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My friend Janaki was worried about her 16 year old daughter going to college next year, moving out of the safe environment in which she had been all her life.
Janaki was looking very worried and stressed out; something was bugging her, and she had a lost air, her usual chirpiness missing. She was the chatterbox of our group, but today she was very quiet. We were meeting after almost a year and there was so much we wanted to share with each other; maybe, I thought, she will tel me what was bothering her once we settle down at our favourite joint.
We found a cozy corner table near the window. Without consulting Janaki I ordered our favourite food, chole-bhature and sweet lassi to go with it. While waiting for our order to be served I asked Janaki what was troubling her. She almost had tears in her eyes. I realised that she too, wanted to relieve the burden that had given her so much stress.
The reason of her worries was her daughter, Sita.
“Sita has just entered junior college, Kaushi. And I am really worried about the openness and the exposure to all kinds of things that college life would bring in her life,” Janaki revealed her tension to me. “You see, life in school was so much more secure. The school was near our house, I knew all of Sita’s friends, knew her whereabouts, and I could keep an eye on her all the time,” she added further.
I realised that not being part of her daughter’s life currently could be the main reason of Janaki’s stress. “Sita is such a sweet and intelligent girl, Janaki,” I said. “You should not be worried about her at all. In fact you should be proud that she has secured admission in the best college of Mumbai. “I can understand that now she has to travel a lot to go to college and that is worrying you. You want to protect her from getting exposed to the grave realities of the real world, as every mother would do”.
“Yes Kaushi, and I also feel that now I will not be able to know what’s going on in her life. What if she gets into wrong company and wrong habits, what if she does not study well and it ruins her life forever? This really worries me”.
I could sense that Janaki was stressing herself out for no reason. I had seen a few of my friends think in the same way and I understood that if I don’t put her fears to rest just now, very soon a huge communication gap would get created between Janaki and Sita. I asked her, “Don’t you trust the upbringing you have given to your daughter for almost 16 years? You have been teaching, guiding and moulding your child to be a good person. All that you have taught Sita all these years will not go in vain. Don’t you think that will guide her to be able to differentiate good from bad and right from wrong?” I tried to reason with Janaki.
“I understand what you’re saying Kaushi, yes, I do trust my teaching, but… But I don’t trust the world outside,” she tried to defend herself.
Janaki looked very concerned and I could understand her worries. The news we read or hear everyday makes all parents worry about their children. In fact I had the same thoughts, when my daughter Shikha was of Sita’s age.
“Janaki, I went through a similar situation when Shikha joined college,” I said. I wanted to reassure Janaki. “She had to commute by local trains, so on her first day I went along with her to college. That day I showed her everything that was needed to know, and how to commute to and from the college. She did make a few mistakes initially, like boarding a wrong local train and getting down at the wrong station. But, gradually she learned and later, when she found some friends from our locality going to the same college, I also felt relieved.” I hoped that by sharing my experience I will be able to give her some hopes.
“Janaki, now is the time Sita will get to put your teachings to actual use. If you never allow Sita to make mistakes of her own, how will she learn the important lessons of life? Haven’t you always believed that experience is the best teacher?” I tried to remind her of her beliefs. “Let me share one of Shikha’s experiences with you. A few months back, Shikha had to leave from college very late because of some annual function preparations. By the time she left college it was almost 8.30pm. She was very tired that day and did not want to commute by the local train. She didn’t inform me that she’s taking an auto, as she thought I would get worried”.
“And you’ll not believe what she did. She sat in the auto rickshaw. She took out her phone and acted as if she was talking to me, informing me about her whereabouts. When she told me about this, i realised that my Shikha has learned to take care of herself and felt proud about her smart move”.
“Kaushi, that was very brave and thoughtful of Shikha.” Janaki agreed with me. “Kids these days are very smart and they come up with good creative ideas at the right time”.
I also shared my experience of when Shikha wanted to take our car to college. I wanted to refuse because I had fear of driving on crowded roads, but I held my fears. “Today, Shikha is an excellent driver and I feel proud that I did not pass on my fear of driving to her. Janaki, the type of life our kids are living is very different from our life. I feel our advice could sound very naive in today’s situations. I would suggest that you should also refrain from passing over your fears to Sita”.
My words had put some of Janaki’s worries at rest for the time being. I could see a little change in her mood. I was sure that my experiences with Shikha would help her deal with Sita in a better way. The relationship between Janaki and her daughter could bloom into friendship, if she let Sita explore her newly gained freedom.
Watching Janaki relax and finally enjoy her meal, made me feel happy and relieved. Her beautiful eyes were brimming with newly gained confidence. It seemed that she had now decided to trust the upbringing she had given to her daughter.
Image source: shutterstock
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Trigger Warning: This has graphic descriptions of violence and may be triggering to survivors and victims of violence.
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