I grew up on a farm in a place called Talegaon, a village in its truest sense. There were frequent power cuts, rodents, bugs and also I grew up with 3 other siblings in a joint family, so I had to fight for my right and place in the pecking order. We often had to be innovative to find ways to entertain ourselves, as there weren’t iPhones or iPads or the 100 odd TV stations that provided “entertainment”.
Things weren’t, by any means hunky dory, but I wouldn’t trade this for anything else. It has made me the person that I am today, both for the better and worse. Our parents often listened to their parents blindly for tips on parenting and old grandma tales that were passed on through generations seemed to do the trick best. Eg. Tummy aches were often dealt with by a swig of gripe water and the traditional oil massage to ensure our bones are healthy and strong. Some of these age old remedies give me goose bumps and others make me cringe.
Now that I’m a parent, things that weren’t on my thought radar, have now become discussions which quickly turn to arguments with my better half. In today’s ever complex day and age, where everything is analysed and then analysed some more, decisions such as when we should pierce our daughters ears, what works best when our child is in pain, when and what languages should our daughter learn, which school, what extra-curricular activities etc. the list is endless…
I wonder sometimes, if our parents ever thought about this as much as we do today, I know mine didn’t. I sometimes think, are the challenges any different today to what our parents faced back then? Issues such as cyber bullying didn’t exist back then, when I was growing up, but I’m sure there were other challenges that were equally daunting.
In today’s day and age, we google everything and tend to listen to recommendations by random strangers (online reviews etc) about the do’s and dont’s of parenting. The classic one seems to be what to do/ not to do, to ensure your child sleeps through the night. Science too has done a complete 360 degree flip on their views about key issues such as breast feeding and the importance of it during the child’s first few months of development.
Our parents didn’t really conduct an analysis by paralysis and just took life as it came their way. I’m sure they made mistakes as we will too.
To top this, living in another country brings along with it, its own share of complexities. Decisions relating to keeping our daughter, Aanya grounded to our Indian values without being over the top. My wife often says she would like her to learn to speak Malayalam and train in Bharatanatyam (an Indian classical dance).
We observe other Indian families and how they raise their kids, ranging from being over protective, often having double standards about how their children should conduct themselves. A classic one seems to be touching the feet of people older to them. I mean we did that by default when we were growing up in India, however this obviously isn’t the norm here in Australia. Some parents try and impose their views and perspectives on their child and it seems to drive the child further away from their parents, often resulting in resentment towards the thought of being of Indian and towards the Indian culture. I guess these parents are enforcing it so that the kids stay rooted in Indian culture, but the line is a tough one to draw. It is easy to cross the line.
We want our kids to act and be a certain way, and have the same values that we often challenged when growing up. But most importantly, have a sense of patriotism towards India that we have running through our veins. I often joke around of how things are so haphazard in India, the constant chaos, the roads, the traffic, the pollution etc. The list is endless but in spite of all of this, I have an underlying love for the country, which cannot be expressed in words.
The reality is that Aanya, who is now an Australian of Indian origin and not an Indian and so it would be an unfair expectation for her to feel the same way about India as we do. Her journey will be different and she will form her own opinions and perspectives about India and Indians (both good and bad I’m sure of it). Some things however have stayed the same, for example the love, care and sense of protectiveness they have for us is the same that I have for our little one.
Our little princess is all of 2 years old and already challenges us. Her favourite words now seem to be “no” and “why” and also “why not”, so I’m sure it will get more intense as she grows up. I keep telling myself that she will be her own person with opinions and views of her own and if I can be a parent and a friend to her whom she can trust and respect, then I would have done well.