Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What sanskaras do you wish to give your child?

Easier said and done but parents have a duty to pass on the right values to children. Do you have your list prepared?

Some years ago, at a PTA meeting , a school teacher mentioned the importance of passing on the right sanskaras to children. That set parents thinking and we all looked quizzically at each other. What sanskaras have we passed on to our children's? All of us felt we had done our best to inculcate the right values by example, but had never really thought of it in quite this way. The teachers statements had certainly set us thinking in that direction now. Are sansakars more than just "values”? What sanskaras would we really like to inculcate in children as they grow up and prepare to face the world on their own? Are the sanskaras on one family, community, religion or nation different from those of another?

Sanaskaras, to my mind are set of values, principles, and practices that we inherit from our family, culture, religion and the history of our nation. These are , in effect , the essence of all good that we have been taught or learnt from experience, passed down from one generation to another. Most sanskaras are transferred through examples, but it is also a parental duty to be conscious of what we are teaching our children and being able to furnish the right explanation for it. So what are the sanskaras you would like to pass on to your child? Here is my list:

sanskarSense of integrity: Honesty should be the foundation of our life structure. Children should be taught the importance of being true to your own self as well as to others. A person who follows the dictates of his conscience is the one who can sleep peacefully and live peacefully.

Love and respect yourself: before you can learn to love and respect others, it is very important to be able to love and respect yourself. That can only come with acceptance of all that God and Nature have given you and being content with it. It can come with following the dictates of your inner voice. Never downgrade yourself, nor imagine yourself any lesser than another.

Being sensitive to others: Children must be told the importance of being sensitive o other peoples needs and feelings. Charity is an important virtue and comes from a heart that is warm, loving and accepting of all. In a book I am reading presently, The Tailor’s Needle by Lakshmi Raj Sharma, the father, Sir Saraswati Chandra tells his son Yogendra, “Be the tailor’s needle, which passes through every cloth without making distinction”. So the son makes it a point to treat everyone- native or foreigner, have or have not , fellow Hindu or religious other- with equal respect.

Fulfilling your potential: Winning is not always an option: it is far more important to know that you have done your best in whatever you do! To avoid wastage of effort and time, it is important to understand your inclinations and have a idea of the purpose of your life. I would add to this good grooming , always looking your best, keeping a fit and healthy body, articulating well and having social confidence. To quote  The Tailors Needle once again, “Among the social graces that Sir Saraswati taught his son, effective speaking and good listening were important. He wanted all his children to grow up into sensitive people.

Educated yourself: Arm yourself with knowledge, for knowledge is power. Children must be encouraged to acquire as much as learning as they can. Arming themselves with degrees is as important as increasing the scope of knowledge by reading further and trying to acquire knowledge in areas that interest them or are relevant to their field of work.

Act on your conviction: Children must be encouraged to be brave enough to strike out into the world rather than just be fence sitters. Be a doer, not just a participation in life.

Sense of fair play: It is important that children grow up with a sense of justice. In case they do something unfair, they must be encouraged t make amends. Standing up for what is right is equally important and the should be encouraged to take stands on behalf of those less privileged.

Making choices: Life offers plenty of options all the way through and much of the way we lead life is dependent on the choice we make. Children must be taught to think through options and use their faculties in the best manner before deciding on an option. They must also be taught to stick to their decisions but when the situation demands also be flexible and intelligent enough to change it.

Of course making a list of the values you wish to pass on to your children is far easier than helping them imbibe it, or even following it yourself . For most children resist learning and a child learns best by example. When they protest-as they will perhaps like Sir Saraswati, we too can say “They are not mere words:they contain human experience and wisdom!”

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

When you are old and gray…

I’m not sure what is scarier – never growing old or the slow withering away of faculties and strengths we take for granted in youth and middle age! When Shammi Kapoor passed away, people admired his never say die spirit and ability to keep learning and reinventing himself. Is that the key to a satisfying old age? If so, are we preparing for it, or allowing the years to develop us unawares, till one day it is too late.

What is it about age that scares you? And, are you doing anything to address those fears?? We received an overwhelming response to theses questions posted two weeks ago in O-Zone (Tumsa nahi dekha, Times Life, August 28). Almost all responses listed ill health and dependence as the biggest fears related to old age- especially losing one’s mental faculties or use of one’s legs. sight and hearing-followed by loneliness, unfinished business and not having anyone to talk to. What was heartening was that hardly anyone listed losing looks as a fear!

As a reader Pankaj Gupta puts it evocatively, “I am afraid of loneliness, of abandonment, of having a fridge full of food but no one to raid the kitchen, of watching children playing in a park but nobody coming back home with me, of acting busy when servants comes in, despite yearning for company. At a deeper level, I am afraid of dying without legacy. What scares Dharmista Sharma is “not being able to work, drive, eat heavy sweetened Ladoos, chai and Maggi….being dependent on anybody!”

Almost the many fears came suggestions too- exercise, meditation,yoga and daily walks to keep mind and body supple and strong. Harmesh Khana suggests a change in attitude towards old age to overcome fear! Nelofar Currimbhoy agrees, “wear your age with confidence and with style; if there is a twinkle in your wrinkles, you will shine!” Sulakshna Ratan advices, “one should periodically sit back and assess one’s life. Being rigid and stiff kills everything- relationships, course of life, achievements!”

Fear of age comes from fear of death, of life hurting towards its end. This sends us into panic mode, thinking of the undone vast. As our bodies become frail and minds forgetful, one is left with regrets and “what ifs”. Lessening of strength depresses and life seems to settle into a period of waiting for it to end. However , the problem is not in the natural progression, but in our attitude and resistance to it. Our twilight years could well be the best part of our lives, if only we determine to make them so.

The key really, as with all things, is awareness. Awareness of life, understanding all its nuances, enjoying every moments as we live. why can we not look old age as the period when we will have enough time for ourselves, to do all that we ever wanted to do- provide we can keep ourselves fit and healthy. Since self reliance so important to all of us, we need to do something now to retain independence of body, mind and spirit till the very end. Pursue a healthy life style and develop hobbies and creative pursuits like reading, writing, painting, singing which keeps you pleasantly and gainfully occupied in old age. Experts swear by mental ability games such as sudoku, kakuro, etc, to keep mind agile and working. Like Shammi Kapoor, it is important to keep learning new things and keeping oneself busy.

A pleasant relationship with your partner and a healthy interaction with friends keeps depression away. Being part of a club or group helps. A joint family system works best for those flexible enough to change with the times. It is important not to grow into cranky old men or women who impose their advice and diktat. A satisfying old age would be when you are loved and valued for yourself, for equalities that will endure into old age. An old person who constantly adds to his or her repertoire of knowledge and skills is definitely more attractive that one who sits back and counts his illness.