“Teach Your Children” & CSNY

One of the best songs that I ever heard was – is – “Teach Your Children”, by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Whenever I listen to the song, I like silence, as the words play along in my head. It helps that they composed some wonderful music for the song as well!

So, how does this link with what I am going to write next? The world is changing, even in a relatively unchanging country like my own.

The role of parents, and parenting, is changing (slowly), from being directive, to being (for better or worse), guides and friends. We, now, can help our children best by helping them realise what their passion is, what makes them tick, and then to let them find their own paths.

And now, let me tell, in a very short tale, the story of three generations of my family to see if I can illustrate this.

My father was born in Undivided India. Yes, this is an official term. He was born in that part of India that is now, Pakistan. India was not divided those days, and his passport cannot say that he was born in Pakistan, because Pakistan did not exist at that time.

I have always wanted to visit my ancestral home, but let’s see if that happens. His parents were very well off, and when India was partitioned into two countries in 1947, his family lost everything. This is not unique to our family. This is what happened to a lot of people who migrated to India. He had to start life again, and managed to find a job as a typist clerk. In order to finish his education, he used to walk to the school in the neighbouring village every day after work, and would study at night by candle light. He decided to try for the Army, and succeeded. His choice sets were driven by the need to find a job that carried respect, dignity, and gave the promise of a stable income. Stability was the key, and the credo that he, and his generation, lived by, was that if you work hard and are loyal to your organisation, then you will be rewarded. Hard work, positive contribution and loyalty are always rewarded.

To ensure that my education was not interrupted, I went into boarding school when I was 9, and that is the age when I can say that I left my parental home. I have never lived with my parents after that. What happened to me? Well, most of my choice sets were driven by a few factors, not all of them logically thought out. My father was always a stickler for discipline, and was not always available for a chat! My choice of hobby bumbled along from dinosaurs to cricket, while I was in school.

When I had to choose college, my choice sets were driven by the following facts – that there were very few options available, and that I needed to follow something that would be stable. Stability was key, as you can see.

  • I rejected the Army, because I had grown my hair down to my shoulders, and I refused to allow anyone to dictate the length of my hair. Boarding schools make you independent, if not wise!
  • Medicine, I hated, because I hated biology
  • Arts was for the girls
  • Commerce made my head swim
  • Engineering had a nice, manly sound to it!

I did my engineering entrance exams, and got in. Yippee!! This was to the Indian Institute of Technology, and my All India rank was 1,073 out of 500,000 applicants! I could only get metallurgical engineering, much to my disappointment. Yet, I was lucky, as I loved it, and specialised in corrosion.

Engineering college was fantastic. Apart from the weed, we had a marvellous library, and I explored the world of the occult, flirted with black magic, explored religion,mythology and mysticism, was introduced to James Frazier, and to Chinese philosophy. These years were seminal in helping me open my mind to the world outside. I predated the X Files, in that I started to believe that the Truth Was Somewhere Out There! I also discovered the pure joy of writing, especially when under the psychedelic influence.

After engineering, I decided that I liked photography. I have never understood how I came to this discovery. It came. My father, despite his misgivings, decided to support me. He bought me my first camera (an Olympus OM 2n),which I still have. He arranged to get me an internship with a photographer. He also supported my younger sis when she wanted to shift from hotel management to architecture in college

However, I did not have the courage to follow this path at that time. It was too risky, and I opted for the stable option of a salaried job. Stability was paramount!

Over the years, I discovered that you are NOT rewarded for loyalty, hard work and positive contributions to organisations. I still find it hard to reconcile to this fact. You are rewarded for how well you play the political game, and I have never played this. I refuse to! So now, during my extended sabbatical, I have gone deep into myself, and know where I want to go, even though I may not follow a straight line path!

Now, it time for my kids. India is a very different place today in the urban centres. Indians of today are a lot more assured, a lot more confident, more global. They are presented with more choices, and are more willing to take risky paths, compared to my generation or my father’s generation. As parents, we can only help them in making intelligent choices, and then letting them fly. The world of directive parenting is slowly blowing away.

My daughter, I always believed, was a person who was naturally attracted to the arts, and not the sciences. I think that she was influenced by Grey’s Anatomy, and decided medicine is for her. I was against it, counselled her, but she stood firm. After two years of weeping through chemistry, she has discovered that her heart lies in fashion design.

My son is younger, and I ask him the question – what’s in your heart? What gives you joy? Follow that.

As CSNY sang long ago,

“Teach your children well,
Their father’s hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you’ll know by.

Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.”

One day, as I did, I learned the meaning of the second part of that song

“Teach your parents well,
Their children’s hell will slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you’ll know by.

Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.”

To quote from Woodstock, “there is always a little bit of Heaven in a disaster area”. We need to find that! 

 

27 Comments

  1. Thank very much for sharing such a personal story.
    I think I can relate to some of the things you experienced – especially from a ‘kid’s perspective’ 😀 – and the inner conflicts of following your heart & yearning for security. And ‘security’ for most of us is usually the equivalent to working for a large organisation at a so-called steady job. I am also at the point in my life where I feel my heart’s (inner) voice getting stronger, but there is my fear of the unknown, along with the fear that my age (early 30’s) is too late to make a new start… 😉 Reading this really made me think again. Thank you!
    And if I may say so, I believe your children are blessed to have a father like you 🙂

  2. This is good and I agree completely. I had no idea that Pakistan was once part of India. I learned something new today.

    1. Thanks.
      India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were all part of India until 1947. In 1947, India was partitioned into India & Pakistan. Pakistan had two parts – West Pakistan & East Pakistan. East Pakistan became Bangladesh in 1971. There was a war for freedom, and India supported Bangladesh. My dad was there (as he was in the 1952 Korean War).

      1. Wow, Rajiv. I really had no idea. Thank you for the history lesson. It is very interesting to me and informative. Especially, from someone whose family was there. I even told my whole family. None of them knew either. They really do only teach us what they want us to know over here.

      2. Well, that happens here as well. We have a new government in India, and they have the backing of a militant Hindu group. I believe that group wants to tamper with the history books kids use. Mind control from a young age is what they all seek

      3. I’ve learned in the last two years that propaganda is everywhere. Did you know the entire world gets a different cover on Time magazine than we do in the U.S. ?

  3. Well told story, Rajiv…enjoyed seeing your perspective on relationships in the immediate family. Your perception and elaboration on the generational differences was interesting and important to read.

  4. Wonderful words, Raj, and what an interesting life story. I admire how you’re choosing to raise your children. The one question I use as a mantra for my own is this: is what you’re doing serving you?
    There’s a lot to consider when choosing those life paths, and I love the fact that no one must follow the same one their entire lives. If they’re lucky, they will travel many footpaths of the world.
    Cheers!

    1. Thanks a lot! Well, I have to admit, I am not as successful in raising my kids as I would like to be. But, they are great kids.
      Maybe, just maybe, we also put too much pressure on ourselves, as parents

  5. Loved the boarding school independence. What a college life! Most of all, I agree with you that one is NOT rewared for hard work, loyalty, and contributions. Hmph! Sounds like my previous “all you can eat” work buffet!

    All of this learnt just in time. Your children are lucky (though I bet sometimes they may not agree with that)!

  6. Rajiv, this is a very good post (topic)! Yes, the world is different and continues to change. Stability is more an illusion. Freedom is not real without financial freedom or changing your attitude to the world. We must love our children and grandchildren and try to help them to understand the world and themselves better. Then we must let it go. It is good that today they can often change their courses and learn life on their own

  7. Since you have mentioned the story of your career in a nutshell I’d like to mention mine too. My dad is also a metallurgist. I’ve always wanted to do architecture but they forced me do science.(Like parents of many other friends of mine). The first reaction I got after putting my foot down and saying I wanted to do architecture was, why can’t you take up metallurgy or M.B.B.S. ? My answer was simple but no one wanted to listen. They were busy giving orders for my life. I know that no one in my family, not even my extended family is happy with my decision. The field is unknown to them. These people never took risks and settled for stability. Today they are convincing themselves they are happy, while they aren’t. I wish they’d understand why passion is more important than stability like you. Good advice and great post. Cheers.

    1. My sister, the younger one, is an architect as well. She started in hotel management, and then switched to architecture. She followed her dreams early, and this is great.

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