The Joy and Pain of Parenting

Now I’ve had a rough childhood, and for that matter had it rough growing up as well.

Before the peoples go off on a tangent, when I say rough, it has nothing to do with abusive parents! Quite the opposite in fact, loving, tough but fair about sums it up. Though my darling mother did have a penchant for swatting me (hard) with whatever came into her hands! Boy oh boy, did I get beat up! But no broken bones, and no erosion of love, so it’s all good.

I’m talking about my kids. See pics. These are from an age, when they were very young and very innocent, not contaminated by my circumstances, by my decisions, by my indiscretions, nor for that matter, by this age of instant gratification that we live in today, and the poor kids have been brought up in.

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How many of us really remember that sometime in the distant past, we were truly in joy about ourselves, our kids and in general? Being a parent was such joy, it wasn’t a case of constantly being on high alert!
 That changed as we grew and they grew, didn’t it?

Well I was a paret even before the kids came along. See, my kid sister Shruti is fourteen years younger, and I’d been through the changing diapers, studying with, teaching, drop and pick up duty, being on high alert bit already.

We talked about the generation gap when I was younger, and how our parents couldn’t seem to understand us, and now I can well imagine that my kids probably think the same way.

Save of course my daughter, Keertana, who thinks I am receding into my second childhood, and have the mind of a 12-year-old! Which may well be true by the way.
 So they probably have it hard, understanding my twelve-year-old mind.

So what prompted this entry? A host of things. My age (not young), the kids growing up, the little fella, Kartikeya, in junior college now (on the verge of graduating), the girl pursuing her Masters’ Degree in Psychology, and Krishanu, the accomplished photographer.

Bhavna and I were once visiting with his photography school professor, taking about his prospects, how he had fared, and the like, when the professor brought up the generation discussion.

So the professor says, that our of a class of 40 something, there are only 2 students who seem to be driven, and are possessed, and have the hunger to succeed beyond their own expectations. If that is a statistic, then I’m a bit, no let’s face it, very worried!
But permit me to set the right context first, and with that away we go on a ramble through my thoughts, but the public who has time to read my drivel is used to that by now…..

When my son Krishanu visited me in the UK, I took several days off, and took him around, spent quality time with him. I’ve been a keen amateur photographer, and so the DLSR went along with us, to save those precious moments that we spent together. That’s where he caught the bug, and soon the DLSR wasn’t mine no more, and I happily gave it away.

What I didn’t know was that the shutter-bug had bitten him, and during on of my visits home, over a cup of coffee, my son told me he wasn’t happy with his academic pursuit of Statistics, and wanted to do something different. Gasp! Pause! Choke! What??? WTF is more like it actually.

But one thing I admired about him is that he had to courage to come up to me and tell me, what was on his mind, even though it was earth shattering news, if not to me, to his mother, and my parents as well.

Guys and Girls, we are Indiana, we live in India, and even though we are fairly cosmopolitan and occidental in our thinking, the “what no degree?” syndrome is very prevalent and ingrained into our psyche.

But I was loath to impose upon him what he should do, and so I thought about it and in a few minutes decided to support him. The boy-man was finding himself, and this was part of the process.

The family of course reacted. In the melee was da mudder, da grande mudder, da grande father, da auntie, well actually two. Oh! And I forgot the da grande parents from his mothers’ side completely! So for those of you who have now not been spared the family drama, you can well imagine the proceedings, and the festivities! It wasn’t pretty.

But with support from my sagacious father, we prevailed and Krishanu gave up his academic pursuit and took up photography. And not just any photography, he wanted to do wildlife and nature, to add to the complications. Well in a way I was greatly relieved that he wasn’t swayed by so-called the glamour of fashion photography.
 It’s a completely different matter, that he found his calling in street photography, and that too night photography. I’d better ask him if that’s changed as well.

Now I must admit and I think he will too, he was a bit confused and didn’t quite know how to go about it, and so the querying began. I pulled in my contacts, and through them went and met two of India’s leading photographers, and a classmate of mine who is one of India’s leading film producers. Advise sought, fashion and glamour ruled out, so what next?

So apart from reading and simply shooting pictures, he took a few primer classes and soon he told me that photography was his chosen profession. But that course didn’t really excite him, and then one day, someone told him about this new school that was run by professionals and they would teach commercial and photo-journalism! That was it and he enrolled for the rather inexpensive one year course. 
After that came the final stint (maybe).

Now should I add to all this by saying that the media school was based in Bangladesh, and was famed as the leading school in Asia? Bangladesh? Yes! You heard right!

So that’s the background…the situ is that he has the talent, he’s got the skills, but he’s still struggling, and it seems as if his generation has the same problem. That’s what this is really about, it’s not about Krishanu per se, though he’s the victim of the piece.

I’ve talked about this with other parents, with kids, with some young, bright and really intelligent people who work with me, and it just seems that they have real problems dealing with the way things work. They don’t want to go through the grind, they don’t want to put in a structured effort, they want to wing it, they don’t prepare, they are argumentative, they seem to think they know it all, they lack respect, they lack the basic values that we (ye older generation) were brought up with. They are aggressive, some of them at least, they are extremely frustrated, they are over dependent on technology, and this can go on and on and on…..

How has it come to this? Why has it come to this? Can we change this or is it too late?
I can’t but help believing that we are to blame.

I believe that unwittingly we have set them up to deal with a whole lot of things that we haven’t equipped them to deal with. We expected that our values, our beliefs, our culture would somehow be passed on to them without actually taking the trouble to impart any of it.

I believe that this has transpired because our generation was on the cusp of greatness. Whereas we were still trained in the old traditions, we were able to adapt and live a dual existence, one that was traditional and has the underpinnings of all its benefits, and at the same time exploit the technological advances to our benefit both personally and professionally.

We saw our parents slog, slave and sacrifice for our benefit, and we worked very hard so we did not have to suffer the same plight. So instead of spending quality time with the kids and family, we spent a lot of that time chasing a dream of wealth and of a happiness that wealth could buy. And in that process we severely handicapped the very people we were working so hard for.

We allowed that onslaught of social networking to command an irreparable influence over our kids, and they live and breathe the concept of instant gratification. Their belief in GOD (Gratification on Demand) is absolute, and anything that stands in the way gets shot down.

The constant onslaught of media and the marketing juggernaut, the sensationalization of trivial issues and the setting of unachievable expectations through these channels builds the peer pressure, to have more, to want more, to possess and to live a life beyond normal sustenance. And that has in turn impaired the ability to think rationally and has caused irrational behavior.

Of course GOD (Gratification On Demand), is a hard task master, and all but the very wise succumb, end up frustrated, confused and think it’s too late to make amends.

The amends are easy to make, go back to the ethic of hard work, diligence, consistency and work up the stamina to pursue things through to their logical conclusion. The results are bound to follow, if only we set aside the false notion that we can be wildly successful straight out of school.

There are too many stories of dropouts becoming millionaires and even billionaires, and the sooner they realize that, these cases are exceptions and not the norm, we will see the balance swing back to a semblance of sanity.

Back to parenting…..I never was able to really see, to truly realize how my parents surely suffered as I was finding my way, but when I suffer seeing my kids find themselves, ever so painfully, I can now realize what I put my dear parents through. And I was a radical and still am in many ways, and that wasn’t easy on them either.

My kids? They are a darling lot. They are not tainted by several ills, save few, of the modern influences, but, making it in this age of acute competitiveness, isn’t easy on them.

I was able to let go and let then find their way, because I remember what my dad would always say. Give then a strong foundation, and stray they might, but will always find their way back home.

It’s not that I don’t worry, that I am not concerned, but as far as possible I don’t give them grief, much too much to the disappointment of their mother and mine as well. It’s a regular conversation, that I should be tough on them, simply because they fear me to some extent. But I can’t, nay I refuse to be this fearsome father figure. I prefer to be a friend, philosopher and guide, and that’s what I’m going to stick with. I have faith and confidence and trust, that struggle they will, but make it they will too.

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