Symbolism at its best…

It was a Saturday about 11.45 am, when I decided to walk down the road to the supermarket to buy some groceries. I had been putting this off for a few days now and so I decided to brave the heat and finish the task. It was hot, about 32 degrees C according to my iPhone.

As I was walking down the road, I could hear a group of kids repeating something in unison. There is a school there, but it was not so close that I could hear children from the classrooms. And I was wondering why on earth is the school working on a Saturday, when a line of kids emerged from the street.

They were walking in columns of 4 and they looked like 8 to 10 year olds. They were accompanied by teachers and chorusing “save earth, go green”. Some of them were holding placards with drawings and messages like “save the earth for us”, “think green” and so on.

When they spotted some passersby like me, they shouted with more gusto. The teachers looked bored and hot and some of the kids in the center of the column were chatting instead of sloganeering!

Watching them walk in the heat, mouthing these words got me thinking about the objective of it all. Why do 8 year olds have to walk the roads in the middle of a hot, Saturday afternoon, shouting slogans? Do they even know what it means to ‘go green’? Why do we continue to indulge is so much symbolism? I was tempted to chat with some of the kids, but they looked so tired that I did not have the to prolong their agony and that of the teachers. Besides, I was thinking about how ironic it is, that young kids are taught to protests and shout slogans, albeit symbolically and when these kids grow up and join a protest as adults, they would be dispersed by the police or bundled away and termed as trouble makers!

I finished shopping and was at the billing counter when a lot of these kids walked into the shop with their parents. Some of them were buying soft drinks, chips, cheese balls more plastic to throw away, more carbon miles. Have they learnt anything from the walk at all?


The proud Indian family…

Family has a very different connotation for us Indians. It brings to mind the hordes of relatives and cousins, twice removed, thrice removed who are all jointly called family. Most decisions are run by this ‘family’- hypothetically, with the famous “tsk,tsk, what will everybody say”? And just who is this everybody. The extended family, of course, whose mysterious powers surface at convenient/inconvenient times, as the case may be.

The extended family is most fervently examined in the case of matrimony. When the ‘right bridegroom’ is being chosen for the wedding, every member of the bride’s family is called upon to see if they know just about anyone associated with the bridegroom’s family. The network gets into action, old acquaintances are found and information on the lineage is ferreted out systematically and shared. Did you know that the boy’s grand uncle on the father’s side was Dr. S——? A very well-known doctor. Or that the girls’ grandfather’s brother on the mother’s side was a big guy in the Government and that they used to live in a British type bungalow way back then and had a cook, a gardener, a driver and a butler??!! And the matchmaking process is in place!

Of course, the same cogs in the information wheel, shy away from more relevant issues like mental health issues. Families love to keep this information under wraps in the interest of family honor for one and not ruining the chances of ‘good’ alliances for gen-next. It is not only for matchmaking, but in general having a family member with a mental illness is not a fact to be acknowledged even by closest family, leave alone let the extended family know about it! What about family honor for God’s sake? Of course, it can become a fact that you were on your sleeve, if you are wealthy enough and your assets are way over this little liability. They you are just this eccentric genius and what does a little chatter about the state of your mind or that of your family matter! A little low on education? No worries, if the wealth can make up for it. At least the surname will be great!

And most issues of the mind get sorted once a baby is made.  Not one, but two!  That is the solution to rocky relationships and marriages. So the world knows that all is well and the extended family wheels chug on merrily. What about happiness? Well, a good marriage is about adjustment. What will others say?!!!


All Behavior is Lawful…

All behaviour is lawful. There is always a reason or everything all of us do. These are much touted lines in every training workshop I lead and of course I am a firm believer of this too. It has shaped the way I look at other people and the way I do not judge other people in a flash.

This belief was put to test recently when a dear friend had a break up. It was sudden, there was no explanation, no warning at all.

Questions on why were not answered, messages were left unread and phone calls were not answered.

All behavior is lawful….. while I kept saying that to my heart-broken friend, it provided little solace to her. She kept wanting to know what caused the change, but there were no explanations forthcoming. She was staring at silence.

It made me think how hard it is for a a parent to be calm, rational, objective and not react, when their child is exhibiting a problem behaviour. How challenging it would be for them when the child just cannot communicate what he wants and why he is having a hard time.

All behaviour is lawful…… try saying that to my friend now and I will be a little more understanding when I say that the next time to a distraught parent!


Before you accuse me….

Before you accuse me……….

Just the other morning, I was talking to this young mom. She had come to meet me about her 5 year old son who had communication challenges. When I asked her what in her opinion was the family’s biggest concern at the moment, she said ‘socialisation’. She wanted her son to be able to initiate conversations, play with other children, answer the teacher’s questions and be able to make small talk with friends and relatives. Fair enough, I thought, till she got to the bit about the child having to talk to their friends and relatives. But still, that’s what the family wants and one has to respect that, I told myself.

A few days later, I was making breakfast and since churning out dosas is a pretty mundane task, I was thinking about the day and mentally checking off the mails to be sent and that sort of stuff, when a thought struck me. On an aside, I must admit here that my most inspirational moments come unbidden when I am making breakfast, though the breakfast itself is not that inspirational!

One thought led to another and I was reminded of a rather beautiful and thought-provoking article I had shared a couple of weeks ago with some folks. I had visions of the how happy the article would make some of these folks and how my inbox would be full of grateful teary eyed messages!

Ten days went by and there was not a single message in my inbox, at least not from this group.

It struck me then how we all communicate/connect when we choose to, when we want to and when we need to. We make ‘conscious’ choices about who we want to interact with and when and it is mostly on our terms. How often do we duck into the next aisle when we see someone we do not feel like talking to? How often are we ‘outside’ when we do not want to take a call? What about the typical teenager who unsuspectingly comes out of his electronic haze for a glass of water, only to see uncle and aunty talking to his parents. Mom suggests “say, hello” and the teenager weakly grins and grunts something that sounds like hello and vanishes into his zone.

So why does this child have to talk to everyone, communicate, answer and respond all the time? First we insist that they respond to others, initiate conversations, greet anyone who comes home and then we struggle to teach them not to talk to ‘strangers’, how to not make eye contact with random people and so on.

The song made popular by Eric Clapton is buzzing in my head…”before you accuse me, take a look at yourself”.