5

Notes on Freedom

Freedom and Independence often go together. Don’t they? Between all the patriotic flavour, tricoloured clothes, fancy dress competition and rehashed history lessons and “Mera Karma Tu, Mera Dharma Tu” playing on loop, August 15th becomes a signifier of the Indian in each one of us.

As a parent to a toddler, this was our first Independence Day when we sowed the seeds of the Indian identity on V. In a fun exercise of dress up and role play I told him about Bhagat Singh. With a hat and felt moustache in tow, the little boy quite felt like a man!

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“I am Bhagat Singh.
Simon go back.
British go back”

At school he went on stage said the lines. His Principal said he was excellent…his teacher attached a note for the parents. In what was his first elocution day, it added a pretty memory for all of us.

Thanks to his school he now knows the national anthem as something Devyani Ma’ am sings and guess what Mum-um knows it too! He identifies the cluster of saffron , green and white as a flag. And takes great pride in throwing his tiny fist in the air saying “Jai Hind”.

The Indian identity is a complex thing…and no amount of deshbhakti sermons can rouse a thoughtful countryman. Let’s hope V grows up to understand the history of this country, love it and do his bit in making it a better place.

I also hope he grows up to appreciate the true spirit of freedom and independence as a human being. As parents, we can only give him the playing field to experience freedom. What he makes of it will be his own doing.

*fingers crossed*

Freedom from Expectations
It’s easier said than done. I promise to not impose my expectations on him. Does that mean I give up on him? Surely no, but I would rather equip him with the tools to set his own expectations of himself. I would rather have him set his own targets and goals in life. I would rather have him set his own standards than follow his peers.

Freedom to Choose
His books. His toys. His clothes. His hobbies. His passions. His love. His profession. His life.

Freedom to Live His Dream
I hope he has the craziest dreams in the world. More important, I want to have the nerve to see him live his dreams! Is it always about the acceptable pursuits in life? I have to be ready for the unexpected…I hope bungee jumping and moto-racing aren’t in them!

Freedom to Fail
Failure teaches more than success and winning. Why does failure have to be a negative word? Why is it feared? Why does it not motivate? I will let him fail. Fall. Bruise. Wound. And rise again.

Freedom to Express
As parents what we say is not the Holy Grail. We are humans too, prone to weaknesses and failings. We can go wrong too…and we will at some point of time. It is then we will need a son who won’t mince his words and tell us what we must do.

Freedom to be Different
‘Is he walking yet?’ ‘Is he talking yet?’ ‘He is 2.5 years, why isn’t he in playschool yet?’ V has a crazy set of parents who care a zilch for what the world says…so all he needs to do is go ahead and have the courage to be different!

Go on and shine, my boy!

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14

Gifts For Life

Oh we submit easily now! Yes, we avoid those obvious pressure spots (read toy stores). We have buried the iPad indefinitely inside our cupboard. We don’t leave home in front of you (yes, we have to devise new ways to dupe you every day). We have learnt to read your tastes in clothes, notice how we give in to your fashion policing every day. And we play along with your midnight antics, no matter how urgent is Baba’s meeting in the morning the next day, or how pressing is Mum-um’s need to read or write after you sleep.

We have learnt to give in. In each of your little demands. In each of your timely-untimely meltdowns. In each of your ‘I want you attention’ moments. We have learnt to adapt. We have learnt to humour you and be a child like you are, no matter how silly we look.

But between your little demands and our giving in, we hope you will learn to pick the good lessons that we tuck in. Like those little moments that make me sleep better. And for a child who grows up to be a parent, I will always try to make your growing up special, with little nuggets of learning and pretty memories that will be your companion all your life.

While you cradle your swanky new Spiderman toy, we want you to believe that Baba and I are all your superheroes rolled into one…but really…we are just like you, kids who have grown up with life’s beautiful gifts.
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It’s Okay To Not Have It All

We didn’t have an iPad or all the pretty contraptions that you have today. Let’s not even get started about your grandparents’ growing up! But we found happiness in whatever we had. It’s okay to not have it all, my boy. Just because we have an iPad doesn’t mean you will get to use it. Just because we can afford it, you needn’t take a flight every time we go on a holiday. Just because we can, its okay to not have that big remote-operated car. It’s okay to prefer Mum-um’s small Nano over Baba’s big SUV. It’s okay to look silly. It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to try again. It’s okay if you don’t reach your dream. It’s okay to take a new route. It’s okay to fail again. Yes, it’s perfectly okay to not have it all!

Tolerance & A World For All

Religion, race, nationality. Gender, class, prejudice. There will be enough reasons for you to grow intolerant. You may see the world throw up images and examples very different from what we tell you. Don’t believe them all. God made us all different and for a better world, you have to learn to embrace every one. So don’t make your religion a war cry. Don’t assume you are a superior sex because you are a man. Stand up to another’s prejudice and never bend and bow for what you are against.

For The Love of A Good Story

I imagine you growing up into a reader. While my insistence on reading may be juvenile, but you know I don’t want to be pushy. What I would like you to do is always look for a good story. Look for inspiration around you. Discover new places. Travel and make new friends. Gather experiences and add a world view which is different from what we would have given you. Find your own inspiration. Your own leader. An icon, who makes you believe that you can achieve it by yourself. Above all…write your own story, like no one else can.

H for Health, Honesty & Humour

Health, not just for you but us too. I know the price for having old parents whose health worries you to death. For you my boy, I promise to take care of my health. So that I can live long to see you grow up into a beautiful human being. I promise to swim the seas with you. Race up the mountains. Walk the length of life, right behind you as long as I last.

There are many lies that we tell you. Like when I say that Baba has gone to buy chicken when he has really gone to work. Or that the green lizard with pink eyes is waiting for you in the balcony. Oh yes, we are dishonest with you at times. I hope you grow to forgive us. Never pick these leaves of dishonesty. There will come a day when you will know that a lie can take you nowhere. Like the day when you will see through the stories that we tell you.

Keep laughing. Keep a thread of humour in your life. Learn to smile through your tears. Find a reason to laugh. Find a reason to make another laugh. Just like your baby babble that throws us into fits of laughter…or your childish antics that makes a child of us everyday. Never lose it in your life.

Money Can’t Buy You Happiness, For Everything Else There Are Your Parents

We don’t promise you the stars. We won’t promise you a ‘Stanford education’. We don’t promise to fulfil your every demand. Because honestly, baby, we don’t want you to know that money can buy you happiness. You have to find happiness. And we will help you find happiness and every thing else, everything else that money cannot buy. Love. Cuddles. Family. Sharing. Warmth. Security. Education. Smiles. Respect. Dignity. Yes, you will know there is a lot more than that.

 

This post is a part of the 1001 Gifts Activity by HDFC Life in association with BlogAdda

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Sexual Tolerance, Anyone?

Did your parents talk to you about sex? Mine didn’t.

Did they talk to you about sexuality? Mine didn’t.

Where and how did you learn about homosexuality and heterosexuality?

Which did you consider ‘normal’? Which do you consider ‘normal’ now?

We usually hush talk about this. As a nation we brush matters under the carpet. We cite religion. We quote ‘nature’. We hide the truth inside closets. And we wear colourful masks to hide our identity. What I am about today may not be comfortable for some of you…so read with caution.

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As an adult, a parent and a human who believes that everyone should have the right to love, yesterday’s judgment from the Supreme Court criminalizing gay sex is a blow. Homosexuality did not affect me in my growing up. In a girls’ school, being ‘lesbian’ was somewhat a joke. So when a senior and I got friendly, someone really called her a lesbian. At that age, I didn’t realize that I was being called one too. I shared this with the senior and we stopped ‘hanging out’. I was never attracted to women. But I realize that on that day, being described as or called a lesbian was nothing less than an expletive.

A girls’ school is a curious place. With no one of the opposite gender to interact with, seniors often became role models for juniors. The tomboyish ones played many sports. They were tougher, firmer and boy-like in many things. They stood for school elections. And there were those occasional fan-girl moments. When we were in the 10th, we famously walked into Class 8th and called up one girl who was ‘following’ one of us. She had begun stalking and leaving gifts in her desk. Back then it felt very cool; to threaten a girl, to ask her not to spend her money and to stay away. We didn’t think about sexuality, or what her sexual preferences may have been.

Our conservative Convent education contributed little to our understanding of sexuality. We were taught about periods. About sex. About self-defence. About attraction and love. About boys. But never about girls.

I don’t think tolerance towards homosexuality came to me in a day. Like many other girls, I didn’t consider it seriously enough.  Because I wasn’t attracted to girls and no one was attracted to me, I really didn’t have to deal with it. My last two years in school were spent in a co-educational institution. And so while hormones were raging, and girls were being courted, and crushes were flying in the air, there was also the case of effeminate boys being subjected to taunts and pins.

Boys can be cruel. Yes, in matters of sexuality, they can be really, really cruel. It begins as a casual banter, then it leads to exploitation and oppressive behavior. Notions of gender and sexuality get diluted to an extent that in a boy’s accommodation the most effeminate one is delegated all the ‘womanly’ jobs. Sometimes cleaning, or cooking and maybe even a rendezvous of casual, experimental sex.

Adolescence begins with confusing notions of oneself. And it can be traumatic for a teen who has to deal with uncomfortable notions of sexuality. In such a situation, being told that being attracted to the same sex is not a crime. It is not unnatural. That it is nothing to be shameful of.

You can read the rest of the post on Parentous