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An informal record of the first 4 YEARS OF MY DAUGHTER AND ALL THE WISDOM THAT I ACQUIRED THROUGH TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS FROM THE INTERACTIONS WITH HER BUBBLING PRESENCE, HER MOTHER, GRANDMOTHER, NEIGHBORS AND FAMILY.
This version contains only some of the pertinent texts.
As I compile this collection of pictures and essays, I think of my “DIDI” in the Ashram, Pondicherry, who took me under her wing some 55 years ago; who gave me the cuddles my own parents had no time for, who was there for me whenever I needed her, who helped me fight and get rid of fears that my negative upbringing had instilled in me. She passed away last April. (2009) This has come too soon just after my brother left us last year, again in April. He stood by me non-judgmentally and with him around I never feared the vagaries of this world. My father incidentally left in April too. I am beginning to learn to dread this month. The going of DIDI and Babu Bhai has left a big vacuum in my little world. I have never felt so alone. The only saving grace is now my daughter who cuddles kisses me and gets terribly worried if she sees me out of sorts. My world now revolves around her. With her I have learnt so much about the capriciousness of this world. I share this journey with you here. 2
Introduction. In India, the girl child is getting a raw deal. Selective abortions have become a serious malaise which is creating an imbalance in the sex ratio. What is happening is wrong. I am doing my little bit to bring in a change into this mindset. This collection - celebrates the girl child, especially in Asian/Indian terms as the daughter is seen as a burden, more likely to bring dishonor, & dowry expenses, an expensive liability that will one day belong to another household. A boy in contrast will be a bread earner, insurance for old age, carry on the family name and is absolutely required to light the funeral pyre. In many households, the cow is more valuable than the girl child. In this world of double standards, this same girl child becomes “desirable” as a wife and Mother by some and by most as an object of pleasure, commercially exploitable and traded like a commodity; never a person. How did everyone miss the source of JOY and undiluted AFFECTION that she is? It seems this mind-set is not limited to India alone. What a sad state of affairs! What is so special of adults that they have the right to marry and procreate but not think any further? How many people really think of the aftermath of their trysts and romps? None! Pairing up is more an 3
exercise in hope that they will find the rainbow and the pot of gold at the end of it. As if willing it will make the consequences go away. None of their dreams are underlined by the pragmatic display of life around them; nobody seems to learn from life or are they refusing to look in that direction at all? Does not the child have a right to be NOT born? And once born, what exactly are his rights? The hurt and harm parents can do inadvertently or otherwise is needed to be recognized - even when they are concerned and try to do the best within the scope of their understanding. Very few humans, even the better ones, are able to rise above their preconceptions, habits and prejudices. Taking out their ire and often making their own children the focus of their desires is not an uncommon phenomenon. People lead such selfish, introverted, limited and "me first" lives and it automatically extends onto the child. The focus, I have seen is always on the parents. It is “Their” child as it was a piece of baggage on this journey of life. “They” know best what is good and bad for the child – how was this ever presumed? “They are doing their best – whatever that means! 4
I maintain that people should not be allowed to have children if 1) They have NOT done at least a course in child psychology or/and Aptitude test. 2) NOT Financially comfortably endowed. And also 3) Divorces not allowed when children exist. It is unfortunate, that for everything like driving a car, we need a license, but when it comes to having children there are no rules. Every guy who can get married is automatically given the license to have children. Of course marriage is not a binding factor either. The number of children born for a moment’s romp and then abandoned is a mute testimony to the utter irresponsibility of humans and disregard for the hapless child. The parents have to get out of their egos and not think of the child as "Their Possession". The child is not an extension or medium for the continuation of their dreams and wishes. I see all around me parents behaving as if they had done the child a favor by bringing him in this world and now it was the child’s duty to pay them back by making sure the parent got all he wanted from the child – no questions asked. Deplorable!
My focus here is on the girl child. She has always received a raw deal. Things have really come to a point where I feel voices need to be raised. The Story of Aruna I have noticed that children have a charm and grace that is soon subdued and stifled by overzealous parenting. Parents want to control their every movement, teach them what to say and how to behave and what-not. Why? Let them just flower knowing that they are loved and secure. Parents need to instill a sense of belonging and selfconfidence in children but end up by frightening and confusing the child by making him feel inadequate and often unloved. My daughter at 16 months old was everywhere and into everything. This was a hot topic for debate. My reply then and now is the same. I think it is her natural curiosity and she should be allowed to explore. But everyone who sees me with her complains that I am not scolding her enough and that if she is not made to understand the correct ways, she will become uncontrollable and end up totally spoilt. My point of view is that she is too young to understand and that this can come later when I am in a position to explain the pros and cons of each action to her. Right now it is all play for her. More often than not she is aping me. How 6
can I scold her when she has done no real wrong and surely no deliberate mischief? And why, even if I have something to say, why should I scold her? It will only kill her curiosity and stunt her persona
Centre of Attention. Aruna quickly became the centre of attraction and quite often total strangers would make the effort to come and want to cuddle her. We consciously took the decision to travel all over India with her to expose to her to as many different conditions of life as we could. I have always believed that the first two years are the most important. The basic character of the child is forming at this time and will make or unmake him in later life. Let him absorb as much is earthly possible in terms of sounds, sights and people, specially of the positive kind and he will never feel out of sorts in this world he finds himself. The case for taciturnity. Now that my baby is over one year old, I receive instructions from all including my doctor to focus on teaching my child to articulate words and communicate in a spoken language that we 7
understand. I am asked to repeat certain words and commands so that the child learns faster and we may be able to communicate more easily with the child. Every time we meet a friend or relative, the first question that is posed is “Has she started to speak? Which words can she speak now? Does she say mama, papa? Then their focus switches on to the baby and they start asking her “Where is your nose? Show me your nose?” What in the name of heaven is the hurry? I have never really understood the need to bring speech so hurriedly and in such quantity and intensity in our lives. The stress on speech and talking is rather exaggerated considering the exchanges I see happening around me. I say that the time has come to consider this factor and stress a little on taciturnity. Let’s bring a little silence in our lives. As far as the child is concerned, she is already picking up so much from her surroundings that we are amazed at her ability to sponge in. She is communicating perfectly and we understand her. We are acting as gardeners. We are not trying to push the plant into over-growing itself by speeding the process. I feel it is the parent's duty to learn as much about life as he can and apply it in life and then pass it on to the next generation. This can happen only in a conscious and open hearted yet committed environment.
Don’t bring up the child on "don’t do this and don’t do that" Help him explore himself and the world and be there for him when he needs an elder friend. Teach him the pros and cons of each situation and let him decide for better or worse. We need to teach them to think for themselves and NOT tell them what to think. And for heaven’s sake, don’t be there for him so much that he never has to make an effort on his own.
The Pleasure is mine. I have finally understood the need to spoil children. Although it is a relative term I am quite happy in letting my kid have her way. You can see in her eyes that she knows that this is HER place and that SHE is master here. The confidence that she shows when I am around vanishes with others, including her own mother who is a little more stoic in her responses and not averse to impose rules and conditions that to the baby may seem draconian. The other day one of my friends mentioned that he had noticed that I rarely censor, forbid or discipline my child; rather I tend to go along with the child. He wondered if this would not eventually lead to spoiling the girl. Well, I told him it is my belief that 9
we all need a friend who would accept us as we are without judging us and I was being that to my child. To the child the parents should be the friends/mentors/guides in front of who he can be himself/herself. If I want to stop her from doing something, I do so by diverting her attention. This attitude needs to be nurtured. If we become too much of the teacher or the disciplinarian we risk alienating the relationship and a heavy price would have to be paid later in life if a great distance and distrust gets created between the parent and child. So I told him if he felt a little show of displeasure or correction was warranted, I would be glad that he showed it. The child should learn that everybody was not the same and it would be honestly a big mistake to protect the child too much from the big bad world. I want that everyone took the liberty to behave with my child as they thought best. Let the child see the world in all its facets from the word go. This was in its best interest. If, of course, things went too much out of hand then I would be there for her and step in as a barrier. I am and shall always be the island where the child is protected and told the secrets of life. My job is to explain the tragedies and teach her the tricks of life. The ideal is that I change my style with her growing. As she grows and her stances change, so should my behavior and responses. Parents who are able to do this will never have much to complain. 10
Let’s not kill all incentive and stifle them before they get a chance to flower. The truth is that we stop the child when it is not convenient to us. The child is not here for our convenience. Period. Note: there is no deliberate mischief in her. Just play and of course wanting to play at all the games she sees us playing. Her ability to ape is astounding. She is a keen observer and repeats every action she sees us do in one shot. Everyone wants to know why I am spoiling her. My question is am I? She needs to play and explore this world - right? And I am letting her do it. How else will she know what is OK and what is not?!!!!! But I must say, having her in my arms or when she comes and envelops me in her arms or recompenses me with a kiss, the experience transposes me out of myself and my heart melts into chocolate syrup and blows up out of proportion like a Goodyear airship. It is such a lovely feeling to be the chosen one. I have never been loved liked this. The smile and her tinkling laughter are worth it all. Not only hers, for that matter any child’s. Let us not become so staid that we lose all sense of the fun of life. PS: But I have not lost my head yet. I am now teaching her to take me a little more seriously and show my displeasure through my eyes + shake of my 11
head. I must say that she is beginning to recognize and respect this. It has to be made as a request or tears will flow, backed highly dramatized acting- and make me feel like a jerk. I know I am being manipulated but then my mother, wife, colleagues and everyone I know is doing it so what is new? I just wait for my opportunity to have my own tantrums one of these days.
Are we helping or promoting misery? A news coverage commentary on CNN made me pen these few words. She was talking about the spread of this new disease in Africa. She was advocating further funds to be poured in aid of removal of suffering. My question is: are we removing or promoting? Why are we so eager to pour millions and millions into programs that lead us no-where? Why are we so eager to promote the welfare of people who are not really eager to do anything for themselves? It is fantastic how humans can delude themselves that life is one Silk Road with happiness and wish fulfillment is its goal. Life may be utter misery, so what? The very person who complains about it also goes about doing precisely what he should not to make it worse. This reminds me of an instance from my own life. Many, 12
many years ago my maid came to me with a request for a loan. Not a small loan; something in the nature of Rs 10.000 which left me aghast. I was paying her a salary of Rs 300 per month. Her monthly earnings were barely Rs 1200 from work in four homes. But look at her courage. She was prepared to take on a loan which she would never be remotely ever to pay. I was well aware that her husband was a never-dowell and had never earned a penny in his life. He did assist in spending the money on a drink every evening. Her married daughter had been deserted by her husband and was living them. Her two sons were coming up the same way. She was bringing them up to become gentlemen with education and white collar jobs but she forgot to imbibe in them the value of work – hard or soft. In every household, starting with their own they were seeing the man of the house shirking work and yet being taken care of by the women. So finally both the boys grew up into expecting that their wives would take care of the earning and working part. They were convinced as would have been obvious to all that they were a gift to mankind or at least to their womankind. The maid was taking this loan to marry off her first born. I did not give her any money. I did not have any to give. I did ask her how the son would support a family. She had no reply. Sheer optimism won through. She did find somebody to give her a loan at an exorbitant interest and she went ahead with the marriage. 13
Some months ago I met her again working as a sweeper in the temple I sometimes visit and enquired about her family. The sons it seems were not doing anything. Their wives were working and keeping the home fires burning. Her husband was now too old and sick and although she did not say it, it could be seen that it was all a great burden. She had perpetuated her own miserable life on to the next generation. The loan had become a weight around the neck. What bothers me is this – when we assist these short-sighted people are we helping them or hurting them? Can we really ever help them? I cannot stop thinking that if she had not found anyone to give her the loan, she would have been far much better off! Some pertinent thoughts and questions. Look at how we have fashioned our life. The same mother who is supposed to be a know-all about children and is allowed to give birth to babies and raise them up, needs a certificate and training to teach children when she applies for a teacher’s job and if she wants to become a foster parent (in the USA), she will need certification to take in children. Consider the fact that the General medical practitioner is not considered good enough to treat our children; for that we need specially trained doctors called pediatricians. So quite 14
obviously on one hand we accept that children are special and need special understanding but on the other we think nothing of letting sperms meet eggs and let them grow into babies indiscriminately. Our logic being that every baby comes with his own destiny and we happily rationalize that we are doing it a good turn by allowing it to enter into this wonderful world of ours. The first thing is to have children only when one is ready for them as they have to be given 100%; emotionally and physically. There can be no half measures on this score. The child is totally dependant on its parents. He has full rights also on them. He needs and he has to be given everything needed for his flowering. Love and total devotion to the child’s welfare is the key. Why are our law makers not thinking about corralling these males who are spawning away with total impunity? What rights have they to bring a child into this world and worse when the child is here who is letting them run away? Should we not make it a cognizable offence? All these children who have been brought into this world without their consent and who now have no roof over their head with little hope two square meals, how will they manage? There is no justification to let things be as they are.
In a general way, on the spiritual level, one can say that the worst that can happen to the child are the parents. The parents, 99% of them, do not bring up their children consciously. They are following a natural trend by habit and instinct. They are simply being themselves. It is not only how we behave with the child but the galling fact is that the child picks up the same behavior patterns and repeats them and this can go on into many generations. In India where arranged marriages are the norm, there is also the social responsibility to get one’s progeny married off as a religious duty. I have seen sick and mentally challenged people are found mates on the strength of financial clout or plain and simple duping of the other party. Why? People have sex for fun. Nature does the rest. The children are "Gifts of god" and accordingly we expect God to rear them for us too. These gifts we throw out into the world without care. Even the best parents do not think beyond, "food (without any attempt at good nutrition), clothes( not always chosen with the child in mind), schooling(with no serious intent behind it)" after that it is all left to GOD and he is squarely blamed for anything that may happen later. And of course, when the weight of rearing the child becomes too 16
much, the child has to bear the brunt of our ire which can often be horrendous in the extreme. It is so saddening.
Our self-centeredness We are born of a selfish beginning and live selfishly thereafter. The children we give birth to reflect our pride as our possessions, brought into this world by our effort and we may even imagine ourselves as The Creator. All the philosophers tell us that this world is an illusion and I suppose that we can add this thought of being Creators as another illusion. Unfortunately this illusion has repercussions way beyond the fallibility of a random thought. It is true that all our thoughts and imaginings to a very great extent make or mar our existence; we learn this truth after a life lived to the full and when our chickens come home to roost. Unfortunately, by the time we come to our senses, the harm has already been done. The bitter truth of life is that the laws of nature implore us to procreate at an early age when we still have the drive and strength to rear the child through the long gestation period needed for a human child to come into his own. This normally works out to be in the age group when in many other ways the humans are themselves still children 17
mentally and emotionally. So the end result is children rearing up more children and passing on all their fears and insecurities and making colossal blunders in the actual act of feeding, clothing and educating. Generation after generation this is being repeated and we can safely say that we are perpetuating our miseries on to the next generation who in turn will most probably do the same. Of course with every generation, with more education there is an improvement but it is unfortunately not the norm yet in terms of percentage of the world’s population. Even in so-called educated societies, only few ever try to improve themselves and put the interest of the child before their own. We forget very easily that the child is totally dependent for everything on us to understand its needs and that The Lord has put a very great responsibility on our shoulders. It is imperative that we forget ourselves totally and immerse ourselves to meet the child’s every little need. Our attitude should be of compassionate indulgence. Every whimper and movement should be taken seriously and we should go to great lengths to learn and study every piece of information available to us to learn what the child may be going through and the best course of action in every tiny inconsequential situation for that particular time. We have to make this effort for our child. This is the karma we have imposed on ourselves and our own lives depend upon it. 18
My Story My story begins with my daughter Aruna born to us on 31st August when I was in my 58th year. I was very apprehensive. Would I be able to do a good job of rearing her up properly? But mine has been a life of teaching and counseling and therefore of learning. After all the trial and tribulations of a life lived to the hilt, I was well aware that happiness comes from spreading happiness which then comes back to you. As explained in Zen philosophy, join the club of givers where everyone is giving each other all the time. So the day she was born, I took the vow that I shall totally subvert my interests in the joyful and attentive bringing up of my daughter. I would not permit myself to be sidetracked by my own fatigue, bad moods and her demands. There were special reasons for me to do so. Many, many years ago I lost my brother just in front of my eyes. The date was 31st August. I felt that I had not taken care of my brother as well as I should have. I have missed him deeply. I had prayed often that if I ever get another chance, and if only The Lord would give me one, I will do a better job of it. When this daughter of mine was born on the same date I took it as Divine providence and got into the job of fulfilling my vow as best as I could. I realized early in life that whenever we step into a relationship or responsibility; we should prepare ourselves for it assiduously. Something I find that 19
most people really do not give much thought to. We do prepare ourselves for jobs or sports or even hobbies but when it comes to getting married we never think twice and go into it for the game of it. In extension having a child is just part of the natural course of things. I find it difficult to accept this attitude. Before we commence preaching we must have practiced it they say. Well, in this case I am well qualified. I studied all the books on psychology I could find when I was in college. Reader’s Digest was my favorite journal. And I devoured every word I could find on the subject. I observed my peers and others in our huge joint-family system. Marriage as a happy state did not seem to be quite the thing at all. Everyone around me was bickering and unhappy with his/her partner but still would advise marriage to the unmarried and wherever they could they would organize alliances and push them through. I wonder if this is not a revenge they are perpetuating for having been pushed into lacklustre marriages by their own peers. My own parents never put up for us a very encouraging image either. In short I was confused and did not feel that I had the acumen and patience to live with what I concluded to be inconsistent and often unreasonable behavior of women. So I experimented and got into relationships with the opposite sex and was lucky enough but I noticed that as soon as a friendship would develop so would 20
begin the demands and sulks; this I found to be unacceptable, a waste of time and energy and soon the relationship would come to a natural end leaving a bitter taste in the mouth. I realized that when I was initiating a relationship, a certain amount of “taking-for-granted” by the other party was involved. I then happened to come across the book By Somerset Maugham – Mrs. Craddock. The sentence in the book which suggests that in every relation there is one who loves while the other lets himself be loved struck a big chord in me and clarified my own observations. From then on I decided to wait for somebody to fall in love with me while I let myself be loved. And I must say this too happened, but I could not for the life of me stand these women as they followed me too insistently. Their need to have it their way was just too restrictive for my sensitive ego. They wanted my whole time and focus. It was claustrophobic. So I remained unmarried till the age of 46. It is only at this mature age that I felt that I have seen enough and should be able to manage a relationship well. It was a practical affair with bio-data exchanged and the alliance fixed between the families. It is only when my wife gave certain aspects of my behavior how selfish and inconsiderate I truly at fault. The learning me feed-back on that I understood was being. I was process and my 21
arrogance that I was better than others took a solid beating. My wife was a mirror that kicked back and I am really grateful to The Lord for a wife who taught me to grow out of my self-centeredness. There were times when a break-up was imminent but the maturity of the years stood up to trial. Then we had Aruna.
My wife’s first question was will she be pretty, whereas I could already see the most beautiful girl in the world in her. Bringing up Aruna My wife has a responsible job in a bank so she was not there in the day. I took the mantle of nurse and papa. It is then I realized what a stupendous job women do and the unrelenting continuity of the responsibility it is to look after a child. The first thing was the immediate response that was required of us. We are on call 24 hours without break and no respite in sight. That is if we take our parenting seriously. I do wonder often how mothers with more than one child cope at all; what with house-work and the clamoring of attention by the children. The first three months were ok. She was just lying there and all I needed was to cuddle her to reassure her that she is in good & hopefully capable 22
hands. I was feeding her every 3 to four hours and changing her nappy every now and then. Making sure that she was covered well and when she was in a bad mood which she indicated by crying I would carry her around snugly ensconced in my arms and sing to her. She loved that. Then came winter. The first winter I felt is a dangerous time and the little one is too fragile to meet its vagaries. So I enclosed myself in my warmed up bedroom at a stable temperature of 24 deg centigrade and stayed there. We came out of it only when the weather had moderated. I am sure many of you would say that this is not possible for anyone. There are other responsibilities and tasks beckoning. I would agree with you all. But then, this is what I mean when I say that we should have children when we are properly prepared and have the means and time to meet their every need and really can afford to have one. I had mine at a ripe age, working from home and with time on my hands that I could call my own. At this juncture of my life, the daughter was absolutely the most important thing in my life and I was on call 24 hours of the day for the next two years without a break.
Nutrition. I have the good luck of having good friends who are doctors and brothers and sisters who are doctors 23
too. Additionally I have been a student of Adele Davis, the nutritionist and Biochemist who has had a big influence in my life. So I was well aware that at this stage of life the most important factor is to ensure that my baby is well fed and all her developmental needs properly taken care of. This we did to the utmost possible. Supplements, milk and nutritional requirements were met without fail. Her growth was well documented by her pediatrician and even she remarked that she was pleasantly surprised. As she grew I added elements and supplements into her feed. Later on before she could manage to feed herself only on solid food as many advised and even my wife felt so, I introduced her to products like Horlicks/Complan so that her growth was not restricted in any way of for any reason if she did not feel like eating. Cuddling and being by her side was in my opinion part of the package. I believe in sleeping with the little one by my side as I could and would respond with alacrity to any change or sign of discomfort. I am mortally afraid of crib deaths or such. The only thing that we had to work out for ourselves was how to control her colic. Eventually I hit on the possibility of boiling a little aniseed in her feed water and it relieved her almost totally. Here I may add that doctors and other mothers were no help. The doctors prescribed medicines and the mothers advised 101 things but to no avail. Homoeopathy helped the most.
I was often advised to stick to a regimen of time etc. This I found difficult to agree with. The body is not a clockwork machine. It is not in the same “mood” all the time. So we gave this advice on fixing times and quantities a miss. We catered to the child when she demanded it and let her direct her own life. No stress and no pressures was our motto. Later on when she was ready to taste solid food we let her taste everything she wanted to. Restrictive upbringing is in my opinion is stifling the child before it has a chance to find anything about the world. Today we are rewarded by the fact she is not fussy at all. She eats everything we do and she does it with relish and abandon. On the matter of eating habits we let her choose her style and method. This did result in some messing up and a lot of cleaning up but this is all part of the play and only a game for the child. A wise parent should learn to play with his child and not worry too much about teaching and browbeating him into acceptable habits of adults. There would be time enough for that. Aruna with no fear or stress of any kind in the form of scolding from her parents did things by aping us. She even started helping us by the time she was 15 months old by laying the table and then clearing the table. She is very organized and very orderly. She eats with us and at the appointed table. We did not have to teach her anything. She learnt it by trying it out and venturing out which we were just 25
too happy to let her do. She was showing a level of intelligence and initiative that we as adults tend to ignore in children. I think it is bad form to run after kids to make them eat and saying no for many things while yes to only some things. This confuses them to no end. I have seen so many children becoming difficult because their parents simply do not listen to them or let them play at adult games. Surely what is good for the parents is good for them too! If you are really interested in your child, try to see the world from his viewpoint. Aruna at play Letting the child play is the first lesson in raising a well balanced and rounded personality of the child. A very important point is that everything is play to them. Whatever they will see us do they will want to do both at home and in the playground. This is one reason I did not agree to have nannies or servants bring up my child. I tried for a few days when fatigue was overtaking me sleep deprivation was seriously affecting my health but within four days we found that the child had become silent and the eyes had lost the sparkle. Then we observed closely how the servant maid was behaving with her. Not only that we also observed how the other children in the park were being chaperoned by their maids. 26
It was the same story with all of them. They would take so much care of them and protect them so much that they would keep the child in their arms and refuse to let it get into any activity lest it get hurt or dirty the clothes. I asked one of them why they were denying the child the freedom to play and explore and they said quite logically that they would be blamed if anything happened to the child. They could not risk their own job as no one is going to listen to their side of the story in case of a mishap so they had no choice but to be careful and play safe. The result was a constant barrage of “You will fall down” – “you will hurt yourself” – “I said NO” – “Come here, play with this ball” – from what I could see there was a focus on disaster as if we were inviting it. And what were the children learning from it? The way I see it they were instilling fear in every word an action as they would simply not let the child do anything for himself. If he wanted to climb on the slide they would pick him up and do it for him. If he ran they would hold him lest he fall; and many other idiotic reactions that I could never agree to. We should be there only to protect him from hurting himself and not from stopping him from doing anything at all. The seeds of apprehension and lack of initiative are already being sown. Then there is the possessive attitude that we end up inculcating in children. I could hear parents 27
and/or their maids constantly warning the children NOT to play with the toys of other children with sentences like “This is not yours. Give it back” – “Play with your toys” – “Don’t cry, we will buy you another one” and often comments like “You have all the toys of similar kind at home” as if telling everyone around there that they were not beggars. The parents should not feel ashamed for the actions of the child and simply laugh it off when he does something that we in the adult world would consider improper. I wonder why these parents with no time for their kids ever have them. Seems they have children more out of tradition than love for a child. Or is it an accident that happened. I talked to many of them and they all replied that they were not really aware what child bearing would entail and one of them was candid enough to say that she was just raising them up as a responsibility thrust on her and did consider them a nuisance although with time she learnt to love them and be attached to them but as I could see it was more as an extension of herself. They knew fully well that all their capers would result in a child but never expected that it would be downright slavery to the little imp. I would advise to all would-be parents to think well before having a child. Because once you have one, you are on the burner and if this does not appeal to you, don’t have one. What has the child done to you to merit a fate of neglect? 28
When I see her romping all around us, supremely happy with her condition and smiles at me, tears of contentment well-up in my eyes. My child was a little prematurely born. To compensate of any shortcomings, I went overboard with the cuddles. Now I am happy that I did so. For one she cuddles me back especially when she sees that I am annoyed. She loves to snuggle and is affectionate like a puppy. She trusts implicitly and has no fear of strangers although she does take a little time to open up to most. We did a lot of traveling right from her age of 6 months so that she sees the world in a larger perspective. I have always felt that the exposures we give to the child in the first two years are going to be very important in the formation of character later on. Go out of your way to help the child explore the world. Teaching the child adult things. On this subject I have much to say. I find we are far too much in a hurry to teach the children what can be safely termed as “Adult Behavior”. We see our own selves mirrored in the behavior of the child and we want it that way; which means we try very soon and often too early to teach children a lot of things so that the world at large will see us too as cultured, high IQ and superior people. What is the hurry? Let the child flower at her own pace. 29
For example: Don’t force the child to say thank you when she is not feeling like it. I would admit that it may be the right thing to do and the child has to eventually learn to be polite and so many other things. But don’t push her into it. You will only end up creating a lot of stress which does no one any good. I did not bother to teach my child anything. But I saw that she likes the Oswald series on TV. She learnt to say many things from these serials which are repeated over and over again so it was like an audio-visual education with the added advantage of being repeated often. Now she says thank you on her own. She wishes “HI” to everybody and waves them off cheerfully. There was absolutely no coaxing from our side. One of the points is speech. What a worry it is with everybody. Again, I ask: what is the tearing hurry? A child will speak when ready. Just have the patience to listen to your child when he begins to articulate. The temptation to correct and educate can be very high and disastrous. From your side continue to speak normally. Don’t use child language ever. It puts the child on the wrong track. Some parents can even be a little violent and impatient. This pushes the child to stutter. Take it easy. A very good idea is to raise the child on soft quality music; the more classical the better. My child loves classical music and rock n roll. All instrumentals with a little lilt and rhythm like Latin American 30
tunes fire her up and she will come and ask me to join in dancing with her. I have to. She does not give me a choice. Music is good for the child’s overall mental development as it also helps in the growth and full maturing of the brain. If you want your child to develop into a genius let her play and get her involved in as many activities requiring actions and manipulating with her hands and fingers.
Commitment. To teach your child commitment and responsibility never threaten or promise him things that you cannot or have no intention to follow through. This gives him the signal that nothing is to be taken seriously and that lying is part of life. I have noticed parents telling their children that they will leave them behind or that the Big Bear will come and take him away or some such thing. This is bad. Threats that eventually the child realizes are empty. Making promises that you shall buy a new ball or that you will come back with chocolates and promptly forget about it all with the smug thought that you have handled that particular moment with aplomb are terrible things 31
to do to a child. His faith is shattered and he will never take commitment seriously. Similarly, never raise them up or make them do everything for a reward. Not too often at least. I had once a small girl coming to me for learning French. With me she was perfect. She knew everything and always gave the correct answers but in the school exam she did not do well. So in a friendly way I asked her why she gave the wrong reply and she replied that her mother did not give her anything for it. Later on I found that her mother was giving her rewards for everything, even small things. That girl would do anything for anybody against reward. Jus imagine what this would mean in later life. A king is king because the populace lets him be. So if you want to be the master in your family you need to pay attention and listen to your children and follow them. There will be fewer recriminations now and later. And, please, do not shout at the child. You will only teach him to shout back. Control venting your irritation on your child. When we pre-empt others in speech or action and try to control them in many other million ways, we are only exercising the primary human tendency to regulate everything around us. We have a very 32
high opinion of ourselves most of the time until disaster strikes then for a while we see our faults and reflect. But for the rest of our lives we are quite certain about our wisdom and abilities and we even prove it and justify ourselves by quoting earlier “Greats & Gurus” as if we were on par with them while we have nothing to say from our own fount of experience and learning, except perhaps a few biting words and make the world aware of our own merits in comparison to the demerits of the rest of the world!
Kids have to be handled with kid-gloves. Every situation is an opportunity to teach the child a thing or two. Always take the attitude of explaining and helping him to understand the world at large and obviously his own impulses and reactions as well as desires that shape our actions. Once a French Chef was asked what the secret of French cooking is and he replied that the main ingredient was butter and butter and some more butter. Similarly the ingredient in raising the child is affection and more affection and some more affection. The love between a child and an adult is sacred and a serious love affair and should be treated accordingly. 33
Most parents use the “NO” rather too often. In the Reader’s Digest I once read of a lady who managed every situation with a YES. For instance on a request for ice cream in winter she would say “YES” but in the summer. The word NO is a very powerful double-edged sword. Most of our life shapes up on the use of this word judiciously. When we have learnt to use it to proper effect, we become wise. Its misuse on children is devastating.
Our children are us. Recently I noticed an advert on the TV showing a proud man not taking help from his children while getting off the train. The song in the background sings of the fact that the head has never been lowered and never will it be. What a sad reflection on our values. Does becoming friends with our children make us into weak dependants? This speaks volumes of our intelligence and our attitudes. I read this sentence in my younger days and it has kept me on track since: “A lot of arrogance and nothing to be arrogant about.” Is pride only a matter of wearing a clean designer dress and standing tall and not even accepting your son’s hand in a gesture of love, respect and regard? 34
Will our manliness be shadowed and emasculated by letting our child stand tall along with us? Remember, we made him into what he is today. Can’t we derive pleasure from his persona and the grand guy he has now become? Do we have to be the guy in total control and know-all! It is funny how we think of our progeny only as our possessions and extension of our selves but never as friends and shoulders to cry upon. What the electronic media is doing to the impressionable minds needs to be reflected upon. The lack of sense, reality is appalling. . Humor is still at the village bumpkin stage; an insult to intelligence. The intelligence of the people making these movies and story-lines can be gauged by the fact that in the 40s and 50s it was fashionable to throw barbs at Hitler, of course with the Hitlerian mustache. This has now become a fixed feature. You are supposed to know that the guy with the Hitler bush is there to give you a comic break. Stuttering is another feature. There is always a cabaret type scene and the drink of choice is always VAT 69. We seem to be stuck there too. Successful people with money to burn always have a bimbo on their arms and drink whiskey to relax or forget. Rape has been made into a sport. Every time the “zamindar” gets angry he takes down the old 303 rifle to kill his malefactor. His word is final and he can get away with anything as if laws and other possibilities do not exist in this country. 35
Kindness and generosity are traits not be seen in the educated and powerful class; these seem to be the exclusive domain of the poor. Doctors are shown as basically magicians who will cure everything with a jab of the hypodermic needle. The practice of medicine and law and other important subjects that can have grave repercussions is so badly and wrongly projected that people get wrong ideas because they take it at face value. And as a last parting shot, I might as well mention the over dressing, over make-up, over-lighting, over-talking, over-acting, over-doing the colors and deafening levels of recording and playback. What do you think this is doing to your child?
NO! With Love When I was young, in college and still sorting out the everyday contradictions in terms of human relationships, one of the features of my life was to understand the attitude of my parents towards me. From one angle it was clear that I was precious to them and from another angle, they seem to take me for a nincompoop. At one end of the spectrum I was supposed to do them proud by coming up to some standards that were never clearly defined while at the same time I was not supposed to show any initiative and do what I was told. On this point 36
the directions were clear: as if the parents were saying “We are here and know what is best for you. We are doing the thinking for you, all that is needed will be provided; you just have to be a nice, sweet chubby child, the apple of our eyes.” As if they had never bargained for the child to grow and assert some of his own personality. When this time did come, it changed into a period of confrontation. It became a competition between two diametrically opposite tendencies. One set in their ways, afraid of change and the other experimenting and exploring, feeding and thriving on change. Eventually the situation came to a pass where all listening came to a stop. Every sentence of my father began with a “NO”. This puzzled me to no end and unfortunately nobody was giving me the right honest answers either. Another of his attitudes was that his wish and pronouncements be carried out or taken cognizance in the here and now. No further discussion or questions were permitted. Even the smallest hint of non-compliance was taken as an aggressive opposition to be crushed even before any side of the story was heard. Then one day I went to somebody’s house and there I saw a sticker. It showed an older cranky looking man shouting at an obviously younger child: “The answer is No. Now what did you want?” This was the beginning of wisdom finally coming into my life. I realized that a sticker made in the USA, if so 37
universal in its character, is floating around then certainly this attitude of my parents which was puzzling me, is more universally prevalent than is honestly accepted. A little more close observation of all the parents around me, backed by reading The Reader’s Digest made the answers come tumbling into my life. Today into my late adult life, I am astonished to see how much this tendency to negate and contradict permeates life in general. As I see it, the seeds are sown when the child is growing into an adult and the parents are not grasping this fact in its entirety. They want to protect him and shield him. In their zeal they don’t want him to act at all, as if this way they can protect him from all adversity. The child on the other hand begins first by seething inside and then hiding his true self and living a double life; so to say. The parents get more and more strongly into the denying and the child starts even more vehemently saying No to it. Is it any wonder that the adult who results is afraid that his life will be taken over and therefore learns to say No to everything. His relationships are all difficult; whatever kind it may be- professional, amicable or amorous. This way he gets into a perennial “denial” mode. This perverted character then gets passed on from generation to generation. 38
Look around closely. How often do you see people agreeing and accepting each other and in comparison how often we are crossing each other out? I remember when I was just entering teenage; I was trying to paint a sunset. My father’s comment on seeing my attempts was that I being a child should try to paint subjects more suitable to my age. But I kept on which upset him and finally got what I wanted, appreciated by others or not. In my case the story has a happy ending. Eventually, many years later, I painted a canvas which before even it was dry; my father took it and hung it in his room. This was appreciation of a high order. Fate had a hand in my upbringing. I had the good luck to grow into an adult far away from the restrictive and limited scope of my home. I had an international exposure and had teachers who were always listening and ready to help me find the answers to MY questions; without the bias of social norms restricting our exchanges. Yet sadly my father never got over his habit of taking the opposite side to any exchange of idea, conversation or suggestion. It was so sad. I wanted so much to converse and share my life with him. But he would not accept me as anything but his child who should in all good sense let him run his life. He never outgrew my childhood and this contradiction always showed in his behavior. 39
Does not the child have a right to be NOT born? The focus, I have seen is always on the parents. It is “Their” child as it was a piece of baggage on this journey of life. “They” know best what is good and bad for the child – how was this ever presumed? “They are doing their best – whatever that means! Most parents will argue that they are doing a very good job under the circumstances which is precisely the point I am making. Why bring a child into this world if the circumstances are not conducive? There is always hope of a brighter future but by then it is too late for the child. Why cannot it be accepted that like any other “thing” in the world, we can’t have everything we want? We should strive but wait for the conditions to be right and then alone bring forth a child. Now please don’t tell me that a child is not a “thing” – an object. A cursory look around will show that is exactly how we think of a child. “HE/SHE” is an extension of the parent’s self, an object of desire and at best, insurance for the later years. I have seen this attitude surface in my own life through both my parents. Once when I got into trouble in my teens, I decided to confide in my father’s elder brother who was more kindly disposed; who then brought my father into the picture. My father’s reaction was simple: as expected he did not want to know about my troubles but what troubled him was “How dare you 40
bother my relatives with your troubles?” The “I, Me, Mine” always came first. In a similar instance my mother berated me that “You can’t talk to MY relatives like that” when I said something to my maternal uncle and aunt. And this is from parent’s who were coming from families of wealth and education. Just because a parent feels they are doing a good job does not mean that they are not leaving a trail of complexes, prejudices, negative experiences and habits firmly embedded in the child’s subconscious psyche which will color his life for ever. To this maybe added sickness resulting from ignorance of nature’s ways etc Many parents argue that they are doing a satisfactory job on the basis of the fact that the child loves them. This can be a very blinkered view and is pointless as all children will love and return affection ten-fold as matter of course because that is in their primary nature. It is only later as adults that displeasure and long term affectations come into play and create havoc in their lives and of those connected to them. So I come to my basic premise. THE CHILD HAS RIGHTS TOO. The child has a right to NOT to be brought into this world which is obviously and visibly not adequately ready to bring it up! Let’s not forget that the theory or belief in passing of our "samskars" (passing on of family character 41
traits and karma) is not new to us and Freud/Jung is not to be taken lightly either. Suicides due to peer pressure, crowds of uneducated/unemployables, abandoned children, physically abused kids, psychologically stunted kids and spoilt brats are proof of what I am trying to bring into focus. There are so many cases where I have seen a gifted child being brow-beaten into an average bum just because the parent’s did not know how to help the child realize its full potential; that is if they were at all interested in the first place. The schooling on which most parents depend upon is no better than useless. It is very sad that leave alone the aim of forging new paths, the majority is not even prepared to take responsibility of their everyday irritants. One day I visited my niece whose daughter was not very well but the niece did not seem to be overtly perturbed. I felt that something was being overlooked there so I asked her what she was doing to treat her. Her reply was matter of fact – I have taken her to the best pediatrician, what more can I do? Many may agree with her attitude in today’s world, but I found the nonchalance disturbing. What I gathered from her demeanor was that it was the doctor’s responsibility or the hospital if necessary. Her duty done, she could take it easy. The way to imbibe creativity, focus and a sense of purpose in people needs to begin early in 42
childhood. They have to be inculcated with habits that will make them uncomfortable otherwise. In childhood we were taught chess to learn to plan, concentrate and focus but more importantly the need to put the coins back in the box and put back the chess board and pieces back in the cupboard because other students may want to play and they should be able to find it in its appointed place. We were also encouraged to study chess problems/books and find ways and means to win. Carpentry was taught to us but more than making us craftsmen, the lesson that was continuously being hammered in was the respect for the tools as prized possessions and to work in a way that we do not endanger or disturb others. The uncompromising attitude of my teachers always with their eyes on excellence on this score was absolute and today I realize the value of it. These habits when they become deeply a part of a person’s psyche and their second nature will ensure that anything they take up, they will be making a success of it and will come out on top as leaders and a balanced personalities that others will look up to.
The future of our children My experience when trying to help the less educated has been rather depressing. There is a resistance to change that creeps in even with the first sentence exchanged. When this is coupled with our tendency to take short-cuts and soft options, we push ourselves into a hole and then pine and mope. Let me just enunciate some points: - Refusal to see the misery we are propagating by having more and more children even when our own cupboards are empty. We see children only as eventual insurance for old age. How the child will be fed and educated for the next 20 years is not taken into calculation. - Our socio economic environment is such that it spoils the boy child and burdens the girl. Most often it is the girls who keep the household provided for while the boys become loafers. - Lack of proper nutrition results in stunted growth; both in the visible state of the body and worse in the internal organs that we do not see. - Lack of stimulation and exposure results in visionless and aimless youngsters without mental development even of the basic kind. The underdevelopment of the brain is a reality. Their ability to learn and improve themselves is totally lacking. - By association the only trade they ever learn in their "learning" period is the one from their father. They have no other recourse but to follow the trade. 44
- Their lack of “savoir faire” means they have to work for middlemen who are earning handsomely even in this shrinking market. Had these artisans spent some time planning their own education and future, things would be quite different. - Before you know what, the children are married off and some more children, "Gift of God" appear to feed and care for which the necessities are simply non existent. - The dreams sold by our celluloid world and now by the TV, giving a totally wrong impression about the realities of life. Instead of showing the way, it is emotionalizing everything and leaving it there. Most of the Indian population is learning from these and patterning their lives wholly on the perverted nonsense they see through the medium of films and soaps on TV. - There is nobody to guide them or show the way. Especially the different norms and practices of different social classes and so they remain unaccepted by their peers and ignorant of business practices. - The art and artists merit all the help possible but not as doles. Let’s record it all for posterity and let Institutions like the Victoria Institute of Chennai keep the art alive. - The Government can only play a limited role. We have to take responsibility for our own lives.
What are we telling them? Our wisdom has some weird ways to show itself. The scenarios being given below are founded on reality. Take this scene: A three year old is seeing that when father comes home the first thing that others do is to offer him a glass of water. So the next time he opens the door to his father, his first reaction is to run into the kitchen and pick up the first appropriate vessel he finds, fills it with water from any source he can reach and goes to offer the same to his father. If he is alone, hopefully there will be nobody to stop him and hopefully if the father is a kind and wise man, he will gladly accept the water. The other scenario is unfortunately more likely. The child is bound be seen and the first reaction of some adult would be to stop him in his track. With words to the effect telling him that he will make a mess although he has not done anything of the kind yet. Many apprehensions will surface because for all one knows he has dirtied many other vessels with his unclean hands or picked up a dirty one and of course the water is undrinkable being from the wrong source; etc, etc. All this with a thunder and stormy effect as if the sky has fallen and accompanied by a loud shout of warning. The poor kid gets bawled off for no apparent reason that he can remotely understand and all that will register in him is that he has done something unacceptable. His good-will gesture becomes a disaster scene for 46
him. He has been thoroughly scared and upset. One thing that has been very succinctly made clear to him is that: (a) He has no rights and he will always wonder if he belongs there, (b) Taking initiative is bad, (c) Nobody appreciates him, (d) He is totally inept; and so on so forth in the same train. The child has in this scenario received the gift of a very negative self-picture and an even more negative world, which is reinforced every now and then with similar situations and this may go on for the rest of his waking days. Then will come the day when he will grow up and he will be expected to take charge and prove himself to be one of the elite! Rather incongruous, don’t you think? Take this second scene: A young lady of some merit has landed a job as a teacher. It is a new life for her and the new environment is somewhat daunting although not impossible. She has some good reports even to her credit but all is not smooth sailing with her colleagues. She has really never been exposed to the outer world and this blunt world can be mystifying. She comes home and has a lot to say on the subject of clashing egos and her grumbles. The mother responds with the sage advice that she should leave the job with immediate effect. The message that has been in reality conveyed is: (a) Stay at home with us, (b) Snobbism is acceptable, (c) Effort is painful, (d) Compromises are demeaning, (e) Stay within the known comfort zone. 47
This is hardly the way to ready one’s progeny for an independent life later on; especially when marriage is not far off. The mother is sowing seeds that encourage weakness of spirit spiced with selfcenteredness, which will only bring pain to her daughter. But in this topsy-turvy life it would be called doing well and standing by their children! A last incidence to give more meaning to the subject in question: A young boy of seven is very friendly with his neighbor who is a smart guy going about on a motorcycle, the very epitome of what a young boy dreams of being. It is winter and he evinces a great wish for a pair of gloves. The neighbor agrees to buy him a pair if he would clean his bike every morning. The boy is in seventh heaven and gets started right away. But his mother hears about it and right away a thunderous situation develops. The mother is absolutely against the idea that her son, the apple of her high born Brahmin eyes, should be wiping off the dust on bikes like a menial. THE VERY IDEA! “What” says she, “do we lack? I’ll buy you all the gloves. What do you have to worry about as long as we are there? The neighbor is a monster!” The child is hurt. The neighbor is shocked. The point has been made. Father Time has now shown: (a) the mother is no more, (b) the son is incapable of sitting down in one place for long enough to make a career for him-self, (c) the wife he has been lugged with is beyond his understanding to manage, (d) now the son is into stealing and cheating. 48
I would have thought it is easy to love and the sheer joy in the eyes of a child would melt the toughest heart. Till the age of two the child is treated as a soft toy and all the affection we are capable of is given to it. I suppose the problem begins after this stage. The ever growing child starts becoming independent and this is where we are unable to reconcile ourselves. We saw it as a baby under our total care and we wish to continue seeing it this way. We have to steel ourselves to grow with the situation and allow the child to grow in his own God-given parameters. The truth is no one even thinks of this as a situation. Every individual sees himself as perfect and introspection is hardly the forte of human beings. Righteousness mixed with judgmental attitudes and the law-given rights of the parents permitting absolute control over the child blinds us to the relative personalities that we all have. I wonder in how many people the thought even remotely creates a shadow of doubt that we may be wrong and the child is not an extension of ourselves. When we are dealing with a child, why do we let go of all self-restraints? In extreme cases parents have known to indulge in monstrous acts and when confronted they have always justified themselves. How come they do not see the suffering they are causing? I have noticed this phenomena in other better provided families too. As a teacher I have seen that 49
bright spark go out by the time a child reaches class 8 or so. The keen and enquiring character of the child gets taken over by a tendency more in the nature of calculating and manipulating. The desire to excel gets superimposed by the mundane. What happened? Where is the lacuna in our upbringing and educating that fine, bright, wide eyed, curiosity filled and intelligent children turn into people so much lesser than their possibilities? My own way of seeing is that, adults make life so difficult for the child that the child soon learns to do everything to please the elders. This conditioning is total. An element of insincerity enters into the character which becomes one of the strongest traits. Soon life becomes a clash of wills between the child and his elders. I remember a sticker, I saw when younger. It showed an angry looking father saying to his child“The answer is NO. Now what did you want?” Do we really leave any choices to the child? The conditioning begins to take hold in the very early formative stages. The minds are badgered into submission as taught in our societies to think not, speak not, show no initiative but simply do as they are told and learn by rote whatever the teachers tell them. All expressions of curiosity and activities of exploration and experimentation so studiously discouraged earlier, now form their personality. Even the best intentioned parent is unable to let go. Any vestige of individuality is 50
systematically squeezed out of them. How often have you noticed that when you ask a question of the child, it is the parent who answers? The fine connection between the conscious thinking brain and new experiences that results into “thinking” and consciously growing human being is snuffed out of existence. We need to teach them to think for themselves and NOT tell them what to think. We forget that children are given to us for bringing up and not as possessions. Of course as babies they need total dedication and care. But how can we forget that as they grow they are also becoming persons in their own right? These poor unfortunates have had their memory and learning boxes virtually removed almost as if surgically. These are supposed to be the fine young men and women we are helping out to mature and grow up as the adults of tomorrow. Eventually life will make them acutely aware of their limitations but what can be done? It’s too late to start all over again. The mental make up is strongly in place and the demands of life leave no space. Emotional immaturity will only be adding to the woes. What we have brought up is a confused and unsure adult with an unrealistic ego. The parents will eventually realize this truth sometime well in their old age when the habits and attitudes that they have instilled in their wards come to 51
haunt them in their own lives. The circle is then complete and pain is everywhere. Even if these people wanted, they would not know how to get out of this impasse. It is no wonder that so many are landing up on the psychiatrist’s couch. The good natured ones bumble along and the ones with a strong “amour-propre” take refuge in forever justifying themselves, rationalizing and on the defensive if not outright arguing whenever there is any need for the brain to make an effort at listening and learning. What is to be expected of them? Not much as far as I can see.
Education and Real life. Life is getting complicated. Interactions are getting more international, fast and furious. Yet our syllabi of life’s values, especially what we teach our young ones, still remains tinged with the ethos of the 19th century. Just look at our moral education. What are we drumming into our wards under the consideration of morals? Is it really what they would be seeing around them? Today our wards, right from a young age are exposed to behavior patterns on the TV and real life around them which can be safely said leaves nothing to the 52
imagination. Nothing really matches the education with what they see. Is it surprising that young people have only a very confused sense of what is right wrong and correct or incorrect?
Parents and educationists are not leading by example and this is very confusing. For every question the child has, millions of possible answers crop around him. Without personal experience to back this plethora of unexplainable and sometimes terribly contradictory scenes, the child remains in a state of utter melodramatic puzzlement. And, of course, when he asks his elders some very pointed questions, the elders who are still mentally locked up in their Victorian castles; give disjointed and embarrassed answers that only go to increase the child’s consternation. For example we teach our children to speak the truth and back it up with sayings like “God is Truth” but in practice we rarely show signs of it. Often we even forget that a child is around us and our acts belie our own teachings. When the child is young, the parents are the world in microcosm to the child. He believes in them. Yet ask any child who has traveled in the car with his parents and has ever been stopped by a cop for speeding or jumping a red light; what would he relate as to the exchange between his parents and the cop? He would tell you that the parents immediately began to explain themselves to the cop giving excuses and 53
explanations which were outright fibs. In these kinds of situations, many children tend to correct their parents by blurting out the truth and only get their ears boxed for their effort. So what are we finally teaching the children after all?
Why make the child pay for it? Have you read my write-up on “Why a child”? In this I raised the points that there is too much freedom to have sex and behaving irresponsibly by having children but not preparing oneself for them either psychologically, financially or intellectually. In response I got some replies which are worth sharing. One reader said “Your post here is judgmental, depressing and as a single mother, I've taken quite an offense to it.” She goes further and relates her own experience which I give here in her own words “But life isn't always perfect or goes as planned. To generalize and to imply that anyone who is not in the ideal scenario would be best to not have children or that they can't do a good job simply isn't fair. . I was engaged to be married and three months before the intended wedding, we got pregnant. He didn't want me to have the baby and when I refused to terminate the pregnancy, he "postponed" the wedding and eventually left when I was 7 months pregnant. 54
Things aren't always perfect. I don't always have as much time or money that I would like to provide for my son because I sometimes struggle with doing it all on my own. But he knows he is loved and I thank God for him every day.” This was my reply: You are doing a better job than millions who just have babies and throw them on the streets/gutters/to the wolves. Does not mean the scenario I have painted does not exist or should not be discussed. We are trying to make people conscious of the facts. Basically which is that once you have a child, you HAVE to take its responsibility too. That I have said the right things is proven by the behavior of your child's father. Another comment that attracts our attention is given here: “And in my view, most of the time ...a mother has to abandon her child as mentioned by Pradeep...it is due to the unbearable cruelty of MEN...who are of the self assumed opinion that just because it is the woman who is bearing a child...it is none of their responsibility.” The truth is both are equally responsible or irresponsible. It has always been my contention that the educated and free classes of people who have sex for fun and pleasure can at least be a little more mature in their attitude. Women are indeed subjected to sexual violence and have to bear with many things. Children out of forced sex are a very painful evidence of the animality of 55
man. But it is also true that women are fully conscious of their own sexuality and what attraction value it has for the male and they use it willingly to snare men into a relationship and commitment or fall for the wiles and false promises that men dangle as a lure. The point to note is that the Male of the species tends to gravitate towards anything that is Female and is programmed by instinct & our so called society to think of it as the ultimate aim of life and contentment+ add to this the primary objective to just find a partner for sex with no intention of keeping his promises or commitment. If he can get away with it, why should he not is at the back of every male’s mind. The need of every man to have a female partner to complete the life cycle is without doubt overpowering and the lure of sex is too strong for most to resist. The female understands this very well and is not averse to use it for her own benefit and often gets trapped into a dicey situation of her own making. The female on the other hand mistakes the passionate attachment of a man to be permanent and that she can count on him to stick to her forever (I would go to the extent of saying that she mistakenly feels that she will be able to control him forever) - and here what I have to say becomes hurtful- she then starts taking him for granted, even goes to the extent of becoming 56
unbearable, insisting on having her way and even imposing her way etc. This explains why some couples who were happy as lived-in ones for years, could not stand each other when they got married and separated before the year was out. Violence is another painful reality; Men tend to by physical and women verbal. When they are out to hurt each other there is very little that can be done to make them understand or see reason. Both the sexes can be violent and vengeful; men more so bluntly and women a little more intelligently. Take for instance the attitude of sulking; this can be very annoying to a man. Either not talking or going to the extreme of not stopping when started can be very difficult for men to understand. On the other hand the detachment men show when their sexual needs are satisfied is puzzling to women. So violence seeps in and eventually separation; of course if economical, social and legal situation permitting. In the final analysis, it is the children who pay for it. Their lives are traumatized and they are definitely scarred psychologically and often things can be worse: quite many are abused physically and violently. Why? With all the devices now available to avoid pregnancies why are we visiting our animalistic tendencies on helpless children? I say – have your fun and go. Why bring children into the equation at all? 57
Live in peace and when the time comes, Leave the world - in peace! Say Yes. Life was designed as a river that flows always onwards. See the miracle happening all around you. The sun rises, the breeze is swishing by, there is water to drink, food to eat and the heart beats all by itself. We had to do nothing. Life was given to us, we were taken care of and now it is given to us to go and grab a slice of this wonderful existence. There is only one condition; we have to go and take it. Our effort is written in the equation. Humans are the only creatures who have been given the faculty of reasoning and planning. They also have a superior intelligence which allows them to carve out a life style in their own imaginings. So if you can conceive it, take it that it can be done. I have noticed that everyone has been endowed with a very positive quality which is unique to that person. With this unique attribute one can always create a niche for oneself. All it requires is a bit of focus and application with sincerity to arrive at one’s goal regardless what may come. No one is born fully trained and educated. This was acquired and can be acquired by taking lessons. Once you know what is to be done and you have 58
learnt how to do it, what could be stopping you from creating the life you have imagined? If you feel that life has not dealt you a good hand to begin with and then ask for a reshuffle and start again. Let me illustrate a story of a young man and he how came tops. As a boy this man was seriously sick and later hurt his back which made it impossible for him to take full time employment. But he realized that he was good with languages. He had already a smattering of French and he saw a window of opportunity there. Foreign languages came easily to him as it is. So he bought a secondhand book and improved his grammar, vocabulary and control of the basics. He collected enough money to place a classified and announced himself as a teacher of French for beginners. Students came. As a teacher he continued to put in more effort to improve his language. Later on he applied for a teacher’s job in a corporation and got it. Here again an opportunity presented itself in the form of the CEO wanting to learn French but could not spare the time. So the young man suggested that he be assigned a full time typist and he would compile lessons for the CEO that the CEO would have to study on his own and then practice with him at a mutually convenient time. This was fine by the teacher. The time fixed was at 8 every morning at the residence of the CEO besides the regular work in the day. The program was successful and 59
the teacher had now become quite a master of his subject. Now see how life moves forward with a little application. Here was the teacher with a lot of positive experience and mastery in his subject and a complete set of lessons backed by references of one of the most influential business house of the country. He shifted his residence to the capital of the country where the opportunities to use his knowledge were the greatest. Soon he found a job of a teacher in a prestigious school. But all this time he was wondering if he could get his lessons published as a book for self-teaching. He had even prepared audio tapes to complement the lessons. But in the meanwhile he had another brainwave; instead of wasting time running after publishing houses in the hope of his book being accepted for publication, he started a teaching academy of his own and offered correspondence courses and he started regular classes in association with the local YWCA. His lessons were now paying him twenty times more than his book would have and everyday new avenues of work were opening up as a translator interpreter through his students. He had now become so good at his job that he started being sent abroad on assignment as interpreter by commercial houses. His positive attribute was that would always give more than was asked of him. Again he saw another window opening up. Every time he would go abroad, he would overstay with his own money and learn more about the country 60
and the businesses. He would ask questions and spend time with seniors, helping them out without pay. Soon he became an acknowledged negotiator for business houses who wanted to work with France but could not because the people there had no French and no knowledge of the customs or ways of the country. It was not long before that he started a business of his own and has never looked back since. Back trouble that could have put him out of action, goaded him to find a solution to work part-time and see where life took him. Life kept on offering him possibilities and he kept taking them without calculation or thinking too much about where the pennies were coming from or going. He put in his effort to learn and improve himself and the Universe did the rest. This is a truth of life one learns fast enough if one puts in one’s penny worth sincerely, with goodwill and the faith that if this Universe could give us life it would also give us the wherewithal to sustain ourselves and some more.
OFFENDED This quote popped out at me like a shot. And it put into beautiful words something that I was trying to 61
understand. Everything became clear in a flash. Edward R Murrow says: Our self-importance requires that we spend most of our lives offended by someone. That doesn’t leave much doubt does it? This is how I have been feeling and interpreting my experience as; here is somebody who not only agrees with me but he has put the same into such lucid words. I can see my entire experiences reflected in this one sentence. The irony in this observation is that no one will agree that they are being difficult just to prove that they are also somebody. From an exterior angle most behaviors & utterances can easily be interpreted in many different hues. Is there a deciding parameter to justify who is being difficult and who is being critical, diffident or nice? No and there is no point going to into it. The truth is always way above and out of the realm of arguments. If a state of argument exists then the first principle that it is not the truth is already at work. So instead of arguments many people use the vehicle of incrimination to keep the others off guard. There is not only an element of purposeful insincerity but also a malevolent intent. It is bullying in the most gentlemanly manner. They keep on throwing verbal stones of accusations and leave you only two options: either you start a long diatribe of explanations which in turn get ripped and require more self-deprecating explanations thereby binding you in an unending jam or you show indignation and try to out shout/argue the 62
other guy down. Either way you have lost because the oppressor has got you where he wanted you. If you try to hurt him back the bully then gets physically violent or threatens to and this sword is allowed to dangle over your head in practically a permanent state. Eventually as you are not made in the same insensitive mould your first instinct is to avoid all contacts and save yourself from irritating situations. But the sword is always dangling. Talking theoretically may seem as if all is said and explained but my opinion is that until a point is illustrated, there is always a margin for impulsive and lax interpretations of a statement. As it is the words can convey only limited notions. The feeling and the 3D drama is fully lost in the telling. Still one thing can be said without much margin of error in interpretation that people do use a nose-up in the air style and keep others in perennial state of terror as to what barb is coming next. They are clever enough to translate every question or remark of yours into a perceived insult and then use it to pour invectives down on you; with a full bag of righteous justification for it.
DEBATABLE POINTS Should the mobile phones be allowed in schools? Whatever for? There is nothing wrong in owning a phone and having alongside for emergencies but to 63
have one alive and in use when one goes to school or college; isn’t it rather self defeating? I mean, you are at school to study and learn new things. How can you do that when you head is busy SMSing or listening to music of today which is just RAP anyway? DO You need to have a doctorate in psychology to understand that if you your mind is not focusing on the lectures or subjects being taught you will retain nothing? Then why go to school at all? The school authorities have woken up to this stupidity only now and their knee jerk reaction is to ban the mobile. This is another extreme decision. They are punishing students if they see one in possession. All they need to do is ask the children to shut the unit off when in school premises. The kids may need or want to use it later when they go out of school. It is a tool of communication and emergencies do not come announced. My personal opinion on mobiles is that it has just given yakking a new dimension. Nobody feels any need to organize their lives or memorize anything or think anything out. They just push the buttons and disturb anybody at any time as and when they feel it is convenient to them.
Should the servants be allowed to raise our children? 64
My empathic answer is NO. They can be used as helps to you and as a support system but making them the de facto guardians and tutors of your children is a big NO. What do you want your children to imbibe; the habits and attitudes of your servants? Is this what you have foreseen for your child? I see so many children in the park coming out to play with their servants continuously admonishing them, don’t run – you will fall, don’t do this and don’t do that – you will get hurt. As if by shouting from far they have done their duty. What kind of upbringing is this?
When nothing works they use threats which they cannot ever carry out. The children are no fools. They soon learn to manipulate their attendants. What are we tuning them up for? Surreptiously we are helping them imbibe attitudes that will hurt them in the long run. Do you want the child to grow or remain a stunted little dwarf, big in body but small in mind, with constraints, fear of the “what may happen” and such other diminishing thoughts well embedded in the subconscious? Do you want to see your child turn into a thinking, self-confident, courageous and intelligent child or a scared, cunning and lying imp? 65
In many cases the servants who all have mobile phones are so busy on it that they have no idea what mischief the child is up to. And they are rather busy socializing anyway. Isn’t that inviting trouble uselessly?
TIRED for Nothing. We go to one of the largest middle class shopping centers in town called the Sarojini Market. From a sleepy market it has now become one of the most crowded and vibrant but in its favor one has to say that everything we are looking for are to be found there and also many things that irritate us. Saturdays and Sundays are the only days we have free time. Unfortunately the whole town suffers from the same symptom. The shops are fine, even the crowd can be tolerated. What makes the experience tiresome is the walking area is full of well entrenched hawkers taking up the whole place and the shopkeepers displaying their wares outside the showrooms, taking up the walking area. Then the itinerant sellers with their wares on their shoulders keep coming on, they stand right in your path and ask you to buy their hankies, belts or tablecloths - the list is long. I feel like giving them one. To add to the melee are the beggars.
Dirt from spitting, garbage and the attitude that every corner is a dustbin if not a toilet forms part of the larger picture. And I wonder why I am getting so tired in this surrounding. Is it the carbon dioxide in the air or just my sensitivity or something else? Of course the attitude of the people we end up interacting with is very “do-your-thing-quickly-and-go”; polite but couldn’t care less. Then I chanced to read a passage: “Stress is physically infectious. People under stress radiate stress energy to the surroundings through their chakras and auras. Consciously or subconsciously they transfer a great bulk of stress by being nasty and rude to others”. I find this definition explaining perfectly the fatigue I feel. The relief I get on getting out of the market is palpable; as if coming out of a sauna. The auras of others are not the only thing I would say. When you are used to cleaner environment and have spent a lot of time in beautifying your space, and you wish to live a “beautiful” life, you are annoyed and it shows when you have to tolerate the mess and dirt created by others – specially in public places. I have always used the condition of the toilet area as an indicator of the mentality of the owners and a very fine pointer to the environment and attitudes I will meet there. I have rarely been wrong. 67
I have often wondered why as a people we are so callous about the cleanliness of public spaces.
Why do we shout when we are angry? I received this question in the mail; and this little story. The story is beautiful and does explain poetically many things but I felt that the question needs to be studied a little more closely and objectively. First the story: A saint asked his disciples, 'Why do we shout in anger? Why do people shout at each other when they are upset?' 'But, why shout when the other person is just next to you?' Why do you shout at a person when you're angry?' Because he explained, 'When two people are angry at each other, their hearts get distanced. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the louder they will have to shout to hear each other through that great distance.' Have you noticed two people in love? Because their hearts are very close to each other they talk softly. They do not speak, only whisper and 68
they get even closer to each other in their love. Deep love does not even need whispering. I was pondering over this question yesterday. A small visit into my own self made me realize something. We shout mainly to hit hard. It is a physical action. The need to hurt the other guy is strong. It is only thoughts of our self preservation that keep us in control. Quite often even this control line is also crossed. People with low mental discipline cross this line with greater speed and ease. Their egos are easily bruised and they have very little to lose as they have very little to live for. It is best to keep a distance from these people as they will let fists fly at the smallest excuse. I have often felt that many people are actually looking for a good scrape. This is how they revalidate themselves. Their indignation is a wonderful act of contrived acting. When we are nitpicking and focusing on faults of others, anger comes easily and with justification. Vaingloriously and righteously we march forward to correct, change and educate this uncouth world. It is so exhilarating to let one-self go when we see we have the upper hand in a particular argument; especially if the recipient of the anger is not in a position to fight back. In contrast you should see the softness of attitude exuded by Beings who have
Compassion and benevolence as the foundation of their persona. I have observed anger suddenly popping up from somewhere deep inside me. More often by the helplessness I feel. The galling fact of having to accommodate and tolerate gives rise to most bombs of anger. Mostly anger is the only method available to show how deeply we have been wronged. Verbal abuse is the natural culmination of this aspect. When our intellect or position in society has been attacked we have to let fly. But we cannot go beyond certain limits as we live, although I say it erroneously, in polite society. We want to follow rules of decent and logical behavior which the other person is not prepared to; he may be crossing the line rather more than just subtly by infringing on our rightful space. The legal system cannot always be counted on to provide relief. Our seething is also a show of our helplessness. Living with louts is such a pain. But then the next question is why and about what is all this anger. Is it worth it? Can’t we live without it? I have understood that with wisdom the need or putting it another way, the irritants become less and less. When we see the continuity of life and the state of the Creation, a little introspection and a visit into our subconscious will show that we are acting and reacting more by certain habits than a real need to be angry. We have been conditioned that way and
we are only carrying forward some patterns received from the human chain. I have often observed irritation precedes a full show of anger in me. And if there is no backlash, it grows in intensity as it is poured out. Often when my little one is “NOT LISTENING”, I am able to restrain myself saying she is but a child but the other side of logic says that she has to be corrected and shown the error of her ways. (I suppose we feel this way towards the whole world). But now she is telling me back that if I do not “listen” to her she will get angry at me. She is reflecting my own behavior. We want her to listen to us and she wants us to listen to her. It is an impasse. So what is the right way to tackle this situation? We can break this pattern by dint of effort to rationalize and teach ourselves new tricks. Subconscious patterns can over-power us before our will power and reason has a chance to kick-in. So this process needs time and continuous vigilance. The effects of our effort will start showing when we become less serious about the vagaries and stupidities of life and see the whole as a bit of a comedy. As a parting shot I may add that it has been noticed that men tend to give physical form to their anger while women stick to more verbal methods.
Some of you maybe conversation below:
Dear PK, Do you have a solution (to change in a systematic manner) for tackling with and surviving husbands who bully and shout at wives at the drop of a hat? They just look for mistakes only all the time and never miss an opportunity to shout and insult. This way the dignity of the wife is not respected. I know this man comes from a house where his mother, even at the age of 70, gets shouted at all the time by his father. He has been raised this way. They think this is manly behavior. At time he is raises his hand and causes physical hurt in various ways. One is left with no choice than to complain with police but most of the times I've noticed in most cases even the police don't take it seriously as these men are connected. Is there a possibility of bringing some sense to these relationships? Even if the wife doesn't react, these guys become irritated and go on using abusive word and provoke intentionally. I agree with you as I too know for sure that (your words) - "I have often felt that many people are 72
actually looking for a good scrape. This is how they revalidate themselves." But I am talking about cases where even without the fault of others they misuse their positions. Looking for guidance. PK’s answer: From a level-headed general view, your question would be replied like this: What you describe is a fait accompli. The cast has solidified and change is not possible. Some cosmetic changes maybe possible if the husbands cooperate but the basic nature of the men is strongly embedded with certain habits and will not change. Any efforts at change will only produce very opposite reactions and contradictory results. The husbands have evolved into what they are and who will show them the error of their ways and how? They have willing women who stick to them nevertheless. Why should they change? They are quite happy as they are. Humans normally do not think or want to bring in change in themselves after their personalities have formed. After the age of 21 or so it is more a question of proving 73
themselves and they will put all their effort in it - never in change. Societal pressure can bring in some restraint but most societies are too lazy to enforce anything. Nobody wants get embroiled in other's problems. Specially if it concerns the authority of men then of course all men collectively will support their dominance. Human nature is such that it will justify itself and try to prove that the fault is always of the other guy - in this case of the women. Who will contradict them or get into an argument to prove them wrong or whatever? The police always treat it as an internal family matter. For frankly, they cannot really do anything except lock up the men on charges of battery and assault – if the women bring in this charge and there is physical, medically proven hurt to show which will stand up in court. Battering women is manly sport and the mindset of the police in India is no different. What are the women doing? Do they realize they are tacitly approving the behavior of their men? Sure, the question does come up if they have any 74
options in life open to them to take any kind of action; we have to understand their fear of losing the roof over their heads and finding themselves abandoned in the wild of the streets. I have always felt that most people are where they are because they have sort of agreed to their state. Otherwise they would do something about it. Unless they crave for a change and make the first moves, nothing can be done. Now what can we do for these women? Do the women have any ideas? The only medicine these men will understand is force bruter than their own. Is this an advisable route? Where and how to generate this force? Fear is the key here. If we can instill fear in them of severe repercussions, we might open a window into their personas that would force them to act otherwise. Oh How I wish I could take a few bouncers with me and give them a good dunking and put some fear of god into them.
Then please also see the other side of the picture. Women are no angels. Relationships normally begin on a rosy note. They deteriorate later because women do not realize that the man who is initially totally under her spell will one day wake up. By then women tend to pick up habits or patterns of behavior of their own within the relationship. They start expecting too much. Later when the attraction of their charms has waned, their habits like sulking, pouting and not paying attention to anything but their own wants & wishes can be severe irritants. When arguments result, which is unavoidable, both take rigid stands as if their positions are inviolate. Resentments start to get entrenched in their respective memories. From this point on, the relationship becomes antagonistic. Counseling should come in at this stage. Fear of God and kindness of dispositions & other considerations can do a lot to save the situation. But where these are missing, selfishness and arrogance will have their full play and only the worst can be imagined.
Silence is Golden. How often do you go out, sit in your rocking chair and listen to birds and the trees and perhaps the butterflies? I asked this above question to a group focusing on meditation. One of the replies is: My inclination lies in -this has been the place in which I have greatest ease. Being an Observer, or witness, conscious of my Real Self, is my life, and my Meditation lies on that path. Silence felt at Silent way of
This is a beautiful reply. Silence is the best environment to be in. It is the strongest and most creative place. It is only in silence that others can speak to us. The universe is waiting for the din in our heads to quieten down so that it could put in a word or two. But we forget everything and focus on our ability of speech and we never have seemed to learn to stop. A little quietening down is absolutely essential both for growing and for renewal. We need also a little balancing act with ourselves to equate and see ourselves in reflection; ourselves as our own witness comparing and analyzing so that we can know where improvement is needed. The flowers and butterflies are silent but in action at the same time.
Yes this is the enigma. Speaking in silence is the trick. The flowers, the cloud formations, the flowing water and the shimmering reflection of the lights of the cities in water, the he waves crashing on the beach and so many other activities that do their thing, communicate but never say a thing. How entrancing they are. There is something in these forms of happenings that attract our attention and gels with some part of our being. If it were not so, why would we want to collect butterflies and put the flowers in pots? This is speech of a kind. We can speak with the eyes, eyebrows, actions and movement can’t we? The same way Mother Nature speaks to us in various hues and modes. If only we would listen. I am a practioner of silent action. Once when I was in the neighborhood park with my child who had learnt to walk recently and she was exploring the world of the grass, flowers, swing and other exciting things, an older gentleman sitting and watching us remarked that I rarely said anything to the child but that I simply followed her around. This is point that could be elaborated a bit. The thing is that I was totally focused on the pleasure of discovery that my child had created. I normally went to the park at a time when it would not be crowded. So we could open ourselves out in comparative aloofness. But although the appreciation of the gentleman came as a pleasant surprise, this is the truth: my child and I were 78
communicating fully although without the medium of speech. I do not believe in over guiding, teaching or counseling. Better to wait for the right moment and make a remark based on the truth of my own experience, philosophy and experience. This has more impact than continuous lecturing.
Fair and Square My daughter and I were watching Noddy on the TV. All toy town people had just collected a bagful of berries and the toy-town baddies had sneaked around and stolen them. Noddy and the policeman Mr. Plod were after them. Finally they catch up with the baddies. Noddy shouts at them to return the berries. The baddies shout back that they will not only not return the berries but Noddy can’t make them give it back; then, they had stolen the berries “fair & square” and therefore the berries now belonged to them by right. What beautiful logic! I was amused to see the resemblance to real life in this conversation. I go to the park with my child everyday and allow other children to play with the ball I carry with me. So the ball is either in play with some kid or the other or just lying there somewhere. Some time ago an 79
old lady picked it up and kept it in her lap. I was watching her but did not say anything; later when it was time to go home I went to her and asked for the ball. She wasn’t very keen to return it thinking of it as an abandoned ball. I had to explain to her that I let other kids play but it was mine. She did give it back but not happily. Then some days ago when I was not looking, somebody took it away and I have not seen it since. Now what was I to think? Why are we so keen to appropriate goods not belonging to us even if it is abandoned? You remember the story of the lamb drinking water at a stream and the wolf comes to him and says that he was dirtying the water for him. But the water is flowing downstream to me says the lamb. Oh that does not matter says the wolf; I am going to eat you anyway. “Any excuse will do”. How easily we convince ourselves and concoct up proof to support our thoughts and thinking process to our advantage. We all know what is good and bad, correct and incorrect, right and wrong; that is by our society’s standards but yet when it is in our self-interest we look the other way without any qualm of conscience. It is not surprising that even after thousands of years of education, humanity still supports the evil in our nature and it is more in evidence than the good that we preach. I would definitely like to know what in our nature and way of thinking makes us so. 80
All of us read and expound sacred texts. We are regular goers to places of worship. We attend congregations for listening to advanced souls. We have prayers meetings at home and dutifully promote chanting and gatherings but for some reason all this remains acutely as part of other curricular activities. The philosophies we profess never become part of our active life and do not even scratch the surfaces of our real natures. Are we hard skinned or so insincere in our basic core that nothing can touch us our souls?
SAY “YES” TO LIFE Life has a way of entering our lives before we have any say. We are conceived and put out to pasture and once out there what else can we do but say “yes”. The first few days and years we have no recollection of but from what we can see from the miracle of life and bawling around us, it is a time when we were carried, fed, cuddled and taken care of. Somewhere this memory has been nagging us and we as adults know that there is a better way to live this life. 81
The dream is to find the magical fountain that will give back those days without cutting out the adult fun. The spoil sports are the other adults. Why does it have to be that whenever people get together, the social dynamics can get complicated? And some do seem to find this fountain so it is worthwhile looking for it. All of us have been in love. Remember those moments when the traffic always moved smoothly, spring was perennially n the air, the meal was always perfect and the object of our love was not only perfection incarnate but gave us all the cuddles and caress we could take? There was promise of joy and happiness in the air. More to the point in this state we are saying “YES” all the time. So it proves that this state is possible but then as we know life happens. There is this little devil of selfishness & selfcenteredness that acts as spoil-sport. Giving to be a joy has to be a two way effort. The world in the state it is, cannot take too much giving without wondering what the heck it is all about. Whatever the Christian Love theory may say, giving the other cheek does not work out very pragmatic in the end.
Life is what we make of it. Well then, what is the pragmatic way? 82
I would say that we take cognizance that we have influence in a given small crowd; let us worry about this crowd. Let us also not forget that The Universe or The Lord if you refer to call HIM, put us here and we are serving a purpose. The first rule we should exercise in our life is to act without “calculation & pre-meditation”. The second being: leave, absolutely leave, the rest of the world alone. Another rule that I have found by experience is to be honest with yourself and your neighbor. Say your piece whatever it is. If you can’t afford it say so. If you want something ask it. No hypocrisy. If you are living for “Appearance’s sake” then you are digging a hole which will eventually become your grave. This requires a bit of intelligent analysis of the situation, which means also that to say yes properly we should learn to also say no. People are selfish just as we are and out to grab whatever they can and we should not promote this attitude for as I would say it corrodes the soul of the receiver and makes the giver miserable. I really don’t think these lectures are required. Adults will never make good teachers; there is too much of their own personal agendas involved in their lecturing. It is the children who have the answers. See their attitudes and their approach to life; sincere, always trying and learning new tricks and sharing. There is “newness” in their personal atmospheres and I feel this is the secret to it all.
Emulating them will give us the Key to the joy we are looking for and the YES will get incorporated in our lives without trying; but I warn you, the rest of the world will think of you as immature and unreliable and often “coarse”, especially when you deny them something. But then you are here to say YES to your life and not theirs! Have courage!! The Universe is with you!!!
Nothing good to say Out of ten people who speak about you, nine would have nothing good to say. The one person, who has something good to say, will say it badly. – Pascal. It is a sad statement about human nature that we find it agonizingly difficult to speak well of others. Praise has to be forced out of our hearts like a breathing exercise. You would remember the times you were asked to say thank you when you received a gift or card and that was the last thing you wanted to do. I have always wondered why speaking well of anything comes only with so much effort. Why do we want to hide what is in our heart? I read the original in French sometime 40 years ago. It was quite an eye opener. Then I understood the value of human comments. It is as good as nil. People, as I understand, have two ways to see 84
others; the first is with compassion as the Dalai Lama often reiterates-then you see everything with a forgiving and admiring eye. Like a child looking at the new world with wondrous astonishment The second is the more normal way in which after the world has bashed and squeezed us up somewhat, our shoulders bent double with the heavy load of cares, we turn cynical and can’t see anything good in any situation, thing or act and person. We see ill intent all around us and its expression. Well there is definitely room for improvement in all of us. We are not always very honest with others or ourselves and then we go to inordinate lengths to mask the truth of our hearts; often from ourselves too. We have funny convoluted reasons for conducting many of our business. This saying was sent to me by a friend recently and it speaks volumes about human nature: "Sometimes we don't do things we want to do so that others won't know we want to do them." I would have thought this was self-evident. Does it need to be said? Well we need to focus on the positive aspect. Some people do live in imaginatively speaking, clear-glass matter of fact, sensible and nothing-to-hide way. They have many happy stories to relate and are prepared to share their time and possessions. They see life as progressions of events designed to bring happy and happier times. They have nothing to hide and couldn’t care if whatever is visible is seen by others. They have realized there are billions of similar entities out there and they are nothing 85
special to gloat about. Self-aware and humble; they are lovely people and these are the people who will always have something nice to say about you. But alas they are rarely trained professors of languages and have no training in PR techniques. They are woefully inadequate in expressing themselves in a precise and calculated language that would leave no doubt in the mind of the listener; something that leaves no room for double entendres or further distortion. Because it is a quirk of life that if anything can be distorted, the embedded prejudice in people will do so and more often than not, do it in such a way that a lingering perfume of negativity is left behind.
The Art of not listening Do you like to live your life your way? Then you must absolutely cultivate the art of not listening. Don’t be fooled by all these lectures on listening that will improve your life by making you more efficient and bringing in more value to your existence. It is absolute baloney. Listening never did any good to anybody. It only brings duties and commitments and who wants any of this? 86
Look at this guy hogging the road or even that pedestrian walking merrily in the centre of the road. Both have been taught and told, I am sure often enough, to be a little more “giving” and considerate; if not for others at least for their own selves. From their behavior you would believe that they both acquired white hairs by standing under the sun. Then coming down to the immediate present, no amount of honking seems to affect them. Are they deaf? No sir, nothing of this. They are tax payers so they have rights and the roads are for public use; although I would keep my fingers crossed when making this statement. The art of not listening has some techniques that can be mastered by anybody. First obviously is to go deaf. Refuse to allow a certain level of higher frequencies to titillate your nerves in the ear. What will the other guy do? Hang you by the nearest tree?! There is really no point in being considerate and raising our blood-pressure levels, is there? Second, learn to convert every exchange into an argument. Put the other guy in the position to having to clarify. Any stupid remark will do as long as it is made as an accusation. Keep this up till the poor other guy gives up and rearranges his life to cut you out. The problem is that this technique is used mainly in marriages where cutting out is not so simple. It would be better then to learn to grin and bear it. 87
Third, treat every question as an incriminating statement and answer accordingly with a lot of anguish and hurt in your voice and demeanor. Your words should show it by saying immediately in response something like: you are always shouting at me. The idea would be clearly to put the other guy on the defensive; the subject then getting conveniently brushed under the carpet. The other guy will eventually realize that he has been had but what can he really do except grind his teeth? Fourth, be the nice guy. Grunt a yes sounding something and almost certainly do your own thing unless it is blatantly against your good health policy. Fifth, is by changing the activity. Let us say you are watching the TV and your partner starts speaking to you. Immediately start fluffing the pillow with a loud noise then say sorry and then ask him to get you a glass of water. This does require a little presence of mind but practice makes perfect. Sixth, just lose your temper. This will act as rumble-strips and slow the other fellow down and even embarrass him. Take advantage of the situation and accuse him of everything you can think of. It will not only take care of the present situation but make him downright scared for even daring to open his mouth in the future. Happiness is in not listening. 88
MENDING RELATIONSHIPS A discussion began on the art of mending relationships. But being the cynical guy that I am, I was not convinced on the validity of the subject matter chosen for the discussion. For as crystal clear it can be, the first question is why did things in the relationship come to the impasse where they needed to be mended at all; secondly I am prone to ask rather insensitively if there was a relationship at all and if you are not better off without the relationship hanging around your neck. Humans are very imperfect and that is putting it kindly and mildly. We are a mixed up lot. At any given time so many factors are jostling for space in our considerations that if Martians were peeping at us, they would say we are awfully confused and inconsistent even at the best of times. It will be called improper but it has to be said that we are opportunists. Find me one earthling who will squarely deny that he was never tickled pink by the slips and misfortunes of others; what a sense of superiority it gives and in case of mishaps it is free slapstick comedy. We love to have a hearty guffaw at the expense. A certain level of insensitivity is often shown openly which can mar relationships. If we reign in our propensities to insult, spew venom and laugh at others it is because we know that it could turn out to be extremely injurious to our well being. But when safe we do let ourselves go. It is another matter the recipient of our amusement 89
may be hurt to the point of retaliation; quite a lot of people do. Well whatever the reason; inadvertently or willfully if some drama was enacted that resulted in a relationship to be torn asunder then the first question to be asked is what happened. If it was a planned move to break the relationship then there is nothing except good riddance to be said. If the instance was some of sort of accident then there is only one thing to do. Quickly apologise and rectify matters; if the other permits you. There is no reason on earth to convince a battered ego that it may have been an accident. Then one must face the fact that accident or not, the loss of prestige was real and humans don’t forgive so readily. Then I have a special view of my own. It is my contention that we are out to grab from each other the most we can. Mostly, personally speaking, it has only brought me tribulations. Why not let a broken relationship be? Take it as a sign from providence. Do we really need too many relationships? My own bent is towards a highly selective choosing of friends and let the other contacts slip into oblivion. The logic is simple. If they need me they will come to me. If I need them I will go to them. Rarely anyone wishes to continue with a relationship that has no benefit in it. Drifting apart is a natural law.
I even go to the extent of breaking willfully certain relationships that have been giving me a crick in the neck. I have often exacerbated an issue that effectively closed avenues for reconstructing the relationship. Often even when the other party tries hard to come over with a new gambit to start all over again, I just play deaf and dumb. There is enough precedence in life to support this attitude. There has to be some reason behind the sayings – Good fences make good neighbors - Treat every man as a gentleman until he proves himself otherwise. – Absence makes the heart grow fonder. – A snake is better left in the bush etc etc. Relationships kept for formality’s sake only give irritating rashes. I have a relation who is very nice and when we meet he has a lot of gossip about others; not always the good kind. So it is safe to assume that he would be speaking of me to others too and not always in very kind terms. This was confirmed by one of my cousin sisters one day. After that I deliberately, somewhat slowly though, started keeping a distance and pointedly made it clear that we are managing well without his attention. No harm done. We are still on each other’s list of invitees but we meet rarely. Both are quite content with this state of affairs. I have created this chasm with many relations who had outlived there usefulness. Every relationship dropped gives few more kilos of peace of mind. I put all my energies in supporting and nurturing my relationships that are happy ones. 91
Neighbors are the worst offenders. In the name of neighborhood-brotherhood, they impose, intrude and try more often than not to get more than what politeness may deem right. I remember when we had moved in to this neighborhood, a carpenter was working with us. In my absence a neighbor came and took him away for fixing his curtain rod. Not only no permission was taken but he did not pay the guy for his services; later on he tells me that he was sure I would not mind. How selfishly presumptuous! Other incidences followed. Eventually I decided to tick them off at the first opportunity which arrived soon enough. They were clearly annoyed, told me in no clear terms that I should not consider myself very hoighty toighty and if I will be belligerent they will answer by being tenfold. I kept my cool and I told the old guy that he was my elder and he should behave that way. He kept on ranting his tune in his wild tone while I kept on repeating the same sentence - "You are my elder. Please behave that way." After about the seventh time he relented and walked off. Later he tried to become friendly again but I refused to accept his greetings and never responded to any overture. Things are now cool and contented between us. There is a definite case of not fighting against reality and destiny. Make the effort to keep good relations but if they break nevertheless then let them slip into their natural equilibrium. 92
The Art of Shirking Mostly people are brought up to be up and doing; you do, you get. In this environment where everyone is up and about it requires a specific state of mind to flow against the river. I used to be one of those who would take a request personally. Later I often found all my efforts going down the drain because the other person had changed his mind or requirements. It is then I decided to act on anything only when asked three times. People will ask you a service if you are available. So the first step towards freedom is to not make your-self available. There are a few ground rules for this. If you have been tuned to act and be of service then you will have to retune yourself. Learn to keep at the back of your mind this thought: what will others say; what will they think of me; is it legal; is it really necessary? With all these considerations churning in your mind, you will rarely find time or the inclination to make the first move and by then hopefully the need to act will have passed or the situation would have taken care of itself. If you are unable to get the hang of my thinking here, spend time with a government functionary. You will see what I mean and learn a few lovely pointers. We are surrounded by responsibilities as it is. And people around us want to take on many more. 93
Given the nature of life we can’t always say no directly. The way out of this predicament is to put all one’s energy in planning how to get out of it. Search hard for excuses and reasons or excuses couched in the garb of reasons. Raise objections; don’t attempt to be logical. If the other guy is sensible he will see through the playacting and leave you alone. If the responsibility is forced down your gullet and things go wrong later, you can always crow about how you had warned about it. Convert everything into an argument. Let the other guy explain himself get himself all tied up in knots. Later on you can use the confusion to slip out of any commitment. If you are attacked just smile sweetly and look apologetic and create another long argumentative discussion. When confronted by reality and there is no way of running away from a face to face meeting with a person you cannot afford to displease, - smile, be accommodating, agree and make promises. Then as soon as good form permits say your good byes on a happy note and scram. As soon as you are out of earshot, forget the whole thing. No point in burdening your memory with non-essentials. The guy will never realize how insincere you are and will hope and wait for some time and perhaps even call you on your mobile to find out how things are shaping up, then as time is a great healer and helps 94
to forget, things will pass into the past and life will go on. In these circumstances it is good to have a dependant like an old mother, or dog or child around to take care of. They make wonderful subjects for excuses which cannot be overridden.
Greeting My Child. Today I can emphatically say that I am angry. What is gone wrong with adults? The insensitivity shown towards my child or for that matter other children simply makes me want to strangle them; don’t be fooled my exterior that is smiling benevolently. What has got my blood boiling you ask? The thing is that most evenings, my daughter wants to go to my wife’s office to pick her up. As this happens to be after work hours of the bank, my child loves to play around in the open spaces of the bank with no one around to stop her while my wife finishes her day’s quota of work and closes down for the day. All this is fine but take for instance yesterday. On the way in, first we meet the guard who keeps the doors locked and permits only known people to enter. He greets her with a big smile but these words – “Hullo. Who do you want to meet? Your mother? But your mother is not there; the bank is closed.” 95
You can see the excitement that was shining on the face of the child disappear and concern wash over. I am angry but say nothing. Will it serve any purpose to teach the gentleman that this is not a good way to greet the child by scaring him/her? Where is the fun in this greeting? Do we as adults greet other by saying things like – Hullo you know your wife just left with another man/ or Did you know your father just locked you out of the house and went away? We do not think this proper, do we? Or funny? Then why do we feel this is amusing when we deal with the child who is supposed to be learning from us through our behavior? Let’s get back to our story. Then we enter the bank and there another lady colleague is encountered and all she has to say is – “Hullo, baby, where are you going? Your mother is not there! My poor child is now upset and looking at me. I wink at her and keep my mouth closed although I am seething inside. I quietly pull her away and we walk on and enter the big hall where my wife has her desk but she is not at in her chair. Her colleague who is sitting nearby and well known to the child says to my daughter: “Oh you have come for your mother? But she is not there.” My child is now really more than upset. Thank God that she does not so easily trust anybody. She holds my hand tight in concern. I tell her that mummy has gone to the toilet and she will be here soon. This time I show my displeasure but only in my eyes as I make it clear 96
that I am not happy at seeing him. But did he get the message or just thought of me as uncouth. The worst is yet to come. Some new recruits were around. My daughter had just painted a wooden house and was eager to show her handiwork, which she does to her mother. The new recruit, a young lady of some merit, asks my daughter who made it. And of course she says, I made it. With her limited vocabulary to her “make” “paint” all are the same. The young lady shows her adultness by remarking “No you did not make it. You are lying”. A straight accusation without a second thought. I dare her to do the same with another adult. I was livid with disgust. Had it not been in the bank, and out of consideration for my wife, I would have lashed out at these so called wise and intelligent adults of the human race. What’s with these adults? Is this all they know about talking to children? Is this their idea of a joke (sic)? Are these the people who are setting shining examples for the next generation? God save this human race!
Keep your distance It started with a man I saw lifting his hand to intimidate a school girl outside the school when I go to drop my girl. This enraged me and I could not 97
resist intervening. But wonder of wonders, before I could get going, my wife who fears for my well being and is afraid that one of these days I shall get beaten up butted in and started shouted at me to shut up and mind my own business. This certainly gave the man enough support to put up a show of indignation and show some more of his violent side. Not only that, others around rallied to cool me down and indirectly ended up giving even more moral support to the perpetrator of the action. Well, this shows how well we feel towards children who cannot fight back both due to their size and the overwhelming authority adults have; and our sense of psychology of the situation and values. But things went further. My wife was more than just vexed and showed it. She called me psychologically unhinged and rued the day she hitched her star to mine and so on so forth. This was not simply getting annoyed and angry. I felt there was something else behind it. Again for the umpteenth time I noticed that this became an excuse for my wife to assert her independence as an individual and separate entity. This will require some preamble explaining as to what I am getting to. I have had this thought floating for many years that though we want closeness, hunt for affectionate relationships and love affairs yet do not really ever open the doors to our whole selves. My education in an Ashram made me sensitive to this issue early on but I have begun to understand it only lately after marriage and 98
having to live with my mother after my father’s death. I recognize this fact because I could sense it in me. So I made it a point to study myself and others more closely. It is obvious that what we consider to be our “SELVES” is a very egocentric persona and not very stable at that. Every time closeness would develop in a relationship I would get a funny, notso-comfortable apprehension that by merging my self in the relationship I would lose my entity as a person. It was like an undercurrent of unexplained discomfort and I would then do some thing stupid that would ensure that the relationship did not cross a fine point and most often would then fade away. This experience is explained in many philosophical and meditative techniques. Just imagine letting ourselves go and becoming one with the universe; will our SELF still exist? But it is a fact that when we let our selfish selves go we do feel a release and a friendlier atmosphere builds up around us. But this is not an easy thing to experience or bring into being by mere thinking and wanting. A certain amount of self-transformation is required. Even people who go for it consciously thru meditative and yoga techniques tend to falter at the crucial moment. So if my wife gets scared whenever a “closeness” begins to develop, I am not surprised. This is a very unconscious happening. Few would agree to it and would never admit to going thru it. But the subconscious has many tricks hidden at its 99
core. The newer generations is showing it more openly; laced with gadgetry they feel secure in their aloneness, even a bit superior, fully confident that they can manage perfectly by their lone selves as if enclosed in a block of ice. I have seen this happening mainly with mentally advanced, city bred people, especially if they have the good luck to have succeeded by the material world’s standards and their egos have had the pleasure of getting inordinately inflated. These people are difficult at the best of times but transform into veritable hissing anacondas if crossed. Every little irritation is magnified into a show of opposition as if attacked then logically merits an exemplary retort and retaliation. In this mood every word uttered or gesture is calculated to cause grievous hurt. Often pots and pans fly. It is a good exercise to make you grovel and remind you of your place in the equation. You can forget peace, quiet and affectionate hugs.
A woman scorned. Today when I opened the papers, the first thing that put a smile on my face was a comic strip and a piece of news. I was thoroughly amused. It was also proof that the world was in agreement and in tune with me in many ways. A few days back I was talking of the anger in relationships and how wives 100
can come out with a thunderous clap on the slightest sign of scorn being hinted. What constitutes nagging and scornful exhibition has not been documented yet. From the comic strip, it would seem that everything said or hinted in contradiction constitutes a scornful act which is absolutely unacceptable. In this comic strip the sentence “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” was being elaborated. The fuming woman was serving dinner and telling her husband –“After a whole day at my job I come back and bake you these potatoes. Saying no thank you will NOT DO!” The news item was more specific. The man had become so fed up by the nagging of his wife that he put her up for sale; we are to believe that they were newly weds too. And wonders of wonders, there were buyers ready too. The wife on her side had a simple explanation: “I don’t think I nag him. He just doesn’t do what I want him to”. What a quandary this is. We all know what others are going thru in marriages and we have all made efforts to find mates. The best that can be said about it all is that the chase was more interesting than the catch. I don’t not know about the others because arranged marriages cut out the chase and fun and the joint family dampens the spirit yet this very dampening keeps the joy of finding your girl alone for yourself for a moment is akin to the chase which goes on and on so I believe the charm of mating lasts longer. 101
Jokes apart, there is a kernel of truth in the above pleasantries. Women are designed to be appreciated; she is to be appreciated and be seen as the centre of your little universe and forget the rest as crap. She is never wrong or at fault. Get this in your puny head. Any time you fail to give signs of unfailing praise, you have legally and literally scorned her. And that brings down the axe with all its dangerous aftermath. In a pique they may really even leave you so beware. But normally they are more pragmatic than that. They stay and keep you groveling and making it clear what position you enjoy in the equation. You can want to run away but where will you go?
Let go and let live This subject keeps popping up every now and then. How parents maintain control and run & ruin the lives of their children till “Death doth them part” is a perennial source of many miseries. You won’t need a magnifying lens or lantern to find people who practice strict hold on the psyche on their children and for that matter anywhere they can at home or work. I see this attitude so fairly common that I decided to put down some of the conversations I have had for all to note. Here is one of the conversations: 102
Dear PK, I learnt a lot by your remark - "don't try to teach the world". One of my close relative has been into alcoholism for the last 25 years, his wife and children have left him ages back, and he stays with his mother. Both of them share a very close bond and in spite of him being in the habit of abusing his mother...even at such an old age, separation does not seem a viable solution, nothing seems to work....can you suggest any way out? My response: I don’t think anything will work now. He has decided that he will forever be a baby. His mother is promoting it. These are cases in which mothers are responsible for the low esteem and childishness promoted right from the day one is born. Generally speaking, the misery he will go through when his mother is not there is just frightening. You will have to let destiny play its part. Anyone who interferes will only burn his fingers. Mothers can be very possessive, fathers very domineering and bosses dictatorial. Humans find it 103
very difficult to let go. The misery that entails is rarely understood by those perpetrating it. The very psyche of the child is pummeled into a blob of jelly. The indigestible truth is that the influences of these parents goes on and on into many coming generations as their children perpetuate the same tendencies. Here I give the essential extracts from another conversation: Question: Considering history and events that mankind chooses to write/record as history, humans are a warring species, a cruel species, capable of any atrocity. Yet we have all learnt by experience that in relationships a little appreciation goes a long, long way. People who erroneously believe they can bludgeon or humiliate a partner into some form of submission are so far out of sync with reality . . . yet it is common; why is that? Response: It is the feel of indestructibility and power at work. Humans have a cruel streak. The elements of vanity and arrogance make them vulnerable. Whenever and wherever they get a chance to exercise their power over others, they do - often with sadistic tendencies; from Dictators downwards to the clerk, from the patriarch to the cook, from Director in a school to the bully… just about everyone.
Normally we are born with a lot of kindness but the harsh condition the child meets later changes the basic nature in many different ways. As the child grows older it learns to protect itself and then it absorbs behavior patterns from his immediate surrounding and learns to do things the way it sees others doing it. Until the child is also shown and taught that kindness can bring in more rewards than brute sadistic action, the child will never know better. It is all a matter of exposure and examples set by peers. The hold of the subconscious is very strong and most of the time it is quietly & surreptiously running the show. That is why we need to be careful with what children might be absorbing. Kind and loving parents, even indulgent ones but firm on the “Ten Commandments” create the best foundations.Unfortunately in real life the opposite is more apparent. Criticizing instead of softly correcting, scolding/beating and doing the thinking for the child instead of letting him discover and play; thereby preempting him at every point are the worst things that leave indelible marks and form his adult nature. Experiences from the time the child is born get stacked up in the subconscious and influence his persona forever afterwards. It is a chain reaction of habits and tendencies that goes on and on from generations to generations.
First we do not permit the child to flower; clipping his wings at every step. Then we weaken him emotionally by acting as crutches and then we complain that our children are no good, irresponsible and spineless; we even wonder if ever they will grow up. First we stunt their personalities and then ask them to go and make a mark in the world –and that too in our image. How myopic can one get? It has been my contention that we should learn to let go after the age of 40 and after 60 the letting go should be total; easier said than done though. Not only let go but even withdraw from controlling interests; continuing to live fully at the personal level but ready for the transition that has to come eventually sooner or later. I have seen many marriages ruined or broken, many promising careers spoilt, and many disturbed kids - all because of the interfering & meddling from parents; many family owned businesses that go bust because the old man at the helm would not make the changes with the times and the next generation was never groomed properly to take over. It is so sad to see people who have had their day clinging to every vestige of their younger self, their positions and possessions; anxious and sleepless as to what will happen after them. The graveyard is full of people who thought of themselves as indispensable. 106
What shall we call this? The human comedy or human tragedy!
Dead or Alive Would somebody tell me how valuable I am? Am I more valuable dead than alive? You would of course say “alive”. Truly you would say I am asking a pointless and silly question. Very well, then would you explain to me why nobody could find time to visit Mr. X when he was alive but all turned out to pay him “respect”(sic) when he finally called it a day? Am I being silly then? Now my own time is not too far off. I was reflecting on my own life. I did the unpardonable by living by my principles and whims instead of the community’s and was rather stark in my annoyance if anyone crossed the line beyond reasonable limits. So today I have the pleasure of rarely receiving anyone from the family; even the ones who found me “super” when younger. They remember my indiscretions, my frank and outgoing speeches and think I am best kept at a distance which suits me fine (I suppose they are afraid I will contaminate the minds of their children). The other day I was talking to my wife on this subject and I told her when my time comes would she have the guts to ask people to leave me alone 107
in death as they had done in life? I would definitely want it so. I do wonder why we give so much importance to death and make it such a grim and solemn affair. After-all the departed one could not care less and he could be in no way sad about the turn of events. There is this uppermost enigma in my mind as to why we reserve the eulogizing for the dead while the living ones get all the contemptuous glances and more? There is no love lost before death and after it there is nothing but it. If anyone is looking for proof of the basic elemental dishonesty in human nature one has to simply visit a wake. All their lives those who were dying to hear a kind word have to literally die to hear one!
Hidden Messages But this was also a pointer to how we complicate our lives by assigning meanings to things by letting our imaginations roam and fly of the handle. How we interpret situations with angles that are not there. What could be the reason behind it? One reason comes explicitly to mind to me because I have used it as a gambit in the game of life. Others there may be but would not be so clearly obvious. It is that we want the other guy to say something specific and as we can’t put words in his 108
mouth we goad him to come out with it by purposely taking the route of misunderstanding. We use the part accusation and part hurt-my-feelings style. The ploy is to show that we have misunderstood by accusing him indirectly or (why not) directly. In his defense and to keep the goodwill alive the other person then is sort of obligated to say something nice and reconciliatory which is more in line to what we want to hear For this purpose the sentence “So you mean to say……..” to start an accusation works very well. After this sentence is in the air, the respondent has no other recourse but to go on the defensive and explain his point in very “EGO calming” tones. A lot of people have perfected this as an art. In many I have noticed this has become part of their persona. Don’t’ fall for it. Anyway, generally speaking I have seen the turmoil and tragedies we humans create by being ambiguous; sometimes just for the cleverness of it. If we could only be clear and precise at all times. If we make it a habit which others will soon recognize, we would soon avoid so many unpleasant situations. True, we may lose many acquaintances that waste our time and opportunities that would have perhaps brought us loss or fatigue but we may also be more contended and I think it is all worth it. True friends never go away; rather they relish the candid truth. 109
Clarity of expression is avoided only where heightened egos are at play. And when these are around, peace and happiness or great achievements never take place. Although I have to admit in the need for tact in life threatening situations it is better to lie and play the game then get into an ugly situation for nothing. But whatever one may say I would rather do without all this complicated stress with a dagger pointing at me, calculating at all times what is to be said and what left unsaid and how to say it. I say just let it rip but do not let any hint of malice in your words or attitude; unfortunately this is the stuff of saints and most humans would only scoff at me. Knowing thru Words The big question is how does one learn about new phenomenon thru words, or even pictures and other previously known data or facts; more to the point is the question is it at all possible? When we read about new things all we have are words and thru the words we try to paint a picture in our mind. How reliable is the picture that we make? Even when we have pictures or diagrams to facilitate our picturising does it really do what was intended? The answer is a flat no. At best we can expect a very poor approximate. Even with very vast experiences and exposure, with very well written 110
words to explain in detail, the feel cannot be obtained and that will never make the experience complete. Everyone has sometime or the other seen lovely pics of snow laden countryside mainly in calendars as the main picture for the winter months. It gets 8 degrees minus out there and a wind is blowing. Taking the chill factor the cold is like 20 deg minus. But here I am in Delhi; a resident from the warm plains of India. It does get cold here too but. Even if I went and sat in the refrigerator, I would not realize the way the cold gets into the bones; especially when it goes on and on and there is nowhere to run away from it. All I can do is compare it with the cold I have known and because I am from the desert region, more used to the heat at 30 to 40 deg C, even the 5 degrees of Delhi are enough to give me the shivers. Then we do have the experience of chilly winds coming down from the mountainous regions so we can easily visualize by stretching the imagination what is happening to the people in the picture. But what about the people further south living comfortably in the south of India by the sea side? Will they ever understand? Can’t see how? It is a rare person who can pass thru the barrier of words to experience anything. I am not aware of anyone with this capacity. Words are self limiting. Adding to this limitation is the fact that in everybody’s memory any given word will pop up pictures which are different from individual to individual. What cold means to me may mean 111
totally something else to the other guy who constitutionally can tolerate extreme cold dips and still be comfortable in a T shirt. Somebody who has not seen the seas can only compare the word picture of the sea shore and the horizon by comparing to a lake he has known. Even by a long stretch of the imagination he will never really realize the vastness. A picture would help and thank God for photography.
Resolved, Signed and Sealed. Let us see; are we going to take the coming of the New Year as an excuse for revelry or while we have drunk ourselves to the ground we might even take on the onerous task of some introspection which should result in some resolutions to be made. I fear that the resolve to stick to resolutions lasts only up to the second drink. But this is not going to stop every individual who takes the coming of the New Year seriously to make definite resolves, sign it and seal it as a document of great import and intent. It is another thing that the document maybe trashed in the very first week of the year. Then why do we make these resolutions? Are we basically insincere? Well, No. There is nothing insincere about it. Look at it with a little compassion and understanding. This is the only time of the year that I get the 112
opportunity to take my friend’s wife in my arms with any kind of abandon; we are all allowing ourselves big margins of freedom from daily selfcontrol. This is the time for fun and one takes what one can. And if to impress her I have to announce some resolutions, why not? Who would be coming to check on me anyway? Talking about insincerity, I must really take offense. How can you talk to me like this? I am a responsible person. I take my job, family and other responsibilities seriously. It is just this little habit of smoking that I find difficult to quit. What with all the stress all these people create around me. My bosses are screaming for things to be done yesterday and the whole office is under the impression that I am slacker. When I reach home the litany of woes is the first thing I hear. Well, of course I understand that taking care of all the household chores and the three kids can fray the nerves of my wife but then what can I do? I bring in the moolah and go thru the squeezer without complaining so why is she nagging? The whole problem in this life is the lack of understanding I have to tolerate from all these selfish people. Oh How I wish there was a way around all this? I did spend three nights at the hospital with our son did I not? Does that not count for anything? Well in my home I am the boss is it not? So after weathering the storm outside, if I take on a smoke or even a chota peg, am I out of line? I had a bad day at the office. My boss won’t understand the 113
problems I have with my juniors. I did not employ them or choose them but I have to get work out of them. I shout and push but these people are so mule like. God; life is unfair. Ok. This is the last day of the year and a good farewell party to the year has been organized at the office. After all it is considered auspicious to ring in the New Year on a happy note, so it is imperative I be there. I know I will get sloshed with all this imported whiskey being pushed under my nose, but then this is just once a year and one should not be a stuffed shirt anyway; don’t you think? Good, then! I resolve to cut down on my smoking, drinking even the occasional type, keep a more reasonable attitude towards my colleagues and wife. I will try not to lose my temper and instead of pushing people around I will try to cajole them. I will definitely get into the meditation circle in the office and try to see things from a calmer perspective. Perhaps spend some time regularly at the gym too. If only these idiot drivers would stop honking and try to overtake me at every bend I could think things over more deeply!! God..this cellphone….am I never to know peace from this infernal instrument. And then; why focus on my resolutions and change so much? Why can’t you resolve not to irritate me a little less? Am I asking too much? 114
Engaged and Busy. The title may seem as if I am going to talk about being professionally busy or posing as such. No; I have another story this time. These are the two words I hear very often nowadays and I am prompted to talk about some of the incidences that I have experienced. Now let’s see how shall bring up the subject? I have what can be called by ordinary world’s standards arrived at a ripish age. An age when people are planning retirements and wish for quiet and I went and had a child who is now three and a half years old. So I have a bouncing child on my hands. My job is to be with her all day and play with her and feed and clothe and look after all her every other need. It is a full time, 24hours job. I wonder if people around me can see the effort I have put in and the fatigue from sleep deprivation as my bouncy little girl is keeping on my toes and has completely annihilated my sleeping and any thing other schedule. But I have enjoyed every minute of the last three and a half years. I suppose there have been annoying moments when I lost my cool because my needs were pitted against that of the little imp and there is no discussing the matter with her. But her smile and embrace and joy at seeing me override everything. So you get the picture? Now let me give you another one or two. Picture one: 115
I am out playing with my child in the neighborhood park. It is chilly winter days so many of the citizens are also present, sunning themselves. Here is a friend who sees us and the conversation goes like this: Friend: Hullo. Playing with the child? ME: Yes. (I would have thought that would be obvious but then we tend to clarify so often the obvious) Friend: Yes somebody has to take her out to play. (Again another obvious fact; don’t I know it! I don’t believe in servants raising up children. My philosophy is simple: either you should not go and have a child or go the whole hog and raise the child yourself properly) ME: It is a full time job. (I don’t want to hurt his feelings because he is trying to make conversation but I have nothing to say really). Friend: This is good you know. At least it keeps you engaged and occupied (now this bugs me. He has retired. He has no interests, no work to worry about and of course he sees the world though these conditioned lenses in his eyes at my age I would be in the same boat. What he does not see is that I love my child and love being with her. It is the only joy I have known. Going out to play is not a chore but a definite pleasure. Anyway they all know that I have multiple interests and that with my small business and hobbies I am actually hard pressed for time and the energy to carry my objectives through. Yet I have been hearing the same comments very often from many many people over the past three years.) 116
ME: Yes. Ha, Ha…..( what else is there to say but to smile and move on) Picture two: The other day one of my elder cousin sisters passed by and she is a “somebody”. She has a Doctorate and has been a lecturer etc. She really takes herself rather seriously. We meet rarely. This time we met after four years. The truth is she did not come to see me; she thinks I am a wastrel. She had come to see my mother. But I had to keep the formalities alive so I came out for a moment from my cubbyhole to say hullo. And this is how the conversation unrolled: Sister: So how are you and how do you keep yourself busy? (I know the question does not need an answer and even if I did there would a negative analysis following it. So I keep my cool). ME: Fine. I now have a full time job (I try to keep my tone jocular and hope the conversation would end there. But no; these elderly sisters have always something more to say.) Sister: This is good. It keeps your mind engaged. (The trigger has been pressed and I am annoyed but then I decide to play cool) ME: Was my mind disengaged till now? Sister: (A little embarrassed) No I meant busy. ME: Ha ,Ha. What I wish to know is this need of everybody to explain everything to me. All I have to do is make a statement and the person will start analyzing my 117
motives and reasons for me & let me know so. It could be that they themselves are thinking aloud but it is definitely annoying and conversation stopper to my way of thinking. Do you have anything to say?
Some comments Doing nothing is better than Being Busy Doing Nothing. – Lao Tzu This sounds simple. Have you ever tried to do nothing? You will be surprised how difficult it is to do nothing. It requires letting go of the feeling that if you don’t do it things will not get done. Then who will make my breakfast you would ask and who will broom the place? You are right; these things do need to be done but let us look at the world at large. This saying is for agitated people who cannot sit still and who have overactive minds. They have to be up and doing even there is nothing to be done. These people are a pain in the neck because in the name of assisting they interfere and upset the equilibrium all over the place. Asking them to sit still is tantamount to punishing them and asking to keep out and away will make them jump to conclusions and even more agitations. 118
Doing nothing requires to let the world run itself, enjoy the moment, bask in aloneness and savor silence. It is another matter that this repose is also therapeutic both for the body and spirit. The Most Common Way People give up their Power is by Thinking that They Don’t Have Any. – Alice Walker We talk and discuss how the world is tearing apart and everything we valued is breaking up. And as a footnote we never forget to add –“but then what can we do?” When we notice a mistake, an injustice happening, something out of place, do we do something or give ourselves the excuse of squarely blaming the authority like the Municipality, Police and the Government? If there is a stone in the middle of the road, how many of you would stop to remove it? By not acting and using the power of the individual as a person you are simply forgoing it. Then you are also giving the right to others to do as they will and your own right to raise objections is cancelled.
Believe Nothing, No Matter where you read it or who said it, unless it agrees with your own 119
reason, experience and attributed to Buddha.
This is definitely the path of right action but if you observe with intent, you will clearly see umpteen examples of it never being practiced. The confidence and panache with which people will talk of things they have no idea about is a phenomenon about humans which never ceases to surprise me. If you ask them how and where they learnt about and on what authority they base their claims, the chances are that you will get the reply “They say….” The truth is that we say, think and act in synch to suit our needs of the moment and everything we do is a back-up to justify our desires of the moment. We behave not by reason but by what is convenient at any given moment and often we change, deny and even lie about things as it suits us. As we shall never admit or agree to it there is not much point in pursuing the subject.
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