Our society is largely patriarchal, even in 2015. One can see it from the way we treat children, students, subordinates, coworkers etc… “Just listen, I know what is good for you”. It continues when the children become parents and the students become professors! I would like to share some personal experience which helped me learn a few things in life. These may not be applicable to some of you who have come from a less protective/more liberal surrounding
I visited a distant relative who had settled in Canada during 1993 with my wife and some other relatives. He had moved to Canada in the 1970s and we used to play street games together during our childhood. He was married and had a son, 1-2 years old. His great uncle, also a distant relative of mine, had supported his move to Canada towards the end of his high school. We knocked at the door and his wife, with their young son on her lap, opened the door. As several of us entered the door, the boy started crying. The mother told us: “I did not prepare him for your visit and that is why he is crying, I am sorry”. I thought to myself “Alright you guys came to Canada long back, now don’t tell me this…”. Though I did not say it, I was ashamed of this thought later in life. We had our first daughter born in 1994.
In 1995 while on a visit to Urbana-Champaign, a close friend of mine, originally from Iceland, had called us for dinner. His wife had given some papers and crayons for our elder daughter to draw as we were all chatting. After the dinner, when we were about to leave, we wanted to clear up the “mess”. We took all the papers in which our daughter had ‘scribbled’ something and we were about to trash. His wife was shocked “Your daughter was drawing something beautiful, you just want to trash it!”. Somewhat apologetically, we kept those papers somewhere and bid them good bye.
We moved to Bangalore in 1997 and had two young daughters. My sister from Madurai visited us with her family. We did not have any vehicles at that time and we rented a van everyday and went around Bangalore and Mysore for 3-4 days. Then one night, I had called for a taxi. When the taxi arrived, my sister and family got in and me and my wife waved them good bye. Our daughters started crying loud wanting to get in to the taxi. My sister proudly said: “They love their aunt so much they are keen on coming with us”.
Of course she has been a great aunt but at that time our daughters had barely known the aunt except for those few days when we went around. It suddenly occurred to me that we had never informed our daughters that aunt’s family would be going back home that night. They were used to getting in to the car and merrily going around and suddenly, we were telling them that they should not get into the car! We had not prepared our daughters for their aunt’s departure.
A few months later, my in-laws had come in a group with some kids and we repeated the routine. On the day of their departure, I spoke to my daughters in the morning: “You know, tonight grandma, aunty and your cousins are all going back to Madras. Would you both like to go with them or stay back here with us” Their choice was obvious. That night, my mother-in-law was telling my wife just before their departure: “Keep the children inside, they would start crying when we leave”. I told her: “They won’t cry and they would wish you good bye and sleep”. And so they did. It is not that they loved my in-laws family any less.
Even today, it is not uncommon in many families to hear these words: ‘ What does she/he know? Why do you have to ask her/him, I will bring a boy/girl and they will get married!’. Making decisions for people below us and accepting the decisions of people above us, seems to have been a way-of-life for us. Respecting the elders has been equated to agreeing with everything they say without any thinking on our part. This may help in freezing the time and living in the ‘glorious past’.
Isn’t it a surprise that we often here about ‘lack of creativity’ in many fields? If we stop crippling our children, with the young population we have, no one can stop our growth!
PS: Our marriage was arranged by our parents and I consider myself quite fortunate! Clearly, I cannot advice any one not to listen to parents/teachers. That is certainly not the objective. Our parents and teachers may do well to learn and say: ‘If I were you, I would do this because of these reasons’ and stop saying “don’t talk back and do what I say’. Let us learn to treat them as individuals with respect.