Aren’t we all actors?, he said sagely, just that some people have made it a profession.
We were discussing roles and social expectations of ways of living, relationships, work, religions, hobbies and everything else, when my friend quipped sofltly in a mood of reflection. As I explore conversations and sharing, I realise more and more that great relationships inside or outside marriage are mostly a mirage,or at the least rather rare. I listen eagerly and respect the sharing because there is defintely a need to hear and be heard.
I made a friend who loves banter and soon I got addicted to wit and nonsense in equal measure which formed the staple of our conversation. Soon enough though I realised that I was becoming needy and attention seeking. I knew I could excuse myself on the ground of loneliness and other such sad faced expressions, but it was clear to me that all I was doing was ask for attention, like a cribbing child.
I told my good friend to help me get over this whining phase in silence; affections or friendships need not and should not be imposing, should they? If tied down and burdened with expectations, they would die an unnatural death, early too!
That does leave me with myself, which is good and bad in equal measure, because with the pressure of research, I am often pressed to share a lighter moment or two though mostly, I am focussed inward.
I was also thinking of my reluctance to get back to work after the ceasura, a short break or sabbatical, and like the proverbial school boy I was refusing to walk to university, like a snail!
A young voice then asked me to introspect, ‘ so you have not forgotten of someone walking out on responsibililities and how you struggled with it? Work does help, just get back to it’.
Yes, I thought so too, despite my attachment to research, I should definitely get back to work ,after all, haven’t I come this far!
Work or no work, friend or no friend, the basic principle of contentment, is all about self acceptance, rest can be managed, most of it atleast.
I think of how it was to come back from work and lie down,when I saw in front of me a figure of a little girl rising up next to my bed. I sit up and as if in a trance, I pick up the address book and frantically search and find my best friend’s number and call.
After much ringing, a sage voice replied, ‘She is in mourning. She lost her child’.
I am shocked and sit back. A few days later I gather courage to call again and she tells me her ordeal of having to take a sick child quivering in fever to the nearest hospital. The doctor asked her to wait and she did hold her girl in her hand. By the time her turn came, there was nothing to do. The young mother shared and I listened, knowing no way to console. Our friendship of many many years had no balm just deep listening.
The vision stays with me and I cannot explain how and why this happened because I have not seen the child. It was good 10 years after me and my friend met briefly that this happened.
Loss of dear ones impact us deeply. The passing of Balraj.k left a deep vacuum in our lives. The blank space of someone who had time for everyone and was perpetually interested in our lives, my life and had time to listen everytime.
Eversince one looks to be heard, heard and finds no ears willing but then such are lessons of living.
So I listen now when I get a call, and keep aside everything and focus on that conversation from parents, child, friends because there is something beautiful about listening and being heard.
All the communication devices however faster and smarter can still not compensate for great listening, say, mindful listening.
As I learn to listen better, I remember my young teacher, my brother and his beautiful ways of showing care everytime.
So stop to sit down and listen to a dear one, anyone and you would not know what wealth you have just bestowed!
Am I not smart enough? Is that why I am in this remedial class? Why have you so segregated us?
Often and on, we in the teaching community face this question from students who we chose to give some extra training or attention.
For the years I have been a remedial teacher and have conducted remedial classes to many students. We have had fun in these classes, my students and I, whenever I have been successful in winning their confidence and have ensured them that they are in good hands and that this is not a punishment, it definitely is not.
Though I remember once I had mentioned the need for the child to focus more in education or learning, in this case, English, which was my subject, to my great shock and extreme shame, the father had lifted his hand to hit the child right in front of me and other parents. I felt guilty and rightly so for having been the reason for this public embarrassment for the child.
I realized the absolute significance of my words as a teacher to a parent and the child and how my words can impact their relationship and also impact the child and his/her mental and emotional health in the long run.
Thereafter I remember being extremely careful of what I speak and how so much so that students often chose to get their parents to meet me first, ‘mam, once you speak, no, they would joke, my parents will feel good and if someone complains later also, they will not take it badly.’ This sort of became a pact between some of my students and me.
I had another eye opening, life changing moment when I encountered another student of mine, Prabodh and tried to question his lack of interest in improving his English skills. Instead of accepting my observation or taking it negatively, Prabodh countered me, ‘Mam, I am very good at carpentry, Hindi, swimming and some other skills. Why should I be good at everything? It’s ok that I am not great at English’.
I laughed at my own folly, on hearing this confident counter. Indeed, why so? Why was I bent on shaming Prabodh for his poor English when I completely ignore his many other talents?
Again in one of my 11 th standard classes, I had another experience of a similar kind. I was advising Mukul Yadav to work on his English. The entire section of boys in the class, literally growled back, ‘ Mam, he is the state swimming champion. He is that and he is this….’ and while Mukul basked in the glory of collective compliments, I definitely had to retract my statement and politely add, ‘well, no harm in learning English as well!’.
But what am I driving at? I am trying here to point that to build on a new skill set, we need to acknowledge and appreciate, what is already present.
For example, when some of my students hesitate to speak in English, I allow them to speak in their mother tongue in the class. The class applauds the speech, poetry or any other presentation. This adds to the confidence of the student. I then gently interject to point out that it is a matter of pride to be able to speak your mother tongue fluently. It is a great achievement indeed.
While this being so, we still need to build our English skills, only because it is language in which academic interactions and expressions happen mostly, at least in our country. There fore we need to acquire this skill set.
This I have seen has often helped me to not shame a student for the skill he/she has already, but emphasize that we only need to build and improve on what is missing and needs betterment.
In my early years of teaching English, I have often approached the topic of imparting English language skills with an evangelistic zeal, somewhere though, after much reflection, and humbled by various experiences, I realized that gentle persuasion works better than any kind of shaming.
Acknowledge the existing skill set of the student.
Give him the credit he deserves.
Gently reason out the need to learn a new skill.
Most often than not, the student decides to collaborate with you in picking up the new skill, which he sees is going to benefit him.
Mission accomplished 🙂
Collaborative learning makes classrooms healthy happy spaces to be in for the teacher, as well as the student.
In every class that I conduct, I repeat the phrase ad infinitum, ‘ Nurture your passion’ and go on to tell my students that if they are great dancers, or mediocre dancers but have a liking for the art, they should spend time pursuing it. If you are singer, choreographer, designer, a rangoli expert or a web designer, do it again and again, and remember that like a plant that you nurture, in your good times and especially your bad times in life, this tree will present you many fruits of uninhibited joy. It will give you strength when the ground feels shaky and you are looking for succor. Because we all need to be like rivers.
You see, no river is sustained by a single rivulet or stream, we all need multiple inlets of joy in our lives. So when you love, love your lover but love yourself and find other people, places and hobbies to pursue with love. When you work, work with all your heart, but don’t do it like a blind obsession, along with your work practice your art, pursue your hobby, grow your network , if nothing, at least go for daily walks and spend time with nature. Look often at the limitless sky and wonder of what it holds…dream…keep up the dreams.
Some of us tend to do the error of being of single-minded focus on a role either professionally or personally and forget everything else. Then of course, slightest disappointments are harsh or life -threatening because this role has been your lifeline.
Should it be so, really? Is the role of a mother, sister, wife, manager, teacher so life consuming that you find it necessary to cut yourself of all joys of existence of which this role is but one of the many facets. How narrow minded can we be? How blind to the many joys of living?
It happened to me that post marriage I was not allowed to connect to my cousins or friends with whom I shared a beautiful bond. When this was followed by years of my only brother’s illness and his passing away, I was left with no one to even turn to in my life. Those were tough times. When my ex decided to quit his job, and the added responsibility of running the home fell on my shoulders, I became what I call in malayalam an ‘otta buddhi’, a woman of single minded focus on financial sustenance, emotional support to my parents and daughter and fighting for my sanity, which was the only thing I focused on. During these trying years, actually before events took a more serious and dramatic turn, a dear friend advised, ‘write’ and I took it up, because I always wanted to be a writer but also because I knew it would help me heal. And it did.
During the most trying times in life, I could put up a poem and feel a bit relaxed because there was no other let out that was accessible to me besides spending time with my chirpy kid. Yes, the occupation of teaching is a healer too, as it gives you as much as you give. So I held on to my core and stood strong despite the winds of adversity that kept testing me. Many years later I discovered a happy company of like minded speakers in Toastmasters International whose camaraderie and constant cheering lent me much courage and strength. Besides, I had also discovered the magic of expressing gratitude which the universe was kind enough to acknowledge every time.
So, I came out of a very manipulative and trying relationship with a smile intact and a heart devoid of hurt and rancor, well almost and still continue to work on my inner self.
But the point is the significance of a hobby, a passion , a cause close to your heart, which you should nurture at any cost. The value of this is intangible but life saving more than any other form of vaccine you might want to take.
I write this today as I see so many of my friends who go through this stage of going through an utter sense of loss or despair when things do not go as expected.
Life never promised to follow a google map, either. All life does is to take you on a journey of life experiences which can range anywhere from good to bad , knowing that then we should all work on our sense of joy, our anchor which will help us withstand the winds of change.
My suggestion then, do not be an ‘otta budhi’, go pursue your passion, many passions in fact and breathe easy as you go about living your life.
If you are a parent, don’t dissuade your child from pursuing his interests. You never know when and how it will aid him, professionally or personally.
Besides, that is perhaps the only activity he looks forward to doing and derives joy, satisfaction and a sense of individuality, so let it be.
Dancing engineers do make better humans and better bridges too!
The title is strong and perhaps skewed but that does not hide the fact that parenting is and often becomes a ‘power play’. A space for smart deals, ‘I did this for you, now you do this for me’.
‘How much have I sacrificed for you, can’t you do this much for me’?
Years of popular culture of idolizing the parent has made the lives of many young people miserable, that of course includes parents, who were themselves miserable living for other dreams and not having space to think or plan their life on their own.
Now the parent, being in a position of the provider tries to extract maximum benefit to satisfy his needs some times material, emotional, social or otherwise and cleverly packages his/her aspirations as a target to be achieved to the child.
Ok, so I have also been guilty of the same and have been tempted to go down the lane far too often.
One day though, in all my right senses , I told my daughter, ‘Child, sometime in future, maybe, your mom may become so needy, so dependent on you or just seek your attention so much as to dare to emotionally black mail you, then my love, you will stand only by what you feel and go with your intuition or your reasoning. You will not allow any of my manipulations to have a say in your decision ‘ and heaved a sigh, a long one at that. It was not easy to do that but I knew this was important. If there is one thing that teaching has taught me, it is to respect the young and trust their wisdom, worldly and otherwise.
I had not thought much about this until I read the Khalil Gibran poem,
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children. And he said: 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. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
I was shocked at the truth in these lines. And remembered how ancient wisdom prevailed on the need to treat an adult son or daughter as just that, another adult, who has an independent mind and soul and dream of his/her own.
Some among us parents, consider child- upbringing a ritual of grand sacrifices and responsibility, yes, it is but we need to ask ourselves, ‘was it not our choice to do so?’
‘Did we as parents do what we did for our children out of love and because it gave us joy in doing so?’
‘Did we not derive pride and joy in thus showcasing our children to the world?’
‘Was the joy only theirs? Really!!!?????
If we think this over, and find that the reason why we lavished love/ materials/ attention on our kids was also because, we wanted to , sometimes even more than what the child would have wanted, then it becomes crystal clear that, if the process was enjoyable, what is the point of taking a ‘grand stand’ of nobility, unlimited sacrifice etc?
The numerous videos that flood the social media of the supreme sacrifice or sense of duty every animal possesses towards the upbringing of its off spring should tell each one of us parent, is somehow genetically tuned to protect his/her offspring for reasons beyond our control, yes, there are exceptions, but aren’t they far too less to the majority of us who would give our right hand to do justice to our children!
Read on to know what the famous Tamil poet, Thiruvallvur said in his famous poem penned a good 5000 years ago on the subject of parenting….
In his ever relevant poem called Thirukkural, a lesson in life skills, written a good 5000 years ago, the Tamil poet gives the following commandments to each parent.
*If your children lie to you often, it is because you over-react too harshly to their inappropriate behaviour.* 2. *If your children are not taught to confide in you about their mistakes, you’ve lost them.* 3. *If your children had poor self-esteem, it is because you advice them more than you encourage them.* 4. *If your children do not stand up for themselves, it is because from a young age you have disciplined them regularly in public.*……read more at
Yes, we are all but humans, but it would do us good to ask ourselves as conscientious parents, am I in the right, when I ask/ advice this to my child?
Parental hegemony has and will continue to create unhappy adults who never got a chance to do what their heart called for, live with who their love chose to be with, or just be happy individuals in general.
As I talk to quite a few 18 year olds, they all seem to have decided that ‘making their parents proud’ is all that want to do or even, ‘fulfilling their dreams ‘. Yes, the parent has every right to give suggestions about career and other life choices, but just leave it to the child to decide what he/she wants to do.
Reading between the lines one can also clearly understand the enormous pressure of living up to someone’s dream that the child is facing already. Sometimes this leads to unhappiness, confusion and a general feeling of unworthiness, which can be detrimental to their happy state of mind, even many years later.
Do we really want our children to carry the baggage of our unfulfilled dreams or do we have the confidence to tell that that ‘fly you may, love you may, explore you may, just know that I am here for you!’.