience; it’s lost a bit of touch on small things that our parents used to do, like spending a lot of time playing with children and talking to them. My dad used to hang out with me all the time. When I was playing cricket, he used to play cricket with me on the terrace. So, those are the things modern-day children miss. And obviously, with both parents working, affordability and purchasing power has become better and quality of life has improved. There will always be a flip side when there is an upside to other aspects of life. But, I just feel that playing with your children, taking them out, or urging them to go outdoors are some of the key ingredients that parents will have to try and balance.
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