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.

Selflessness or Helplessness


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We are living in times when most people refrain from or at least think twice before helping one another. People, who do help, fall into two categories. One set of them help in the hope of reaping returns later. Another set of people are Samaritans for whom helping is their second nature.

The Samaritans’ natural instinct to help is often exploited by the people who are at the receiving end of the good deed.This lopsided equation leaves the helper braving the brunt of his action, while the receiver is sometimes not even sensitive to the fact that he has plucked his benefactor to the bones. A tale from the Upanishads elaborates the different dimensions of unquestioning helping nature and its impact on the helper.

Once, the Devas decided to perform a Maha Yajna. Protocol dictated them to abstain from possessing arms during this spiritual activity.They requested sage Dadheechi to become the caretaker of their valued possessions. The sage, who led an altruistic life, did not want to get involved. The Devas impressed upon the sage that their rivals would never dare to incur the curse of the sage at any cost.

Dadheechi understood the magnitude and might of the weapons, so he took up the responsibility of safeguarding the same. The Devas completed the Yajna successfully, but did not come back for the weapons. Meanwhile, Dadheechi found it difficult to concentrate on his penance because of this liability. He liquefied the lethal weapons and consumed them.

Several years later, the Devas felt the need for weapons when they were badgered by Vritrasura. When Indra, their leader, came to know that the weapons lay in the bones of the sage, he realised that he could retrieve them only when the sage passes away. Indra did not hesitate to request Dadheechi for the bones, because his need was urgent.

Dadheechi understood the emergency. He gave up his life to honour his promise. Indra created the infallible Vajrayudha using the bones of the sage and slayed his enemy. Dadheechi immortalised the concept of selflessness with his deed.

Helping one another is the only way forward. However, the helped must be conscious not to bleed the helper white and push him to a state of helplessness.

When Patriarchy’s Clasp Ends Up Choking You


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Recently, the suicide of a homemaker and mother of two made news. She had hung herself to death following a violent and shameful domestic incident. It so happened that she was bathing with the geyser on, quite against her thrifty husband’s instruction. When he pointed out the matter to her, she apologised for using the geyser for a few more minutes.

Livid, he yanked her out of the bathroom, and thrashed her for escalating the electricity bill. The rest of the family, comprising her parents-in-law, sister-in-law and her two children, watched the woman being subjected to violence in the nude. The 31-year-old decided enough was enough and put an end to her life. Cases were slapped against the family and police investigation was initiated.

The story will probably do the rounds on social media, family and friends’ circles and eventually die a natural death. After all, patriarchy constantly smothers and pushes countless women to take extreme measures. Most of the time, the victims are humiliated, violated and decimated without qualms by the very people in their families and vicinity.

The rankling tale brings forth multiple issues that need to be understood, analysed and set right. We as a nation are often under the impression that education is the panacea for many ills that contaminate our society. In this episode, the woman was a postgraduate in education who possibly chose her family against a career in teaching. It is unfortunate that she could not impart even the basics of civil behaviour to her immediate family.

Whether her husband was trying to deprive her of the comforts of city life or simply drive home a lesson in good economics is unclear. Whatever the reason, his act of violence proved to be fatal not only to his spouse but also to his future and that of his children. Apparently, mere education can achieve nothing unless it is reinforced with dollops of values in terms of integrity and humanity.

The smaller problem (in this case) happens to be the matter of the geyser which runs on electricity which in turn generates a bill that has to be paid on time. Perhaps one of the guiding motives of this incident was also the man’s inability to cope financially. A remote possibility is that he may have wanted to conserve electricity.

Such being the case he could have encouraged his wife to work and contribute to the family kitty instead of behaving like a brute. Then she need not have been apologetic about the hot water and paid the price for it with her life. She may have garnered self-confidence by putting herself out there and lined her purse with some well-earned money. This in turn would have made her family members treat her with the respect and dignity that she deserved.

She gave up her life because she could no longer live in the ignominy of unreasonable hatred and felt ashamed to display her distress to her growing children.

It’s impossible to miss the fact that the perpetrator’s parents, who also had an adult daughter, did not object to their son’s loathsome behaviour. The report says explicitly that the father-in-law categorically declared that no one was going to save the woman from the punishment meted out to her.

Was he giving a peep into the darker side of marital life to their daughter while supporting his son or was he deriving vicarious pleasure from seeing his son’s wife in the nude sounds rhetorical. Perhaps the mother-in-law, who was a mute spectator to the disgusting affair, was used to such scenes.

The parents of the deceased Sushrutha filed a police complaint against the man who had treated her poorly for years. Yet, they abandoned her dead body because our belief says that a married woman’s funeral should be conducted by the members of her marital home. Their love for their daughter was overruled by their belief in traditions and customs. Never mind if those very traditions had brought about her suicide.

What kind of memories are the children going to grow up with? It would be a miracle if they are able to lead a normal life after being a witness to such atrocity.

This horrible happening has been discussed threadbare to show that what happened in the young woman’s life is a sample of the kind of coercion, mortification and constant degradation that women are put through despite being educated and contributing members of their families.

Our women should stop going by a set of rules, beliefs and convictions blindly to fit into the brutal society. They should become wary of succumbing to wickedness and sadism and learn to stand up for themselves.

It is time we realise that the women in our subcontinent lead life in concentric circles. The domestic, social, economic, religious, traditional and political layers that surround us end up choking us before we look up. The only panacea to this syndrome can be achieved when individuals, families and communities work on strengthening our moral core with universal values of integrity, fraternity and equality.

 

Constants and Variables of Life


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It is a fact that human behaviour, habits and social behaviour always alter according to the venue, circumstances and other basic needs. Hence, it will be highly unfair to determine whether an individual, community or race isright or wrong, on the basis of what we consider to be correct.

For instance, people who went hunting in the past and dared the feral aspects of wilderness and triumphed over a carcass of a dead feline or an elephant were celebrated as heroes of sorts.

Nevertheless, if someone were to copy the feat today, he or she is likely to be booked by the law for perpetrating a serious offence. For those of you who think that citing an example that spans across ages is obsolete, let us examine a real time reality.

In certain countries it is considered highly sinful for a woman to even get her clothes tailored by a male sartorial professional. On the other hand there are countries that encourage sunbathing with minimal or no clothing to its people to ward off hazards like melanoma.

The two cases have been cited to clarify that most aspects of human life are variables. What we eat or wear, how we speak or function, the language and the culture and the habits that we adopt among millions of other such trivia can vary from place to place or time to time. One cannot really fault  or eulogise them because, we as a society figure out the best practices that will work for us as a unit.

Change in culture

Once we find the practices redundant, we have the knack of shedding them entirely or very simply salvage the core value of the custom and reinvent the same to suit our needs. Right from Paleolithic times, man has realised the need for food, clothing and shelter and he has worked on his necessities and come up with practical and economical solutions that can cater to him at the given point of time.

The food that was cooked using fire is now processed through a plethora of new age equipments. The animal skins and barks that constituted our clothing have come a long way now, as they come in a spectrum of colours, materials and designs.

Caves that sheltered man through the vagaries of nature have given way to varied housing from chalets to skyscrapers and everything in between. Everything else that we use or possess happens to be ancillaries to our basic needs. Therefore, mankind as a race must realise that there is really no point in nitpicking, categorising or even on contemplating on sticking on to anything at all.

It is mandatory to remember that the only constant is change. Besides, are we not constantly reinventing the proverbial wheel by working out solutions to the same requirements?

Physics and mathematics explain the conceptual difference between variables and constants and the subtle but irrevocable relationship between the two factors. One cannot exist or function without another.

To put it more simply, we need a constant to evaluate the variable. So also, in life we need constants and variables. We must understand that constants remain invariable across time and space whereas variables always undergo modifications.

It is interesting to note that science, religion, psychology and psychiatry have surprisingly come up with a constant — Truth. The truth they speak of does not subscribe to any region, religion, cult or culture. It is a human truth that is woven around integrity, responsibility, reliability and intrinsic goodness punctuated with a generous dollop of compassion.

The person who adheres to this kind of truth need not feel obligated or answerable to anyone except his own conscience. And as the bard said, if one is true to oneself, the night shall follow the day.

The ability to go through life as an onlooker without getting involved or critical about matters that do not concern us or understand will make it happier, simpler and straightforward. But, as they say, “It is simple to be happy but very difficult to be simple.”
Truth can never become outdated because we need the north star to navigate through the sea of life.

If each one of us strives to sort out and differentiate between variables and constants, we will find ourselves becoming less and less judgemental. Bonhomie and harmony will seep through seamlessly through the newfound maturity and make the world a better place to live in.

A Lost Childhood for Present Generation


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When middle school children were introduced to R K Narayan’s book “Swami and His Friends.” it was astonishing to note that they were not able to   relate to the stories at all. No, it is not just about urban kids, even girls and boys from small towns were unable to identify themselves, empathise or laugh with or at Swami and his friends.

It is hard to believe that we as a country have changed so much in just about half a century. When we make a conscious effort to list the similarities between the past and present, the basic facts remain pretty much the same. We are still following the system of education left behind by the British.

The premium is still laid on learning English and being tutored in the English medium schools has not lost momentum. The children get to study the same six or seven subjects with a syllabus that is altered with times. Learners have to take up tests and examinations based on the prescribed books to prove their worth and go on to the next academic level.

When we compare the emotional and intelligence quotient of children in the past and present we find that it operates in inverse proportion. True, children are well informed and intelligent today compared to the earlier generations.

Stressed minds

Yet when it comes to happiness and carefree attitude, they fail to measure up to children of previous decades. Even tiny tots who attend pre nursery and montessori classes are being subjected to a lot of stress. Not only do they have to perform well, but they need to clear interviews at esteemed schools to gain admission.

Then the mammoth responsibility of taking care of oneself from preying paedophiles is thrust on them. The ugly truth about the big bad world out there to devour their innocence is slowly but surely injected into their radar of understanding.

Children who instinctively attract a hug, kiss or a pat because of their cuteness now have to evaluate the affection shown to them in terms of good touch or a bad touch.

Gone are the days when young ones could be showered with candies and sweets at
the drop of a hat. A health check up in the school would amount to checking the height weight and sometimes the eyesight of the child.

However, nowadays, children happen to be bearing the brunt of lifestyle diseases for no fault of theirs. Juvenile diabetics, thyroid issues, obesity, asthma, a host of pollution related allergies and even cancer have stepped into the world of youngsters. They cannot enjoy a meal let alone junk food without caution.

Joys of ganging up

Unlike the past, children these days are usually loners either by choice or because the ones they want to associate with prefer being alone. They have one or two and sometimes no siblings to share their toys, clothes and books with.

Moreover, parents who can afford the money ensure that their child does not crave for anything. They seem to be totally unaware of the joys of ganging up to climb up trees and steal fruits, play “I spy” or hopscotch because lessons in being careful have far outweighed lessons on solidarity.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons why children these days are a cleaner lot than their parents were at their age because they only play games on the touch screen when they are not sweating at their studies.

Those who do care for physical activities hardly find playgrounds or parks near their homes and there are also times when they do not have playmates because everyone is busy trying to ace the rat race.

The few who do indulge in sports and athletics do it with a definite aim of making it big; hence the slightest downfall or failure to win makes them turn to drugs or depression.

We cannot expect kids who have inherited an overtly exploited planet riddled with natural calamities and terrorism to be cherubic angels in folk tales and fairy tales. They are dealing with life as directed by their parents, guardians, society and system at large. Hence, it is not their fault if they could not appreciate Swami and his friends.

Nevertheless, it is in our hand to steer them clear from becoming contrite and contrived instead of becoming conscientious and constructive citizens in future.

Lighting The Lamp Of Knowledge


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Today we live in a global village. The standard of living has improved by leaps and bounds – thanks to science. But whether we are enveloped with harmony and a sense of well-being is the moot question.

People are in a constant state of flux, insecurity and doubt all over the world. It is during these times one wonders how man lived in the past. Was he free of trials and tribulations, free of complications, humiliation and uncertainty?

A trip down the annals of history reveals that man did come up ingenuous methods of facing obstacles that bogged the lives of people time and again. While kings and leaders resorted to politicking and wa- rs, seers and philosophers handled the crisis in their own way.

Way back in the 12th century AD, Basavanna, a royal poet saint of Karnataka took it upon himself to educate the masses.

The logical thinking king came up with the panacea of global peace using local resources. The insurgence of new flow of thought modelled according to the needs of society became the forte of this great man.

He blended his liberal thought flow into the mainstream of the country, and tried his best to retrieve the ignorant masses from the clutches of superstition and rigidities of religion. He realised that the local masses were ignorant and illiterate due to the lack of education and the caste system. The social danger which was looming large caused a lot of concern to this regal rational.

The seer recognised the root of the problem. The common man who was deprived of formal education was the easy prey of knowledgeable but gre- edy men who exploited them to the hilt. While the wily had their coffers clanging with gold the lesser mortals wallowed in ignorance and poverty.

Basavanna sought to educate the masses through meaningful lyrics popularly known as Vachanas in the language of the common man.

He used homely metaphors and examples to put across his radical thoughts which are significant and relevant to this day.

We will be failing in our essential duty if we commemorate Basavanna after ignoring the values he stood for. This is the time to garner our spirit and explore the essence of life and chip in our little bit towards peace and harmony in the world. This will also prove to be a fitting tribute to Basavanna who lived as a shining  example of humanitarian values embellished with ethics.

Swadharma, The Message in Ramayana


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I, Me, Myself has almost become the mantra of mankind. Most of us do not mind taking unnecessary risks or go out of the way to acquire power, position and possession to see ourselves at the top. Yet we fail to lift a little finger to help others though we are perfectly competent of doing so. 

Our excuses are many. They may range from lack of interest or time to sheer apathy. The buck is unthinkingly passed onto the dysfunctional government or the system. We seldom tarry to think that we could contribute our mite based on our knowledge and capacity to breathe in some necessary changes, to the society we live in.

It is important for people to follow their Swadharma. This very message is conveyed in one of the episodes of the Ramayana. When Rama was exiled, his better half Sita and his dear brother Lakshmana decide to follow him to the wilderness for fourteen years.

In the initial period, the three of them negotiated with hostile conditions and inclement weather in the forest and found occasional respite in the hermitages of the sages they met on the way. They witnessed that the sages who involved themselves in performing Yagas and Yagnas found themselves to be constantly impeded in their mission by the Rakshasas who interrupted their holy activities. In such a scenario they considered the presence of warrior princes Rama and Lakshmana in their midst to be their saviours. They were right, for the brothers willingly exterminated hordes of Rakshasas who were impediments to the sages.

The mild mannered Sita did not quite like the happenings around her. Her acumen told her that they were inviting trouble by unnecessarily interfering in business which was not theirs. But Rama begged to differ; he maintained that though he was an exiled prince, he still remained a Kshatriya. It was the foremost duty of a Kshatriya to protect people from danger and evil. Since his help was being sought by the Samaritans in the forest, there was simply no way in which he could shirk his primary responsibility towards his fellow citizens. He chose to willingly follow his Dharma though he was aware that the odds were against him when taking the bigger picture into consideration.

Interestingly enough, Lord Krishna also says that it is important for people to follow their Swadharma. In fact he makes it clear that it is better to perish following one’s Dharma rather than prosper by swerving from the path of Dharma.