Monday, July 22, 2013

FAMILY VALUES - THE CHANGING EQUATIONS

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.



...............
Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.




These immortal lines from Shakespeare's play "As you like it' succinctly state the stages of life each mortal has to pass through life. In a subtle but candid humor, Shakespeare places the first and seventh one on the same pedestal, when the mortal is dependent on a kind nurse. The first stage is considered as a 'favor' from 'Almighty' and the seventh an 'adversity' imposed on the human by the Gods for all  sins they committed. This very understanding or the opposite of it decides the nuances of human relations in life. 

In the same play Shakespeare shares an advice to those who see adversity as a curse.

Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.

Any one who understands the philosophy behind these lines knows that the beginning and end are both the blessing of God. Then, the old too will be nursed as an infant. Old treat children as grown ups.

But world does not run on what philosophers or poets say or write. Philosophers, poets, prophets, statesmen and ourselves are brothers under the skin, and we should avoid the mistaken notion great men are great always.(Sic.)  So, the world forms its own rules. These rules are formed sometimes to be violated by their framers and followers. Result: Lots of heart burn and tensions in the families. The subject of these blogs is to analyse the reasons for conflicts and what best can be done to regulate family life.

There is a notion (often mistaken) that only India, rather the East, has a harmonized "family culture" whereas the Western World has its own rules when it comes to family culture. As this does not form part of our discussion, I am not touching it. 

In India, family relations dominate individual interests. Commitment to family is taught more in Indian school of thought than commitment to individual growth. Hence, it is not surprising many in the younger generation feel the pressure of their own growth in a fast changing world vis a vis their commitment to family. More confounding is that we in India, love Status Quo as far as family is concerned. We want to retain our cultural values and ethos at the same time globalizing our intelligence and our earning capacity. This "as is where is" attitude of elders is bound to clash with the ambitious youth who look beyond family and grow.

Secondly, in India parents have a vice like grip on the lives of children beyond their adolescence too. They want to be part of the decision making of their children like educational pursuits, marriage, number of children they should have and in many families naming of the next generation too and if God gives long life in all decisions affecting grand children too. In effect, they seek ownership of the lives of the children and grandchildren too, if possible. One reason for this is Indian children are not taught to be self reliant since childhood. We do not allow our children to work for wages. Leave it, we do not allow them to do household chores too. We try to spoon feed them with everything including finances. And we expect a 'quid pro quo' from them in the form a gratitude, which is nothing but a right to influence their life style. It is not surprising if you find a mother combing the hair of a son 30 years old or a father peeking into the food habits of his son at age 40 years. 

Elders decide what subject child should choose as optional, what course to pursue, what employment he should seek, which place is preferable for his job. Then comes marriage. Elders decide the type of girl a boy should choose. the type of family, the caste, the religion, the color and the money at which he can be bartered. Any revolt will be met with threats, sentimental outbursts and the "see- after- all -that- I -have -done- to- you" wailing loud enough to bring the poor boy to his knees. 

It ends one phase. From then, the story takes a turn. "Why are not you migrating? See, this and that guy purchased properties here and there." So, he migrates. His finances are remote controlled by parents from India. They decide how much he should spend or save, which property to be bought, which investment is the best. I have heard one parent wailing, "They earn 6 lakh per month but I do not know where they invest" Another proudly telling me he carries a cheque for a billion rupees  in his pocket to buy property for his son.One old man who is 84, has on his finger tips what each of his sons has in their bank accounts. 

It is not the end. Children are not allowed to plan holidays as per their, their spouses' their children's taste. They decide. Mostly to Holy places. Nothing wrong. But once in a while children should be allowed freedom. We went to Coorg in Mahindra Resorts. One family of about ten people were outside the Restaurant. The food costs Re.1200/- per head. One old man was resisting with all the force." Why spend so much on one meal?"and he was giving examples how cheap food was at other places. Children were in tears. They came and ate finally, the old man did not. Problem there was it was the cheapest meal available there. Or they have to order to the room, a difficult proposition for the ten of the family. His son was seen telling him," We are earning a lot. And once in life time do not spoil the spirit". No. It was not to be. A lot of heart burn. Avoidable.

“Family isn’t something that’s supposed to be static, or set. People marry in, divorce out. They’re born, they die. It’s always evolving, turning into something else.” 

The above quote is from my first follower on Twitter. So Status Quoists! Please change your attitudes. Everything evolves, everything changes into some other thing, everything burns and is reborn like Phoenix.

Finally, a humor quote or two to end.

“Nothing like watching your relatives fight, I always say.” 
“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” 
But Satus Quo is like the Pig Tail of the Chinese Sage.
There lived a sage in days of yore,
And he a handsome pigtail wore;
But wondered much and sorrowed
Because it hung behind him.
mused upon this curious case, 
Hand swore he’d change the pigtail’s place,
And have it hanging at his face,
said he, “The mystery I’ve found
Not dangling there behind him. I’ll turn me round.”— He turned him round;
But still it hung behind him.





The pig tail never changes place, "though round and round and round we turn".






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Note: This applies to the daughters too. Read 'she' 'her' in place of "he' or 'him'





Nota Bene: In this blog I dealt with the problem seniors pose. My next blog is how 

children trouble elders and solution to both problems.