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Maybe we need to reflect on where we are heading with the rat race and weakening the ties of family, which can keep us afloat in stressful times.
It’s a Sunday morning and I hope for a calm and relaxing morning. “Even the newspaper is designed to help you unwind,” I smile, carrying in it as it does, various articles for entertainment, reflection, and self improvement.
The smile on my face freezes as the headlines blare out. Blinded by IIT craze, parents herd 10 year olds to coaching.
The article goes on to elaborate on how children in grade V are now being sent to IIT coaching centres. The peer pressure is so much that later, discussing the article in English class, my student asks me, “Am I doing something wrong? I seem to be the only one not attending these classes.”
Stress and competition have become the new normal.
As I read on, another article in the same paper talks about the dysfunctional behaviour of students at the institutions that train these children.
Do we want them to be happy or do we want them to be rich and successful? I hardly see many happy children around today and I bless my lucky stars that I was born in a generation where we had time to play outside, form our own secret clubs, much like the Secret Seven or Famous Five, where the only class we attended was perhaps a Math tuition class to nudge those who were mathematically challenged on to the other side of the pass mark.
Those were the days when we knew what the smell of damp earth meant, when we felt the sand slipping beneath our feet at the beach and happiness meant just a sour and salted piece of mango.
On this kind of road to success, children can end up depressed. Some will take to drugs, some will resort to perverted behaviour as a response to the overwhelming levels of expectations from none other than the people who are supposed to help them figure out what life is about.
Is that the world we want for them? The last I heard about it, life was meant to be a play where we experience all that nature offers, and in turn give Her all we have to offer. We would scale Her mountains, enjoy Her gentle breezes and scary storms, smell Her roses, and then give Her some of our own gifts in the guise of a comforting hug to a vulnerable person or animal, or our time and reverence to an old person there, or a snatch of a song we composed.
Now life is about having a BMW and a series of villas all only for “me, my spouse and my child”. Funny that all those homes with their sprawling bedrooms and balconies do not have space for an elder in them. Of course we need our space after a hard day’s work and old age homes have now become retirement homes, which makes it easier for our conscience. Isn’t it amazing how the definition of life changes so quickly! Well then if change is the only constant, lets give life a positive definition.
Are our children really successful? We need not read articles to get the answer. We just need to look around us. Do we see the sparkle in their eyes? Is youth meant to be wasted shuttling from one coaching centre to another, or were we designed to enjoy every moment? Do they ever have the time to gaze at the stars and wonder about the immense magic and mystery that is life?
Does happiness mean a five star meal, with two successful adults who have made it big, sitting together but worlds apart on their phones, each with their own agendas and their own decided opinions?
Are our children growing with the ability to overlook some of the weaknesses of their spouses, and help them change through loving acceptance, or are they reaching for the delete button the moment something goes wrong in their marriage?
That very evening I had the ocassion to visit another niece, an MBA from IIT Madras. This she had accomplished only through her own interest and not due to parental pressure. She had got married and left a lucrative job, to take care of her two year old. The little one was busy playing by herself secure in the knowledge that her mother’s presence was there if she needed it.
As I saw the joy in her eye and the comfort of the home in which she had the fortune to grow, I knew she would grow up to be a balanced adult. As I saw the quiet joy with which my niece was pursuing her hobby of painting, I knew that this was success and thanked God that some millenials were now intelligent enough to live life on their own terms.
They are now giving life a new definiton. Living at a relaxed pace like our grandmothers did but minus the financial dependence. Being educated so that one could be self reliant if the need arose, and within the freedom that that self reliance brought, choosing to live life on one’s on terms.
Of course one needs a good education, but education doesnt necessarily mean an MBA or MS or MBBS degree. Pursuing any field that holds one’s interest is enough to help you earn enough to live a decent life.
Maybe you will not earn enough to own a Benz but what if chugging along in your little car with your family brings as much joy? What if your little flat with the warmth and presence of happy people who live in it mean more than all the beautiful artifacts you can decorate it with?
And maybe then, our children will have enough time and energy to gaze up at the stars and reclaim the lost world for themselves and their children!
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