Raising Our Daughters The Right Way


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Bringing up: In a world full of judgements and suspicions, we have to raise our daughters with the correct set of values.

Under the wings...Under the wings…

Archana insisted on homeschooling her twin daughters as she had nightmares about admitting her children to the kindergarten in the metropolis soon after being bombarded by stories of lurking paedophiles around learning centres. Vandana gave up her lucrative job because she wanted to be at home when her daughter arrived home at noon. She had heard horrific stories of children being administered sleeping pills in their milk at daycare centres. Meera laughingly calls herself the designated chauffeur of her kids because she is always driving them in and out of one class or another.

Lakshmi opted for voluntary retirement just when it was her turn to get promoted, to ensure that she could fund her daughter’s dream to study abroad. Suma, a qualified lawyer, decided to be a stay-at-home mother because she believed in the dictum “Better safe than sorry” (All names have been changed to respect their identities.)

What these young and not-so-young mothers have done for the apples of their eyes, is not unusual. Each of these mothers and several tens and thousands of their kind have been doing more or less the same thing in various capacities. No, they are not cynical or paranoid, they are just being careful. With reason too. We live in a world which is riddled by multiple standards, inequalities in every aspect, uncertainties and incomprehensible expectations. Hence, leading a normal life believing in the intrinsic goodness of fellow human beings is out of the question.

Now is the time for us to rethink our parenting strategies, especially where it concerns the girl child. After all, parenting is called an art and not without reason. We must prepare our daughters to hope for the best but be prepared for the worst right from the moment they arrive in our lives. Here are a few areas that need
serious looking into:

Physical well-being
A taste for a nutritious balanced diet punctuated with some form of exercise should be introduced right from the beginning. When a healthy diet and a physical regime coupled with personal hygiene become a habit, immunity levels will soar, and keeping healthy will not prove to be a challenge. Teaching them martial arts or sports or simply involving them in everyday household chores will help them build stamina and can prove to be a boon in times of need.

Modesty & morality
Modesty and morality should not be mixed up. Remember, being prudish can cost them dearly. They must be taught the difference between good touch and bad touch. Girls should be taught not to be ashamed of their bodies or the changes they undergo. They should be encouraged to spell out their doubts and fears. It will do well to sensitise girls to the fact that the outside world will judge them by the clothes, accessories and the makeup they wear, though character cannot be determined by the length of their sleeves or necklines.

Subjects like virginity, rape, honour, domestic violence, honour killings need not be drawing room conversations, if it feels delicate. All the same, there is no point in sweeping the subjects under the carpet and looking the other way when they do crop up.

Using such topics as a launchpad to clear the cobwebs of a growing mind can go a long way in preventing girls from becoming judgmental. The knowledge will also cushion them to some extent, if they are unfortunate victims of such
circumstances.

Coping with new age trends
Many girls go through a phase in life when they get their facial or body parts pierced or tattooed, when they colour, curl or straighten their hair or undergo cosmetic surgery on a whim and regret it later.

Depriving permission outright may not go well with everyone. So, the stubborn ones can be encouraged to try the temporary option and then if they really care for the fashion, then they can be told to take the plunge.

Being feminine
Girls should be taught to appreciate and enjoy their feminine side. Since we live in a diabolical world, girls can be groomed to be soft-spoken and delicate damsels. So, they should be clearly told that they must not hesitate to protect themselves even if it means biting and kicking the molester on the face, or very simply amplifying their lung power.

Expanding the mind
Encourage your girls to have friends, go out and mingle. While dating or having a relationship is not wrong, they should also be taught when and where to draw the line and how to say no firmly when they feel uncomfortable. Writing a diary or pouring their concerns to an agony aunt can help them ease their tensions. Ask them to be careful about what they post and with whom they share on their social media sites, especially their pictures. With so much cyber crime going on, one can never be too careful.

Sky is the Limit For Unshackled Women


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The world of women has always been oscillating, especially in our sub-continent. Recorded history and sociology vouch for the fact that women were enlightened and emancipated in the best possible manner in the early Vedic ages. Conditions regressed in the later periods, only to deteriorate steadily. Women were weaned from the right to education, equality, economics and even dignity.

Foreign invasions and inland political insecurities which prompted the use of the purdah system caught on to the point of shrouding our sisters in some parts of the country till date.

Dowry system which was paved with the intention of passing on the rightful fraction of the family heirlooms and property took demonic proportions which started smouldering and singeing young women in their marriages. The rigid caste system, polygamy and the system of honour killing almost decimated the status of women to non-entities.

Our society slowly fell into a decadent pattern that proved to be a dreadful nightmare for women in particular. So much so that even five centuries ago, there were formulae for bringing up children. A separate set of rules for sons and daughters. By the time they were responsible young adults, they were prepared to slip into their slots and play their part within and outside their households. This methodology worked quite well through several centuries.

Several centuries later, the fairer sex stepped out of their hearths and homes pursuing education and professions. They did face teething problems till they emerged successfully. Then the trend became an accepted norm.

Young women blossomed at every given opportunity while their less accomplished sisters experienced the much needed exposure. This encouraged them to dream for a bigger platform for their daughters. If this phenomenon of getting better with each passing generation were to become a reality, then the world we live in will transform into Utopia.

Alas such is not the case. Parenting has become a challenge. Despite all the talks and convictions about creating a level playing ground for children of either gender, the harsh truth remains contrary. To be fair to parents of our sub-continent, many of them do walk their talk. There are lakhs of couples who have parented only one girl child and have helped her achieve wisely and well. Yet, sadly the fact remains that many of these young women are considered to be round pegs in square holes because the world at large openly or secretly consider them to be second class citizens.

Freedom for girl child

More than ever, there is a serious threat to the security and freedom of the girl child, especially in urban set ups. We are living in times where stories of molestation, rape and the fairer sex being subjected to indignities have started making headlines almost on a daily basis. While rationalists would like to smother this news content as the hype created by media, we must also remember that there can be no smoke without fire.

Let us face facts, looks like we have reached a stage where debauchery has begun to become a byword in our country. At one glance it is obvious that there is something essentially wrong in the way we bring up our children. It is not just about gender inequality which begins at the foetal stage.

The health and education sectors which make a staple contribution during the formative years wallow in corruption. The families and immediate society which moulds the child’s thinking and shapes its character unthinkingly imposes its biased convictions and baseless theories which undermine its personality in the long run.

Intrinsic human values like truth and compassion have given way to superficiality and wanton display of materialism. Certificates and documents have substituted learning and imbibing knowledge. The global village which leaves us spoilt for choices have made us blind to the positive qualities of our vicinity. There seems to be no censor over the entertainment sector which is dishing out brain candy and promoting medieval beliefs and superstitions. The scenario is bleak.

Despite this drawback, it is heartening to note that quite a decent number of the fairer sex in our cities have not only managed to survive but also thrive. If women can stand up against all odds and prove their mettle, just imagine, how much more they can achieve if they are unshackled of obstacles? The sky will be the limit!

Spirit of Festivals


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The Indian calendar has a good number of red-letter days marking festivals of social, religious and national importance. These special days help us to rejuvenate the bonding amongst the people we are associated with on a daily basis.

So, Sankranthi is our friendship day when we distribute sesame seeds and jaggery to seal our amity, Raksha Bandhan rejuvenates sibling bonding, Karva Chauth reinforces marital ties, Navarathri celebrates women power for nine days etc. Besides, each of these festivals serve as renewals as they remind us of the triumph of good over evil. Not to mention the birthdays of gods and feasts to earmark other occasions. In other words, these festivities highlight the significance of forging strong and harmonious bonds amongst family members and society at large.

Festivals possibly gained a lot of importance in the subcontinent because of its multi-dimensional values. We have rituals and worship, family and community bonding, regional and seasonal food carnivals which can be a gourmet’s dream, exhibition of talents by way of fine arts like dance and music on the one hand and arts and crafts on the other. Besides, local economy gets a boost as it encourages people to spend freely and stand them in good stead when they make investments. Moreover, these occasions double up as much-wanted breaks from the daily grind and uplift our spirits.

Our ancestors realised that growing up in a healthy family atmosphere is a must for all individuals. They also believed in leading by example. They were aware children imbibe much more by imitation rather than being preached to. Kids pick up their basic characteristics of caring, sharing, being fun loving, adjustable and understanding in their homes and they learn to cope with jealousy, competition and tragedy amongst their loved ones.

This is a time-tested truth approved by psychologists. It is a proven fact that the people who attach value to the family structure strive to do well compared to their counterparts who think otherwise.

They have a drive to achieve laurels not only for themselves but also want to credit their folks with their accomplishments.

If we remember that each celebration can revive us physically, spiritually and mentally, our lives can become more meaningful.

 

 

 

 

Science Psyche & Entertainment


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Of late, people have been getting hooked to horror movies and scary TV serials that have made it to the big and small screens like never before. Modern technology has facilitated these pieces of art into spectacular and stunning bits of entertainment.

Creative directors and story writers are taking advantage of this provision. So now we have snakes slithering into the bedrooms, fires emanating from water, lemons morphing into ferocious animals, earth cracking under ones feet, spirits, goblins and ghosts rubbing shoulders with their mortal kin, occult, black magic, voodoo among other things.

Subjects like life after death which was in the realms of theosophy and philosophy have been given a new lease of life by being introduced into the story line. So now we have a series of “murdered characters” flitting about as enraged or morbid souls in finery seeking revenge by entering the bodies of their erstwhile enemies.

For good measure, they also settle other minor scores giving scope for eerie humour. These stories which made the rounds mostly on late night shows have been gaining visibility even during the day. The escalating TRPs are proof of their popularity.

What is more interesting is the fact that modern science has facilitated the access to these unfounded, medieval, dark age stories and belief.

In other words, poppycock nonsense has regained its past glory by the very science that was used to expose it. The most bizarre ideas are translated into the visual medium by intelligent minds who know how to wield the essential equipment. Truth be told, they are doing a splendid job.

On the one hand, this trend speaks of the might of human intelligence which is able to cater just about anything that is demanded of it.

On the other hand, it is a little frightening to know that people who do not exercise their grey cells are lapping up the farfetched stories of another era which were retired as redundant, obsolete and illogical. It is when viewers start attaching value to it beyond the entertainment quotient the trouble begins.

There have been news stories about audience responding to this genre of entertainment in hitherto unheard ways. The first category of people get inspired by what they see. They utilise their limited knowledge and make use of horror to derive some thrill by frightening their friends and enemies out of their wits or skins. The other category is the typical hero worshipping admirers of the subcontinent, who do not mind throwing away their personalities and sometimes even their lives in the name of adoration.

Scientific temperament

They are the naïvetes who start believing and imbibing the various concepts and ideas that are presented to them. They lose track of their scientific temperament and never care to verify the truth before communicating the same to others. It is alarming to know that a large section of population who belong to this category happen to be women and children who may or may not be educated.

It is ironic to note that the very science that was/is used to enlighten the human mind and help it overcome baseless fears, superstitions and beliefs is instrumental in worming into our wisdom.

While there is nothing wrong in using science to aid creativity, one must also curb the tendency to spread irrational thinking in the name of entertainment. The intelligent brains that come up with exotic and innovative ideas must also keep in mind they are indirectly responsible for shaping the minds of their consumers.

They must remember that people like to copy, adulate and emulate what fascinates them. Statutory warnings or censor boards can be inadequate in stemming the possible damage to the human psyche. Hence, it becomes the sacrosanct responsibility of the ingenious ilk to use their expertise judiciously.

Technology has come a long way and shrunk the world beyond imagination. It has made the world closer and sometimes closed as in the present case. Today, more than ever before, we must ensure that the role of science makes a positive impact on modern man’s life.

Science should be  used to open up minds to newer possibilities because it can sustain, empower, help us evolve and emerge as better people or very simply decimate us to being mere mindless zombies who stop living and start existing.

 

Finding Your Footing


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The other day, I was swollen up all over. Not with importance! And no, nobody had beaten me up. The long hours of travel caused edema in my limbs. I knew that some professional massage will set matters right.

Along came the therapist – a slim, young smiling lady. She ushered me into a room to knead my limbs back to normalcy. We indulged in rambling small talk. She casually mentioned that she was a student of engineering. I thought she was kidding. Why on earth would she be rubbing oil down my limbs then?

I gave her a long look. She appeared to be serious. She told me she had completed three years of the course. She could not continue with the seventh semester because she had not cleared any of the examinations thus far. In answer to my questioning look, she said that her father’s unreasonable tenacity to make good of his money compelled her to study engineering.

After a moment of fleeting silence, I asked her how she had landed this job. I realised that I had unconsciously switched over from vernacular to English. The lass lapsed into the queen’s lingo when she said that she had trained for six months as a masseuse. I noticed that her language was deliberate and heavily accented.

The teacher in me popped another query. Should she not be working on her backlog and passing the examinations? She agreed. That would be the most ideal thing to do. However, she could not do it. I wondered why not? She said that she could not cope with the course. I blurted, “Then, why did you take it up in the first place?”

“Ah! That was a mistake. My dad worked for the local MLA all his life, so the politician gave me a free seat in his engineering college as payment for my dad’s services.” She nodded away and swore it was true. She had passed her class 12 with difficulty and that had proved to be unfortunate. She had switched back to Malayalam. She did look earnest. I decided to take her word for it.
When I reflected on our interaction, I realised that the girl had essayed the role of the obedient child quite like Casabianca. When she could take the heat no more, she had the courage to accept her limitations and abandon the beaten path.

Practical common sense had ruled her decision. She had donned her new hat with ease and relief, without ever feeling apologetic. By choosing her own path she had carved a niche for herself by alienating herself from the rat race. Hats off to her!

Know Your Mother Tongue


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It so happened that a polyglot visited the court of Sri Krishnadevaraya. He told the king that he could read, write and speak impeccably in 18 languages. He challenged the scholars of the court and asked them to identify his mother tongue.

Scholars in various languages were summoned and were asked to hold a dialogue with the guest. Each one of them had a personal interview with the said scholar. They found for themselves that the multilinguist was claiming nothing but the truth. Yet, the challenge was a matter of prestige to the reigning king. He turned to his intelligent court jester Tenali Rama to find a solution.

Accordingly, Tenali Rama waited for the scholar to retire for the night. When the polyglot was in deep slumber, Tenali Rama threw some cold water over him. Almost immediately the shocked sleeping man awoke and shouted. “evarura waadu?” Tenali Rama sneaked away from the scene only to tell the king that the mother tongue of the scholar happened to be Telugu.

This little story is a pointer to the fact that no matter how many languages we might learn and master in life, our mother tongue stands supreme and foremost for it is embedded in our psyche ever since the day we are born.

We learn our mother tongue from our parents and immediate family and neighbours in the aural or shravana mode. We are never sensitised to any aspect of grammar when we learn our tongue. We grasp aspects of syntax, vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation merely by being exposed to it day after day throughout the formative years of our life.

Despite all this, most urban Indian children have lost sight of their mother tongues. Mixed marriages, nuclear families, the need to study in schools of different medium due to relocation of families from their native places can be identified as root cause of this trend.

India is a country of several such languages, most of which are still alive. We can interpret our glorious literature, tradition, culture, arts and architecture better because they share an invisible link with the associated language. A little effort and utilisation of modern technology and media coupled with human effort can keep the link to languages alive and pass them on to posterity.

Time Tested Bond


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Whoever said, “99% perspiration and 1% inspiration is the arithmetic of success” was spot on. The thrill of experiencing the process of the saying being translated into reality during my school days made me a staunch believer of the aphorism.

Recently, I stumbled on a Facebook request of a dear, long-lost childhood friend. The ball set rolling almost immediately. She called up and we chatted away. The excitement, the bonhomie and the unquestionable affection surfaced together leaving us overwhelmed. That night, I could not sleep till the wee hours of the morning as I was lost in nostalgia. Vivid pictures of a distant past were visualised by my mind’s eye.

We had just stepped into high school. Each class was expected to present a programme for 15 minutes to display our talents. We had decided a moving tableau showcasing the wedding of Rama and Sita. My long-lost friend, who played Rama, had to string the bow and then pretend to break it in the process before garlanding Sita. I was behind the curtains providing instrumental music on the Veena for the show.

I was supposed to ramble through an auspicious raga and then strike all the strings together to signify the breaking of the bow. The music and the act never seemed to coordinate during our practice sessions. So, we meticulously timed the act. It was decided that I should twang the strings after a certain time. However, I was not quite sure how it would turn out on stage because I would not even be able to see what was transpiring.

On the red-lettered day, each of us did our bit. My friend, who was on stage, bent the bow with all her might and actually broke the bow quite unintentionally, and I, who was oblivious to the happenings on the stage, concentrated on the music and twanged the strings at the pre-decided moment. The action and the sound occurred simultaneously, inviting a roaring applause. It was only after the performance I learnt about the extraordinary and unexpected turn of events. A sense of happiness and fulfillment pervaded us whenever our schoolmates mentioned it in the coming days.

Soon studies, other activities and preoccupations took over our lives and each of us went our way. Yet, what remained with me was the moral support of the time-tested truth which made me believe in the power of perseverance and the benevolence of almighty and not to mention the warmth of our friendship which renewed seamlessly after three decades.