It was certainly first of its kind experience for me. Sharing the dais with the BJP stalwart like Dr. Najma Heptulla happens only once in a life time. Well… at least I hope it is not very frequent. The meeting was a pleasure and indeed a privilege. Dr. Heptulla stands tall with her excellent educational background and strong political career. She has even authored books on AIDS and women’s issues. At 69 she has an impressive personality and yet non- threatening. However what intimidated me was the overtly superficial and obviously sycophantic display of political ambitions at the perceived apolitical programme. The occasion was International Women’s day and the intention was to felicitate women who are contributing to the society in some way. It got off to a good start but soon was replaced by the platform to promote the party and its candidates for the forthcoming elections. What amused me was the creation of issues from a non- issues. None seemed to be talking about the real problems. Here are a few samples: “The govt. always talks about Gandhiji in high esteem. Gandhiji was a staunch advocator of non-alcoholism, and here is the Liquor Barron Vijay Mallya bringing in his belongings back to India. What a shame! How could the govt. permit such a thing? Do we want such a government???” this is followed by a prompted response from the ‘loyal’ audience “Noooooo”!!!???!!! “Let us show the female power. So in the forthcoming elections, vote you city candidate in full strength and during the counting let the women voters outnumber the men voters…This is real women power….will you do that?”…again the loyalty takes a kick… “Yesssss” !!!???!!! Frankly, all my way back I was at a loss as to what to make out of the experience. But the bigger shock came when the next morning when a leading English daily introduced me as “Sr. BJP leader”. Another series of questions was triggered, “A reporter is supposed to report that is his primary duty, then how do they manage to goof up this way every time?” I wanted to report this some where but the media was not interested. I and many others like me have wanted to report many real issues but no one is ready to take them up, not even the media. Probably they are burdened with many self created issues and non-issues. Yes…all systems are bogged down by the “Non Issues- Issues”. Where do we take up the real issues?
“Rich dad Poor dad” the phenomenal book by Robert Kiyosaki has left many impressions on my mind. Among the many lessons, one that struck me most was that kids need to be groomed early in life about money in the real sense. All parents wish their children to do well and grow financially independent. However, with the changing economic scenario and the increasing uncertainties in the world today, the parents need to worry about their own financial security and to ensure for the provision of basic education and training to the kids. And as we talk about the basic education, the kids need to be educated on money matters rather early today. They are exposed to the comforts of money at a very early age. Unfortunately they have conceived money to be a very easily available commodity. We parents are to be blamed to a large extent. However, it is more important to work on how to sensitize them to the changing economic scenario, the current recession and the impending depression? They have not learned to think before asking and it is painful for a parent to refuse anything to the apple of their eyes. How does one strike a balance? We have to gear up for lot more than the eyes can see and none knows for how long. Unless the entire family is in sync it would be difficult to tide through this. Our kids are important part of our family budget and unless they gain at least some understanding of what has hit the world today, it may go on to become a daily source of discontent in the family. I propose mass training for kids above 10 yrs at educational institutes and on open forums in a friendly and fun way method, to increase their acceptability and sensitivity of the constrained economy today. Such mass approach would decrease their antipathy towards the parents and perhaps open them towards active financial planning with the parents.
As we watched the small cluster of lights moving in the sky above us, my depth perception deserted me, “how can an aircraft look so small? It has to be something else”. “Mom, it is very far from us that is why it appears small, don’t you know that?” “yes…but somehow I am not feeling that it is far away..” I was still unsure. “If you do not feel it, does it nor exist? If you hurt yourself and I do not feel the pain, would that mean you do not have any pain?” That was my 7 year old. Numb with what she said, I just looked at her. My mind was with questions. “how did she think of that?” I have rarely come across adults making such profound statements, lest they are the self proclaimed Gurus. We underestimate the superb potentialities of the kids even though they have been demonstrating it around us time and again. Our education system is cramming the kids with numbers and information and data right from the early years. The sheer volume of the curriculum fills in the days and nights of the little ones. They have questions but they are not encouraged to ask. I have come across teachers that label such children as of nuisance value in the class room. The kids are not encouraged to frame answers with understanding. There is no time to give such attention to the students. In most schools, the mathematics problems are solved by the teacher from the top to the bottom of the black board with such lightening speed that the students have no other option but to copy at frantic speed. I have personally come across bright students that have no concepts with the mathematics fundamentals. Rightly so, when these students advance to the higher classes, they have great difficulty in understanding the subject and eventually develop dislike or even hatred. There is hardly any attempt to develop interest for subjects and general awareness among students leave apart the development of thinking process. Long back I had come across an article in the Readers Digest titled, ‘Philosophical Thinking’. As per this concept developed by a teacher in the United states, children in very young classes were given a special class once a week where in the facilitators brought up new subjects like, ‘what is a rainbow’, and the students were encouraged to talk among themselves the way they perceived the subject. According to the author, amazing concepts and original ideas were generated during these sessions and students showed improved interests in their curriculum. Can our education system promote something that thinks beyond creating literates and helps real education?
Last week, back from school my 1st grader wanted me to help her with math home work. She was dealing with the first stage of subtraction by borrowing. Turning back on the previous pages of her note book I noticed that she had solved at least four pages of similar problems. But she looked completely blank on this one. Controlling my urge to reprimand her on not paying attention in the class, I explained to her the simple way to the solutions. Sharp as she is, she successfully dealt with them within next 10 min. Once done, she approached me with a very relieved expression, “It is so simple. In the class, the teacher just crosses across the numbers and then we have to hurry to copy the sums otherwise she wipes out the black board!!!” A statement that has been coming to me very frequently as a counselor. Parents and students from almost all schools across the city have reported lack of explaining and teaching especially in mathematics. There is a dangerous race to get done with the syllabus and obviously who would like to spend time explaining to the students? It is the same story being repeated year after year, one institute after another. More and more new schools are mushrooming all over. They have national and international brands, sprawling campuses, customized uniforms, and even fruits and milk. However it is noteworthy that none of the schools flaunt real teachers! Amazing isn’t it? The most important aspect of a school is education and the most important factor in education is the educator. But the situation today is quite paradoxical. Teachers are not trained to teach. Most of these are degree holders with another ornamental qualification- the B.ed!! Bachelor of education!!! Most of these degree holders lack the two most important ingradients of teaching-Communication skills and Interest in the pupil!! The interest lies in completion of prescribed curriculum and extracting forced grades. Is it any surprise that most students develop distaste and in many cases real hatred for subjects like mathematics and history. There are many students who learn these subjects again as adults and wonder why they had disliked them as children. Many who could go on to develop careers in these subjects never get to taste the real essence of the subject. It’s a tragedy. We all know that children place a lot of faith in their teachers at every stage, (that is before they are disillusioned). But when I teach my children they say, “Why don’t you take up the teacher’s job at our school? You make everything seem so easy”. This sentence and more like these talk in details about the current education scenario. Of course there are some exceptionally good teachers even today, but that is precisely how much there are, just “SOME”! And the population is increasing; so is the number of educational institutes- sans real teachers. The trend with which the primary education starts it leads up to a potholed high school education, the higher education then takes up from there. I recently asked a final year civil Engineering student to give me the approximate dimensions of the large hall (20’ by 30’) we were in. looking around and contemplating she concluded-3’by 4’. I decided to give her one more chance and asked her to look around and at the roof height and then estimate. She reconsidered, had a more serious note on her face and corrected herself-3m by 4m!!! I am keeping my fingers crossed. Not just my children, but all those around me are groping in the dark. Competing against others and trying to make a mark in the system, they have stopped competing within self to better their understanding and concepts. All individuals have to grow in order to live fully. Will they get an opportunity to understand the real growth? I am keeping my fingers crossed.
This is the thought that popped up today as I was struggling to catch up with my own mood swings. One of those “when everything goes wrong” days. Sitting back and contemplating now, it has been an interesting day. I, like most normal people convincing myself that none can be the worse sufferer than me. A friend telling me to look around and see that everyone suffers. Another friend showing me the futility of brooding. A senior counselor friend highlighting my capability of handling things well . A great bunch of friends I have. At times I feel they get affected more than me. At the slightest hint of a downward mood, they swing into action and try to set things right for me! You got be very fortunate to have them. Well, the reason for writing today is this thought that struck me. All these people around me were telling me all that I have always known, in fact things that I have myself been showing others. For that matter, when I counsel others or deliver training programmes, I have realized time and again that what I tell is no rocket science. Most of us with the right inputs in life know most of this life saving knowledge. Somehow it is there in all of us, inherited from nature. I approaching you with a set of problems and you would be more than happy to show me the clear pathways to alleviating my misery. But the moment you have your own issues LO! It becomes a problem which has the unique capability of not having any solution, at least not the easy ones!!! What a theoretical life most of us lead. I guess we are prepared for it right from childhood. Take for example our education system. We learn history and the theories of Newton, there are the integers and Algebraic expressions, poetry and laws. We learn them real well for we have to write a paper, but how many times pain is taken to teach us how this knowledge is applicable in our life or rather how this knowledge can be used to gain something more than a degree in our life? We use it to prove to others that we have gained knowledge- theoretical knowledge, same as we keep our knowledge of living as a tool to be shown to others and not using it for ourselves. That takes me back to the stories of Gurukul I had cherished since childhood. That was the real education. There were real lessons, real hardships, real solutions and hands on experiences with the real challenges of life. It was all real and hence the learning was real something that made life real at an early age, not theoretical!! I think we need Gurukuls to learn to live the knowledge we are blessed with.
Remember those cute things your little one says? There are the times when they are hilarious and at other times precocious for their age. Many a time they sound disrespectful and uncaring and then they compensate with the cuddles and kisses that weaken us over and over again. Well, Parenting is a challenge and many a times overwhelming. It being our first time, we are burdened with the tasks of disciplining, teaching and providing and thus fail to see the bigger picture, the real purpose of rearing a child- An opportunity to grow spiritually. For once, before your children grow up, sit back and reflect on this other side of parenting. Think about the innumerable lessons in life that you have got since you became parents. The gibberish that made you wonder so many times, had many a profound meanings, the statements that came as disrespect, were embedded with messages on relationship management . In fact, the acts of defiance in retrospect could have been lessons in managing expectations. These lessons can be easily lost when we are engaged in molding the child to be what we want it to be. Here asking one right question to our-self can perhaps put things in clearer perspective, “What do we really want FOR our children?” Note that it is FOR them and not FROM them. This verse by kahalil Gibran in ‘The Prophecy’ can perhaps be the guiding light: “ Your Children are not your children They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself They come through you but not from you And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you …You may give them your love, but not your thoughts For they have their own thoughts You may house their bodies, But not their souls For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams”. This realization in itself is the beginning of a spiritual revelation .
My interaction with the youth recently left me wondering. Am I going overboard with the concern for social growth and individual development? Is it that people are OK and I am getting idealistic or probably bitten by the Social Welfare bug? It is confusing me. I interpret it to be all about ME and US, but people around me think it's about 'THEM'. When I look around and see educated people littering the road, I cannot take it, but the moment I bend down and pick up the mess, I get weird look. Best is yet to come. If I point out to them, they point right back and say everyone else is throwing the rubbish here so what’s wrong?!! Disturbed by the brusque almost atrocious attitude of traffic cops, when I brought up the issue with a group of young professional, the reply was rather flat- I have my own priorities set, why to get involved unless it’s about me?!! Why are we so insensitive? I feel like living a disconnected society where everyone lives for themselves. It’s a reason to mock if someone like me dares to talk about standing for the common good-“you are too idealistic man! Grow up”. We do not have time till our back is on fire. Am I flipping? Help me.
Recently, I met a couple that is battling against the alcoholism of their only child. They appeared distraught as they spoke about how they thought his life is being spoiled and that not only is he unable to see the problem but is not letting them help him. As I heard them out, what struck me most was the phrase, “that he was not letting them help him”. Intuitively, I helped them talk with just a few leading questions. What came out after initial beating round the bush was that they loved their son dearly and hence had always taken it up to themselves to ensure that all his wishes were fulfilled. They had ensured that the child did not have to sweat or shed a tear for anything and were unable to see what had gone wrong in their parenting. Everything they spoke about was about their parenting, the child did not seem to have a say anywhere while apparently, it was all about him. During the further course of counseling, various alternatives were suggested. Given the severe degree of alcoholism, the first obvious option was admission in a Rehabilitation centre. On hearing this suggestion, the mother burst out into a series of crying and accusing. She was aghast that how could we suggest such “Inhuman” treatment for her “poor” son. After all he was only having one bad habit and was not sick. And that they were capable of taking care of him. Thence, as expected, they abandoned the counseling. This one is about alcoholism, but how often do we come across parents who fail to understand the difference between Loving and spoiling the children, between doing something for the betterment of the children vs. something for the love of the children, between selfish love and selfless love. Today, as this era beckons to all parents to prepare children to face the hardships of the world in order to reap the overflowing benefits of this borderless globe, one question prevails- Are we parenting for the child or are we parenting for harvesting returns for ourselves and to satisfy our egos of being a parent?
There are days when I feel like writing but do not know what to write. At such times I remember Haruki Murakami’s ‘What I talk about when I talk about Running’. He has been an inspiration for my writing, specially helping me during those famous “Writers’ blocks”. Whenever I feel that may be I am not ‘gifted’, his voice fills me up, “the problem with talent is that in most cases the person involved cannot control its amount or quality. You might find that the amount isn’t enough and you want to increase it, or you might try to be frugal to make it last longer, but in neither case do things work out that easily. Talent has a mind of its own and wells up when it wants to, and once it dries up, that’s it”. Coming from a master, this is quite a solace! He quotes the great mystery writer Raymond Chandler who once confessed that “even if he did not write anything, he made sure he sat down at his desk every single day and concentrated… this is the way Chandler gave himself the physical stamina a professional writer needs, quietly strengthening his will power” . This always propels me to go ahead when I feel I can’t. While considering his careers as a marathon runner and a novelist, he has given a very interesting and technical comparison, “For me, writing a novel is like climbing a steep mountain, struggling up the face of the cliff, reaching the summit after a long and arduous ordeal. You overcome your limitations, or you don’t, one or the other. I always keep that inner image with me as I write”. And further… “I shorten the amount of time I run, the point being to let the exhilaration I feel at the end of each run carry over to the next day…When writing, I stop every day right at the point where I feel I can write more. Do that and the next day’s work goes surprisingly smoothly”. Addressing the monotony that sets in after writing a few pages, he has quoted Somerset Maugham, “In every shave lies a philosophy…No matter how mundane some actions might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes contemplative, even meditative act”. And finally the words of encouragement, “there are people in the world (Only a handful, for sure) blessed with enormous talent that from beginning to end, doesn’t fade… But the giants are, in the end, giants-exceptional legendry figures. The remaining majority of writers, who cannot reach such heights, have to supplement what’s missing from their store of talent through whatever means they can-Focus and Endurance”…. Murakami puts himself in the second category!! Cheer up friends, we have chances!!
Even the best pencils come with an Eraser. Thus telling us ‘it is ok to make mistakes’. Why else someone would have invented as eraser in the first place. And even so, making mistakes is considered to be such a taboo. A five year old banging on the table in the fit of his newfound excitements and knocking off a glass shattering it to pieces is reprimanded for his mistake. Does it really make so much of a difference, when more objectivity would slot it just in the list of mistakes. Learning is good, disciplining is better and practicing is the best, but do any of these ensure perfection? We make mistakes at every stage of our life. Our predicament lies in that there is no eraser invented as yet to fade out these painful moments off our life, less so, remove them. We choose the wrong path, very often even the wrong relationships; we hurt people and frequently invest in wrong people and things. Unfortunately, we are expected to live carrying the burden of these mistakes all through. It would make an idiot out of us to confess our mistakes. So we hide them and at time continue with them in one desperate attempt to prove ourselves right. Can we take a few moments and think of the day we made our first attempt to scribble legibly. An ‘A’ for the first time was almost like a crooked nose. We erased and tried again. This time it was less crooked, but still a nose. So we erased and tried again till we reached near perfection. Does this light up a bulb inside us? An appreciation of the fact that we are living each moment of our life for the first time. Every endeavor- to learn, to earn, to love, to own, to be a spouse, a parent to be responsible, each one of them , is a first time try and we can make mistakes…. We are allowed to use an eraser of wisdom, wipe out what we can and continue writing, with new confidence and without a trace of guilt…like we have enjoyed erasing our first ‘A”.
Last week my staff at the counseling Centre was disgusted to notice tobacco spit on our signboard. This week, it was repeated again. People have the habit to spit tobacco saliva in every nook and corner in this country, but it has to be at least “nook and corner”!! Given that our signage is posted well three feet above the ground level and on beautiful granite tiled wall in an office complex that hosts educational and service organizations, it was difficult to give benefit of doubt to anyone, how much so ever addicted to tobacco and spitting he may be!!! And this is just one of the incidences. Few days back there was shoe imprint on the signage!! Please remember that this victimized sign board is sitting silently three feet above ground on a private property. Patriotism considered, how does one explain any of these under any of the given parameters of love thy countrymen?? Having travelled almost over half the world, I refrain from comparing India with any other nation just to avoid the “what do you think of yourself” glance. But it becomes difficult to turn away your eyes every time you see people throwing all kinds of waste in public places, spitting at every possible place, throwing cigarette stubs right where they stand and the list goes on. Even if I give a consideration to the illiterate poor of this country who lack basic education and amenities, how to tolerate the so called urban elites? The posh washrooms in organizations are usually reeking and wet and stained, just outside the work place and beautiful houses there are heaps of foul smelling garbage, vehicles are parked in the most haphazard manner with no consideration for the other road users, every single person whether a pedestrian or a rider or a driver considers his/her birth right to occupy the very centre of the road, to block the left turns, to cut across speeding vehicles, to run through traffic signals…Hey! Is this all Normal? And then we take pride in criticizing the authorities in swish parties where we leave another heap of garbage and tell tale signs of our drunken rendezvous. I insist my children to take every piece of wrappers and shreds to garbage disposals, I have seen few more parents do that, but most still are worried about having clean cars and homes at the cost of public places. I do not know how you look at this, but I really feel the need to check out- Are we a normal country, to witness and tolerate and turn a blind eye towards everything around us and even contribute?
Today as I walked the tracks at the park, an unknown face extended a few smiles. Giving myself a lesson on two on my forgetfulness, I continued. Shortly, as I was about to leave, she approached me with an even bigger smile. “Hi, are you from this place? We have recently shifted to the city”. A wave of relief swept me. I would not be put under scanner to scratch my memory in the Guess who game. But by then something else was ready for me. She continued, “You are very beautiful, I was wondering if you have a younger sister. You see my son is of marriageable age. I am looking for a good match for him. If not your sister can you suggest someone like you”…Hey stop, I Don’t even know you, for that matter you do not know me at all…I was confused beyond measure, but before I could react , she extended an open invitation for tea and left. As a stared at her back I was stunned by what had just happened. She did not know me, and yet she wanted a daughter in law like me, I mean one who would look like me. How much we are smitten by the B factor. In this particular case, Beauty did seem to be the first and single most important factor for choosing a spouse or a daughter in law. I then thought about the many beautiful daughters in law in my acquaintance who are constantly criticized for something or other especially for not adjusting to the ‘in law’s’ way of life. Is the criteria of compatibility and adjustment even given a thought while match making? And if not, then why all the complaints? You have a good looking daughter in law/wife you can flaunt and who would ensure beautiful Progeny . You did get what you asked for. Does that leave any place to complain for anything else that did not come with the package when you had not specified those needs while ordering?
The day we receive the news of the arrival of our 1st child, apart from the joy and excitement, one major emotion that is experienced is ANXIETY. The responsibility of being the one in-charge of bringing a new life to this world and to live up to the expectations of God Almighty who has reposed his highest trust in us, seems too daunting a task.
As the child arrives, we gear up to give our 100% to ensure that our child grows up with the best of everything we can provide. We ensure the best of formal education, clothes, toys and nutrition, so much so that, we try to be there to handle every problem they land themselves into.
However, as we are doing that, (or at least trying our best) we are overwhelmed by the innumerable worldly matters. Our race for survival and that to make our child comfortable in this big bad world puts our main objectives behind the curtains. What we end up creating is a generation laced up with decorative degrees, designer wear and flights of dreams. Does it ever occur to us…what happens to the apples of our eyes when they are faced with adversities, fierce competition, back-stabbing, frustration of failures, demanding hardships, difficult decisions and insensitive environments….and all this when we may not be around by their sides all the times, to provide a buffer for them to endure it all.
What are we giving to our children to prepare them for that day?
Every time we buy them new clothes, a pair of foot wear or the toy that he put his finger on, we need to ask ourselves—when he is on his own, would he be able to make the right decision? Would he understand the right and the wrong? Can he stand for his own rights? And if he is not able to give shape to his dreams, can he still march forward without falling prey to frustrations???
And one question for ourselves - Can we afford to ignore the ever-increasing rate of addictions, crimes, suicides and homicides among the youngsters under the petty pretence that it cannot happen to us? Can we also ignore their ever increasing demands, unreasonable expectations, indecisiveness, over indulgence, self centeredness, lack of confidence, aggressiveness, low self esteem attention drawing behavior and more? After all it is the most important person in our life that we are talking about.
We almost always know the answers to these questions, however, what we need to do is start looking for answers for some more questions, and being realistic, help our children create a new world for themselves: 1. Is the formal education preparing my child for the real world? 2. What is the missing link between the education, my love and the real world? 3. What can I do to bridge this gap and make parenting a fulfilling experience?
Lets get together and discuss this as a forum of conscious parents Instead of a fish give your child a fishing rod!!!