Sunday, September 11, 2011

Learning From Anna Hazare

From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, India’s divine land has bore many sages. The transcendental teachings of these esoteric and learned saints and monks have enlightened us in different garbs. As miracle workers, some of these orange clad holy beings have been wandering high in the Himalayas, while some have been literary genius residing in the plains and sharing their spiritual knowledge through their profound speeches or writings. Few others have sustained the sanctity of society through their ideals of social service. 

In the diversity of their philanthropic mission, these sages have glorified humanity with love, selfless service, and contentment. The moral teachings of these saints are paragons that have helped us to upkeep our personal and social values and have sometimes even encouraged us to the path of self-realization. It would be iniquitous to deny that some of these ascetic qualities seem to be present in Anna Hazare who has created an enigma of social change throughout India. Anna’s values of simple living and high thinking have not only resurrected Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent philosophy. But have also awakened a nation to the savagery and malice of man against man in the form of dishonesty, bribery, and exploitation of the weak and vulnerable. 

Anna’s beliefs that ‘manav seva is madhav seva’ (service to man is service to God) imbibe similar principles as propounded by our ancient scriptures and swamis. Anna says that life is an illusion, which we often spend in self-indulgence. He believes that instead of internalizing the simple pleasures of life, we externalize them through obsession with material gains and selfish interests. Anna’s emphasis on moral values has indeed brought forth the essence of collective responsibility to social justice and has encouraged many to evolve out of caste bound prejudices. Inspired by Swami Vivekananda, Anna encourages everyone to have purity in thoughts and actions. He asserts that the more we have the capacity to bear other’s scorn, the better individuals we become by transforming our egoistic visage and molding it to serve the mankind. 

Anna’s social movement imbues a monumental mission. It has kindled the need for change not just in polices and procedures, but has instilled the thought that ‘ask not what we can take from others, but what we can give to others.’ Such cognizance comes with self-introspection and with a conscious effort of limiting ourselves from an overwhelming desire for more, be it in terms of money, power, or earning privileges of life at the cost of oppressing the needy. Anna’s crusade for social change has certainly swayed the nation by his impulse for ‘parivartan,’ which he believes is initiated by altruistic actions to liberate ourselves from bigotry and injustice. With austere means of subsistence and abstinence from physical desires, Anna in many ways has truly lived up to the quote of Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” 

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Photo Courtesy:  Manish Swarup/AP

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Changing Face Of Parenthood

A Guest Post by Cyber Nag

Parenting has been getting tougher with the passing generations. When we were kids, large joint families were still the norm and the children grew up with several siblings and cousins and uncles and aunts galore. While some sets of parents were stricter with their children when it came to disciplining, the general rules were set and everyone was expected to follow them. Going by the way my generation has turned out, I think our parents did a good job, don’t you think?

In small towns and villages, children roamed free and sometimes even ate in the house they were playing in at the time of a particular meal! Children were also allowed to mix freely with the neighborhood. This still happens in such places where people know and feel comfortable with each other. The only difference today is that the mother of the family where your child might be, would call and inform you that your son or daughter would be having lunch at her place! Contrast this with the formality involved wherein we have to get an appointment even to call someone on the phone, lest we ‘disturb’ them!

Though not so relaxed as my parents’ generation, mine too took the bringing up of kids in its stride. We took care to involve them in special activities, introduced them to the joys of reading and planned outings and trips with the aim of giving them the exposure the changing times demanded. The large joint family had given way to the ‘nuclear’ joint family, with our kids growing up with their grandparents and making yearly visits to their uncles and aunts.’

I was happy if my kids had eaten at their friends' house (usually better than what they might have eaten at home) and would gladly return the favour for the neighbour who had fed them! During my visits to my parents in the village when my older son was a toddler, I would often not see him from the time he had his bath and breakfast in the morning till late in the evening – all grimy and dusty from playing under the trees and in sundry houses of his ‘friends’ and admirers! Needless to say he would not have missed a single meal or the mandatory glass of milk in the evening!

By contrast, today’s parents have a tough job raising kids. Often coming from small families themselves, with just another sibling or even being a single child, they don’t have much opportunity to see small children at close quarters or participate in activities of raising a child. Nuclear families are the norm now, with grandparents having become part-time ones -- either they visit their children and get to spend some time with their grandchild (yes, most are single-child families now!), or have them visit for short periods.

Parents today have to contend with dangers that were unheard of in the olden days, or that had at least not assumed such horrific proportions. When I used to travel by train with my young boys, I would happily allow them to play with a friendly co-passenger; did not worry too much if I couldn’t pack food for the entire journey, relying on the train food to fill the gaps; ignored the racket when they tore around the compartment with a bunch of other kids. Though the cold virus was always a danger, one was not so worried about the likes of swine flu and such, that make parents think twice and thrice about exposing their children to sundry co-passengers.

When we were recently travelling in the interiors of Tamil Nadu during a pilgrimage, a group of girls oohed and aahed over my little granddaughter and one of them patted her cheek. Had it been a quarter century ago, I would have felt thrilled that my child had brought joy to someone, but that day we were all agitated. What if the girl was carrying a virus or two? What if her hands had been dirty? You understand what I mean, don’t you?

We hear so many horror stories of molesters that we have to be wary of everyone we meet. Deviant behaviour is rampant and one has to be constantly vigilant about safeguarding the children from any such person. So naturally we look at everyone with suspicion and teach the kids to be wary of strangers who even smile at them, chuck their chins or try to touch them. It makes it very stressful for the parents. One of my friends used to go to the bus stop at the end of the road to drop and pick her daughter up till she was almost a teenager for fear of eve-teasers and deviants lurking about. Then the schooling itself. It used to be a relaxed five years before one went to school in my time and three and half years in the time of my children. Today ‘play schools’ and Montessori’s have advanced it to an unbelievable 18 months of daily sessions. Children are given ‘tests’ before being admitted even to play school, when they are asked their names, alphabets, colours and rhymes and God knows what else! Though the better known schools have supposedly dispensed with such tests, the rest still follow them.

Present generation children are so much smarter and sharper than their predecessors that they require the parents to be on their toes just to answer their questions! I have seen my son and daughter-in-law take care even to regulate their activities including TV viewing so that their child is not affected by it. And most of the young parents today give a lot of thought to what their kids are watching and reading and even observing! I don’t remember being so vigilant when my boys were younger! :)

In short, what used to be just a routine thing for my parents’ generation, became a little more involved with mine, but has become a lot more complicated today. All things considered, I would say that this generation has risen to the challenge admirably. I think it is unfair to compare it with my or even older generation of parents and find it wanting, for this generation has more things to contend with than the older ones ever did!

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About The Author:

Zephyr, as she is fondly called by all her fans and followers is a prolific writer. She is blogger from Her creative and imaginative posts are nothing less than a stimulating pot of hot curry. She believes that nagging can be an art, if done inventively. Through her innumerable and interesting posts on diverse issues, Zephyr takes an avant-garde approach to blogging. Her mission though is to enrich the cyber space with a tinge of this and that about everyday issues. Not to be missed is her L&M and the Brats series, which will find echo in every reader's heart.