Mouthpiece #42

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Vibha Sharma

December 17 · Issue #42 · View online
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Parenting perils...
A father and daughter duo waiting for the school bus early in the morning, daughter sporting a smile on her face looking attentively at the small screen of the smartphone almost oblivious of the surroundings. Father is carrying the school bag (obviously of the daughter and a big cup in his hand, which I assumed to have his morning tea until the daughter asked for it, took a sip from the cup and shoved it back in the father’s direction).
Two boys (perhaps in their pre-teens) in their school uniform playing badminton across a movable net which is being held by two men on either side. The school bus takes the turn on that street and these boys just flick their badminton racquets in the direction of their ‘ball boys’ who happen to be holding their school bags too. They grab their bags from their respective porters and rush towards the bus. The ball boys who are left behind (are their respective fathers) collect the racquets, fold the make-do net and walk away happily discussing about cold weather, perhaps.
These are a couple scenes which I witness almost every school day during my morning jog (actually more walk than jog, though I wish it to be otherwise). I was kind of amused to see this on the first day, especially how parents make all efforts to take up the role of any filler for their wards but repetition of the same scenario day after day made me think - what kind of kids are we bringing up or rather what kind of parents are we becoming? Actually my belief just gets reinforced, we are confused parents, we want to be friends to our kids, provider of all possible facilities, we want the best of the world for them, we want to be available for them whenever they need us (even when they don’t need us) but we also feel disturbed when these same kids do not imbibe the very basic of ethics - 'to value what they receive’. And this actually applies to everything, from very small material thing to the loving care and affection that is so generously showered upon them.
So Gen X (which is primarily parenting the pre-teens and young adults currently) is caught in a quagmire where they want to be good to their kids by being with them and for them - in thoughts, spirit and through things but are yet to see a glimpse of gratitude in the eyes and gestures of their progeny. In fact, I guess, they want to see it more as a feedback on their parenting (that they have raised sensitive kids) and not so much for personal acknowledgement.
No, it doesn’t imply that kids are expected to parrot out 'thank you’ for every small thing, rather these words when unmindfully spoken take the seriousness away. A thinking person who is usually a recipient of so many favours (even without asking for them), needs to be more polite, humble and down to earth instead of being progressively more arrogant, indifferent and insolent.
Moreover, we parents feel proud that we are the educated generation, well connected, aware of what it needs in the world to be successful and hence know what is best for our kids, so we ensure the best schools and the best hobby classes for our kids. Not able to see what we expect in their responses, expressions and gestures, we try to find faults in the school system. What do they teach students in such good schools, if the kids don’t even learn to be respectful, we question. After having been a part of school workforce for a couple of years, I know it is a blame game on both the sides - teachers who are hard pressed on time for various reasons, conveniently blame it on the parents - how do they raise their kids when a kid typically spends maximum number of hours at home?
While the two significant sections of adults in a kid’s life keep trying to relinquish their responsibility on the other, kids continue to grow up from being innocent babies to arrogant and haughty young adults. Here, I must say that this is not in 100% of the cases but is surely a prevalent trend.
Oh my, have we messed them up? Where did we go wrong? When we pose these questions to ourselves, they come piggy backing on a big guilt - a perfect recipe for double whammy situation. And who doesn’t know that guilt inspired actions or thoughts can seldom be, well, right. In this state of mind, we become even more indulgent, trying desperately to undo the damage.
While we shuttle from being wronged by our kids to be doing irreparable wrong to them, we forget that we actually need to first bring within us - virtues that make us worthy of being a parent. Individually we need to work to increase our personal stability, calmness, naturalness, patience and composure while trying to weed out maladies like possessiveness, over-protectiveness and over-indulgence. In short, we need to live our lives and let them live theirs instead of trying to expect them to be our key-driven-toys and letting our emotions tightly tied to the whims and fancies of the minds which are still in situ.
We do have a role in their lives but it needs to graduate to that of being a guide and a mentor and not an assistant ready at their beck and call for anything and everything. Preaching, scolding, screaming, cajoling and pampering are futile exercises, the only tried and tested methodology to convey anything is by setting an example, by implementing the same in personal life first.
It’s not a bad idea to go through Kahlil Gibran’s words whenever in doubt or in need of a guide in parenting :

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts, 
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, 
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, 
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, 
and He bends you with His might 
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, 
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

The Greatest Devotee
The Greatest Devotee
In one of the interviews Sudha Murthy mentioned about a book - Conversation between God of Death and Nachiketa. Since then I have been looking for that book but as she did not mention the author name, I was not sure which particular book was that. Still I ordered one and came across this anecdote which I found worth sharing here.
“Narada, my beloved,” said Lord Vishnu, “you who dwell eternally in my heart, the immortal sage and musician. You please me how you go from world to world and time to time, singing my love. Ask of me a boon.”
“My Lord, you who are my all, I want only to know that I am your greatest devotee, that there is none who worships you more. That is all that I ask.”
The Lord was silent for a moment.
“Alas, my dear one, there is one who is even greater in his devotion,” the Lord said smiling.
Narada’s jaw dropped in shock and stuttered that he would like to meet this great devotee. The Lord consented and invited us to accompany them.
Invisibly they stood in a modern apartment. At a table sat a man with his four children and wife. As he broke the bread he gave thanks to Shiva, a tear tickling down his cheek. Then Narada and Lord Vishnu sat inconspicuously in the back of the bus he drove. All morning they followed him and watched him praise Shiva again at lunch. Again he shed a tear. They continued following him the rest of the day until it was time to be with his family for dinner. Again the praise and the tear, and off to bed he retired.
“Ahhh, my greatest devotee. I am so pleased with him,” said Vishnu proudly.
Narada asked, “How many times did he speak Lord Vishnu’s holy name?”
A little startled Lord said, “Well…umm..none.”
“Precisely,” said Narada, a little smugly perhaps.
“All divine names are my name,” said Lord Vishnu, “just as every being is called many names at different times; as a man may be called son, my child, student, husband, my dear, etc.”
“Very well, I understand what you say, my Lord,” said Narada, “that’s all very fine.”
He asked again. “Well, how many times did he say Shiva?”
“Three, I believe.”
“Precisely!”
Lord Vishnu smiled..
“Perhaps I was mistaken. Anyway, I have this urn of holy water I need for you to carry and place in a cathedral in the next town. It’s not too far away.”
A large urn appeared, nearly filled to the brim.
“I will gladly take it, my Lord, even if I have to carry all the way to Brahmaloka,” said Narada, who was always ready to please his beloved.
“Thank you,” continued Vishnu.
“By the way, just make sure not one drop spills. This water is very dear to me so that all my worshippers may get full blessing.”
Vishnu disappeared. Thus Narada placed the urn on top of his head, and with slow deliberate steps, made his way across town. All day and into the evening it took, until finally he set it down inside the cathedral.
While there were some close calls, not one drop did spill.
Lord Vishnu appeared at that moment.
Narada said, “See, it is done. And not one drop spilled, fulfilling my Lord’s request.”
“Well done, my beloved devotee,” said Vishnu. “Not one drop spilled I see.”
Narada beamed.
“Tell me, my beloved one, how many times in your day’s labour did you spell my name?”
Narada blushed. His lips moved soundlessly. And then he fell down to his knees like a tree felled by a mighty stroke.
“None, my Lord, I am ashamed to say.”
“Precisely!” smiled the Lord.
Lord showed that doing one’s duties in the world and thinking of the Lord is extremely difficult.
Now to work in the world and to think of the Lord all the while, with every breath, one is sure to escape the wheel of birth and death.

Hurdles, are they real?
Title : Anywhere but Home
Author : Anu Vaidyanathan
A Ph.D in Electrical Engineering from US Canterbury and founder of PatNMarks - an intellectual property consulting firm, Anu Vaidyanathan is the first Asian woman to have completed the Ultraman Canada and Ironman Canada (for the uninitiated, Ultraman entails 10 km swim, 425.6 km Bike and 84.4 km Run and Ironman includes 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike 26.2 mile run).
Reading through her memoir makes one wonder, is there really anything called obstacle? In front of fighting spirit like Anu’s, no hurdle, no obstacle can hold any ground. She fought all odds where she could, she created new paths where she did not find any and she continued to progress towards where she wanted to reach. A true epitome of tenacity, perseverance and determination Anu Vaidyanathan can be a role model for young adults and anyone aspiring to reach somewhere. It is not a guide on running, in fact, ‘Anywhere but Home’ is a chronicle of her passion, her adventures in endurance sport and her life.
She talks about her parents - the fountain of her strength and motivation, her middle class upbringing, her excellent academic record, her self-driven practice schedule despite not-so-favourable conditions in her hometown and much more.
This is one book which subtly entices the readers(without actually aiming for that) to put on the shoes and go out there. The world is there to explore and so is our inner strength and endurance.
Usually after reading any book on Kindle, I am asked by GoodReads to rate the book. I am not very generous with stars and do not remember having given full five to any so far. I am happy that I found a five-star worth book with 'Anywhere but Home’.
P.S. Just loved the quote that Anu quoted from one of Viktor E. Frankl’s books - freedom degenerates into arbitrariness unless it is counter balanced with responsibility. 
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