Sunday, December 27, 2015 5 comments

A TALE OF TWO CITIES



It is now over three months since I relocated to Delhi.   Yes, I will not say I did not have misgivings when I moved. But few of them had anything to do with the city. I was worried about other things- how would my husband and I  manage life without each other  until he is able to join me in Delhi. As far as the daughter was concerned, she was a bird who had flown the nest. She had to find her own horizon for flight. 

Three months later, back in Chennai now for a holiday,  I am finding it difficult to deal with friends who appear surprised every time I tell them that I have “ no problems” with Delhi…!!! I must say I am even beginning to like it now. I think Delhi has probably been vilified unjustly…!!  

People here ask me doubtfully“ You like it better than Chennai?” I do not know what makes people in Chennai think that Delhi should be inferior…. Let me put it this way, each city has  some things about it that makes one like or detest it. It is basically a lived experience. Unless you live somewhere you can never really say..!

So, now that I have lived in both these cities let me share my experiences. ….

I moved to Chennai in the early nineties. I was starting out on my career, wasn’t earning much and getting accommodation as a single woman was next to impossible!! My move to Delhi has been at a very senior level in an organization and I had all the support from them in helping me with accommodation. Besides, these days with technology, it is easier to access information about accommodation options. I was still a bit apprehensive about finding a place to live in within a week. Friends in Delhi told me that I was worrying unnecessarily.. and I realize they were right. I found a decent place quicker than I expected! The landlord had no interest in knowing whether I was married or single or in a live in relationship!!! He also did not care whether I ate meat or fish or vegetables so long as I was able to pay the rent. I cannot say the same about Chennai …!!!
 
In terms of rental value, I do not think there was much by way of difference except that landlords in Delhi want only two months rent as security deposit while those in Chennai fleece you with ten months!!! Besides, I was able to get a furnished place in an up market area which I am not sure I could have managed in Chennai.

With regard to day today life … I miss the early morning spirit of Chennai. Life in Delhi begins much later ,despite the fact that the schools start earlier in the day than in Chennai. I also miss the Chennai breakfast routine..!! Even South Indian restaurants do not open before 9.00 AM …!!  And of course I miss the filter coffee at Saravana Bhavan  that is just an auto ride away from our place in Chennai..! The very thought of having to walk to the metro station and board a train to CP for that cup takes the craving away..! But considering that I am not a coffee person like my father or husband, I can live with that..!

But  Delhi as I discovered, has its own morning routine...! I absolutely adore that park behind my house. I go there for my morning walk and I have developed now a nodding acquaintance with some of the elderly people who walk there. Our routine is almost similar- complete our walk, go up to the  Mother dairy booth to get our milk, buy vegetables from  “Safal” or the other road side vendors and get home. I am told this is pretty standard for all the neighborhoods of Delhi. Almost all of them have come up in a planned manner- you will find in almost all of them a park, a milk booth, vegetable shops, a provision store and a chemist store. I am not sure I can say the same for all neighborhoods of Chennai. Even if the shops exist the parks don’t!! I am one of the few lucky ones to live in an area that is near the Boat Club and the Nageswara Rao park. Those in Besant Nagar and Anna Nagar are also blessed because of the Theosophical society and the Tower park.

However what really upsets me about Delhi is the fact that there are no departmental stores…!! It was my most shocking discovery about the Capital! There is no store like Nilgiris or Spencers or any of those million grocery stores that we have in Chennai where one can pick up a basket or cart and buy what one needs. Even a very up market neighborhood like the one I live in   only has stores where people  have to walk up to the counter and ask“ ek kilo chini” , “do kilo atta” etc..! So, I am now back to my childhood days where I get my groceries in these newspaper wrapped parcels with strings! Most eco friendly… I know.. (Until I  have to line my dustbin)! I get a handwritten bill that I total mentally, silently blessing my father for my sharp math skills. Shopkeepers tell me that they can do a door delivery if I buy provisions over Rs 2000 ..!! But I am not sure I need to invest that kind of amount on groceries considering that I live alone for most of the month and travel a lot ..! 

The city of Delhi has in a way taken me back to my childhood  . Though most of my teenage days were in Kolkata, the Hindi language was very much part of my upbringing. I realized that was something I missed in Chennai!  Actually that was my first culture shock in Chennai in the nineties. I  found out I could not speak the standard Tamil of Tamil nadu. What I spoke was the Tam Brahm version of the language which I had been warned by my father to be careful about using with the general public as it would point to my caste and bring out  prejudices. Thankfully language in Delhi has posed no such issues.

With regard to the  people  in  these two cities  they are poles apart from the other. I dislike the Delhi motorist’s road rage and complete disregard for any pedestrian or anyone who is embarking or disembarking from another vehicle! People in Chennai are more accommodating of people who walk or use lighter vehicles. Traffic policemen in Chennai are very helpful while in Delhi they are almost nonentities. As I do not use public transport much I do not know how that experience in Delhi might be.  The auto experience has been as unpleasant as in Chennai. Though the prices quoted by the auto rickshaw drivers in Delhi might not be as atrocious as those in Chennai, that rudeness with which they treat passengers is the same.

There is a certain need to “show off” that one sees in the Delhiite while your average Chennaiite is someone who “underplays” everything. The craze for labels and brands in Delhi is so much that  people would rather be wearing a fake one than none!  They size you up and judge you by how you look and what you wear.  It used to put me off in the beginning but  now that I have accepted them for what they are , I see a human side to Delhi that the intellectually snobbish South Indian in me has begun to grudgingly appreciate. I see the kindness that Delhiites exhibit towards animals.  There are three stray dogs who sleep on the stair case in my building. They are fed alternately by the various residents. In winter I see all stray dogs in various localities bundled up in some sort of cloth to protect them against the cold. My neighbor has laid out two small mattresses on the landing for these canines so they do not have to sleep on the cold steps in winter.  I am yet to see similar kindness exhibited by a Chennaite towards stray animals. The few who do are taken to be eccentric or “cracks”!

 I have met good people and bad just as in Chennai. I came prepared to deal with rapists but what I see where men are concerned are the same issues as in Chennai.  While I may be too old for your average road side sexual offender, one has to always take precautions for safety just as in Chennai. I am told that post the “Nirbhaya” case the police in Delhi are more alert about safety of women.

Delhi is a city that I am still discovering…!! I try not to compare it with any of the other metros that I have lived in. Given its cultural diversity, every metro in India has its own unique flavor .. so it is difficult to compare.  The problem comes more out of people staying rooted to their own cities and preferring to believe in stereotypes about others.
Wednesday, November 4, 2015 1 comments

A Question of Identity


There seems to be a sudden surge of write ups going viral on social media about being a Hindu.  Questions are raised on secularism and why the onus seems to be only on Hindus to prove that they are secular.
I find this entire question of religious identity a very problematic one. Let me explain ..


If you were to ask me who I am, my religion would be the last thing that I would use to define myself. Okay, so I may be an atheist / agnostic.. But what about my mother? She is what one would call a very religious person- constantly pampering her “Devi/ Devatas” so that their wrath does not turn on her children and their families. But if you were to ask her to define who she is, she would say she is a Tamil Brahmin! So, now we  have a caste and regional angle being used to define identity. And what is interesting is that just being Tamil or a Brahmin are not necessary or sufficient conditions for her to say who she is. She does not really identify herself with any Tamilian or anyone who might be a Brahmin from any other part of the country.

Now let me talk about myself. Every time I have stepped outside of the four ( okay five now ) southern states, I have been identified as a “South Indian”. The fact that I am from Tamilnadu does not really matter to the people north of the Vindhyas. To them we are all “Madrasis” and if they are little more sensitive then they refer to me as “from South”.

To our maid in Chennai, our Bihari cook is the “Seth Paiyan” – the Seth boy (Seth is a local word for a merchant/moneylender and refer to the people from Rajasthan who had settled in the city ages ago and involved themselves in these businesses). Never mind that the poor fellow in all probability comes from a family neck deep in debt forcing him to migrate to a city where he cannot even speak the language.

My father defines himself as a "Retired railway employee"- to him the thirty odd years of his life spent between the two rails is the best possible way to tell the world about who he is. His late older brother always called himself a "Retired headmaster".  

So where does religion come into this?

When I married a Christian, I found that the identity question there was equally complicated. Though inlaws define themselves as “Syrian Christians from Kerala” my mother in law like my father and uncle always referred to herself as a "Doctor" and never as a Malayalee or a Christian! The house that she lived in all her life in Chennai, though located in the heart of a  Tamil Brahmin locality is even today referred to as "Doctor Amma's house"! Nobody has ever identified it as a "Christian" or a "Malayalee" home. Notice the complete absence of religion here?

When it came to dealing with my identity, I was always introduced by my mother in law as her “Brahmin daughter in law”! To her I suppose, given the neighborhood she lived in, that was the defining factor! I remember her once telling me that she was glad her son had not married an “Indian Christian” ****!!!! Surprised? I was startled because until then I had always assumed that she was as Indian as I was ! But I realized what she meant was a “non  Syrian Christian”. The word Syrian by the way, only defines their antecedents as St. Thomas was supposed to have landed on the shores of Kerala from Syria. They are otherwise about as Malayalee as the rest of Kerala! It would not matter if it were a Nair or a Moplah that they might meet. They would still break into Malayalam and want to know where their “house” is!

During my stay in Andhra Pradesh/ Telangana I found that it was the district  one came from that was the defining factor of identity as also the caste. In Tamil Nadu again, the district is a general defining factor of your identity unless you are a Brahmin where you transcend region!!!! But a majority of people (with the exception of Brahmins) in Tamil Nadu take pride in their Tamil identity and their Dravidian ethnicity.

Interestingly, in Bengal, being Bengali is enough by way of identity. There are no religious or caste riders to this. Anyone who is not Bengali is simply a “Non Bengali”. No one cares if you are Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Brahmin or Kayasth as long as you are "Bengali"!

So, given the fact that there are so many facets that define one’s identity in our country why should religion become the primary defining factor?  One does not have to be a rocket scientist to know that it is politically motivated by groups who probably find the diversity too much to handle. Therefore, what they are trying to do is to bring religion into the forefront. Since Hinduism as a religion by itself is so complex , abstract and subject to regional/caste based interpretations, that it is difficult to bring it together as one identity. Therefore we try and define the “other”

We dig up history, bring up invasions and point our fingers at Muslims. Yes..!! They may be a minority in our population but are sufficiently large in number to be targeted as the "villains". We break a historical monument stating that it was built by an invader and seek to “right the wrong”. We want to build a temple there for a deity who does not have an entity outside of northern India. We are envious of a community in Gujarat that is seen to be doing well in trade and so we engineer riots to “put them in their place”. And now it looks like we want to control what they eat!

In this politics of hate, an artificial sense of identity is being sought to be created for Hindus! And it is sad that people are falling for this propaganda. Unlike the US , UK and other western nations where Muslims came in as immigrants in recent times and might therefore be treated as second class citizens, the Indian Muslim is as much a part of this country as anyone else. Muslims have been part of our history and Islam has influenced our art, literature, culture and cuisine. The reverse has also been true. You just need to go to Southern India to see this.

So why this hue and cry and the sudden spurt of intolerance? Why does the word secular draw sniggers?  

Why can’t we let religion be where it belongs – within the place of worship or the four walls of our home? As a person who comes from a mixed religious family I can say that religious diversity has only enriched our lives. We have had more occasions to celebrate and more people praying for our welfare than anyone else that I know of! I do not see why it cannot happen in a country?


It is for us to decide who we want to be and what we want to believe in. We can spew hatred or accept everyone for what they are. Things are not going to change for the average “Hindu” if we become a “Hindu Rashtra”. The poor will still remain poor, the rich will still exploit, and corruption will continue. Those in power will probably think of some other issue to rake up and we will start thinking that will solve all our problems. 
Monday, October 19, 2015 4 comments

YET ANOTHER FACE IN THE CROWD

 “Madam aap Keratin treatment karva lo. Aapke baal bahut phiji hain” ( Madam, please have a Keratin treatment done. Your hair is too Frizzy”) said the hair dresser at a Delhi Salon. I let it go when I heard it for the first time. Poor chap, dealing as he was with the soft Punjabi hair on a regular basis, my tresses must have presented him with a challenge! But when I heard the same from another hair dresser at yet another salon in Delhi, I had had enough!

I mean, what was wrong with my hair? No hair dresser had ever commented on it in my native Chennai! The Bengali ladies in Kolkata during my growing years had raved about my thick mane.. Why…. even the Goddess Durga idols in the city had hair like mine! So why should I shell out Rs 5000 or more and try to make it straight?

Okay, so it might be more manageable but I suspect it is not just the manageability that is the issue here. So, was it a marketing stunt? Trying to push a product on someone? I guess it is something slightly beyond that.. something more subtle. A strategy by the beauty industry where one brand of looks is being presented as aspirational as opposed to another- straight hair and fair skin being the preferred brand of looks! I suppose coming as a I did from Chennai where a majority had my kind of looks it was not so obvious but in Delhi where people with my racial features were in a minority it was automatically assumed that I was a “freak” and therefore might be looking out for an option to “conform” ! 

“Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” so goes the saying. But what we forget is that the beholder is not neutral. S/he is vulnerable to suggestion by which certain brands of looks can be presented as THE epitome of beauty!

India is an amalgamation of different racial types ranging from dark skins and curly hair in the south to the fair skin/ soft hair of the north to the petite ever youthful looks of the north east. So what makes light skin and straight hair the good looks standard? I might have said Bollywood through its songs about “Gori Gori choris” ( fair girls) with “Sunehere baal” ( golden hair)  and “Gulabi gaal”(pink cheeks) except that most of the leading ladies in Bollywood have traditionally been women from the south – the land of dark women with frizzy hair!!!  From  Waheeda Rehman ( yes she is a South Indian!!!!) to Hema Malini and Rekha to Sri Devi, Shilpa Shetty, Aishwarya Rai  and now Deepika Padukone we have had Southern beauties ruling the Hindi film industry.

But it is sad to see how even people like Sri Devi have conformed to this standard, straightening out her once frizzy/ curly hair! I remember the first time I saw Kajol on screen, I loved her for her frizzy hair,  dark skin ,  uni brow and of course her plump frame..!! Today I find she has also conformed to the so called “beauty standard” .. Sadly, both Sri Devi and Kajol I think, have lost their unique charm!

And what is even more shocking is that the southern film industry, noted for its dark voluptuous beauties  has today girls from the north as its leading ladies! Most of them cannot speak the language that the film is supposed to be in.. yet the audiences are crazy about these fair skinned girls!

When did we get colonized by this idea of beauty?

While admitting that all of us in India have always nurtured a desire for fair skin, I do not know when the hair obsession hit us! When did we start coveting straight, brown hair? I remember feeling distinctly uncomfortable watching a fair and light eyed Paro with straight hair in Sanjay Leela Bansali’s “Devdas” ! I wonder how long will it take before the craftsmen from Kumartuli start fashioning out idols of Goddess Durga with straight, soft hair and light eyes! 

After all isn’t that the standard?

Each sub culture within our country has its own definition of beauty based on the racial type. Instead of trying to preserve it we are trying to aspire towards a standard format of so called good looks and  becoming  like poorly grafted clones of our Punjabi sisters.

What we fail to realize is that beauty is all about being unique in some way. The moment we start trying to conform we become just one more face in the crowd…!!!


Wednesday, August 26, 2015 7 comments

“Working” from home



Working from home, until recently used to be something that was restricted to self employed individuals. But over the last decade or so, many organizations  are also adopting the policy of allowing their employees to work from home. From the organization’s perspective it is helpful in saving on office infrastructure cost while the employee benefits from saving time on travel to work and back thereby giving them more time to achieve a positive work life balance.

As a person who had been working from home for the past three years, I would like to share with you in this post, some of my experiences.

One of my first observations when I started working from home was that there were more women opting for this than men. Though my department within the organization had work that was not typically office based, very few of my male colleagues wanted to work regularly from home.

“I don’t like it, it is very disturbing! The pressure cooker goes off, the maid flings vessels around the place ….” Said a male co worker when I asked him why he preferred to drive the 15 km to a field office and work rather than stay at home and complete it. Another colleague said that the neighbors kept asking his wife if he had been laid off work and that was troubling him!!

Image result for image of an Indian woman working from homeBut why is it that these things do not matter to us women? Are we women super humans who can concentrate on work amidst whistling cookers, whirring washing machines and chattering maids?

Well, the reason is that when a woman works from home people just assume that she is doing this along with her “domestic duties” and she has to somehow manage both. And neighbors really do not bother if she is at home all the time! It is considered “natural and normal”!

I think the above assumptions are completely contradictory to the concept of “Work from home”!

One of the first rules about working from home is that one must maintain the discipline of an office even if it is  your dining table that you are working out of. So, the cooking and other home tasks need to be completed as before and you should be at your work station by the time business starts. However, it is easier said than done.

It was relatively easier for me because my husband and daughter used to leave for office and school at least an hour before commencement of  my office time. There were no changes in schedule on that score. Most of the home related work was completed before 9.00 AM as a result of which, I could be at my seat on the dining table. But when I had house guests, I found that it was difficult to keep to these timings. They would often come for breakfast at their pace and want to chat while I was at my desk.  To them, it was simply the fact that I was home and so it was okay.  My most challenging experience was with a school friend who stayed over for a week.  She would ask me every half an hour through the day “Is your work over”? I just could not manage to explain to her that even if I was not on a call or typing something on the system at that point in time my work would close only by 5.30PM!  

Then there was the issue of our maid. Her understanding of the situation was that since I was at home all the time she could show up whenever she wanted! This led to a lot of confusion because there were often meetings that were planned during the day that I had to attend and when that happened my maid would complain “Where were you when I came?”

And then  there were the  telephone calls. Every time I was on a conference call I had to remember to press “Mute” because otherwise one could hear my father talking at the top of his voice or my maid shouting at the watchman next door! There have often been instances when sales people repeatedly rang the door bell while I was on a call. Most of them could see me seated inside and could not understand why I was not opening the door. Those of you who have been on conference calls know that it can often go on for a couple of hours and in such cases it is very difficult to explain to the sales people outside through sign language that you want them gone!

Strangely these experiences are not common to all those who work out of home. When  a man does this he can actually work without disturbance. If it is a stay at home wife she completes the work before the commencement of business so that he can be at his desk on time. She keeps the maids and the sales people at bay and visiting relatives leave a man alone. Even if his wife has an office based job she usually ensures that his meals are ready and served out so that he does not have to even leave his desk to make a cup of tea! A consultant I used to work with had a wife who was a professor in a college. Before she left for work. she used to see that his lunch was packed, his tea was in  a flask and the driver on duty not just to drive him around but to send away unwanted visitors!

It is worse when it comes to self employed persons. I have seen my auditor , a young woman who works out of a room in her house, deal with a her child and also manage her work. Her son constantly wants her attention and disturbs client meetings by throwing a tantrum. She uses her office staff to manage the child while she is working, which is a highly unprofessional thing to do!

I have never seen self employed men being disturbed in such a manner. They usually have a child care person to deal with a young child if the wife is working away from home.

To conclude what I would like to say is that while work from home is an excellent opportunity to achieve work life balance there are some things that we must keep in mind while doing it.

1.   Treat it seriously and maintain a discipline similar to what we would if were in the office. This means having a person to look after a young child or training your child not to disturb you while you work, taking lunch breaks at  the usual time when the office has a break. It also means that if you have to attend to something personal during business hours, one needs to keep the concerned people informed about your unavailability during that time.   It is because of the inability of some people to deal with these issues in a disciplined manner  that makes employers think twice before allowing people to work from  home.
2.   People at home should realize that working from home is also work and not disturb people during office hours. There are times when the work hours might go beyond 5.30 PM  even when we are working from home. So spouses and kids who come back from office and school must respect that. There have been times when I have worked until 7.00PM from my living room. My husband and daughter have been very supportive during that period. There have been no tantrums that tea or dinner was not ready on time despite my being at home. One should treat it exactly how they would if the person had been held up at office. My husband on those occasions has had dinner organized so that by the time I shut down my lap top I did not have to enter my kitchen.

Mental activity is about as taxing as physical activity. Working from home does not mean that the person is having a holiday. Stressing them out by dumping extra domestic work on them,  completely defeats the benefit that they get out of this option. And yes, I would strongly encourage men to opt for this option and share the household work too as they might expect their work from home wives to do. With regard to self employed professionals,  whether men or women it is imperative they maintain  the required discipline by ensuring that home responsibilities do not spill into professional ones even if the office is within the house. It might come with an additional cost but that has to be factored into their professional service fee!. 


So the next time you hear about someone working from home, please do not say “How lucky!” and drop in for a chat. Their time is about as precious as yours. It is just that their work space is different.  




Wednesday, July 29, 2015 7 comments

What we do not teach our children



It has been nearly a month since our daughter joined college. She lives in another town now, in a college hostel within her campus and we, her parents are slowly coming to terms with her absence from our day to day lives. We (or maybe I) mostly spend our (my) time wondering how she is coping at her end . We do realize that at seventeen she is not a child but a semi adult ! I sometimes feel, that in itself might be something that I should worry about….  
 
One of the things that we parents in India tend to do, is to treat our children like kids all the time. While we do train them in managing their academics and their daily routine, what we probably do not do is to help them take decisions.

Decisions…. you ask? What great decisions does a teenager have to make? And anyway, what does a teenager know about life to make decisions? Aren’t we  here as “experienced” adults to “help” them take decisions or make choices about their lives. But what we do not realize is that there  is a difference between guiding / talking to a teen about decisions and making those decisions for them.

We tell our children what subjects to choose for study, what extra curricular activities to take part in , which college to join and later what career to opt for! The more conservative parents do this in an authoritarian manner while the “democratic” ones subtly influence the child to do their bidding.

While the major decisions that any teenager might make, is usually presumed to be around their academics, what we fail to realize is that decision making also includes a number of  other spheres- a major one being their ability to manage relationships outside of their immediate family. These relationships might be friendships or may be something beyond that.

Teenage friendships tend to be a bit complicated. One cannot always monitor them by asking our children to “bring your friend home”. There are some parents who take this “monitoring” to a completely new level where they decide for their child who they should interact with- who is suitable and who isn’t. However, these are not decisions that we can impose on our child. The child has to understand who is a good friend and who isn’t by experiencing both loyalties and betrayals. It is heart wrenching to see them deal with a betrayal but that is not the time to tell them “ I told you so” It is a lesson that they will never forget . Give them a couple of such experiences and we will have an adult who would be a fairly good judge of people. They would also learn how to deal with such people in their lives.

But friends and their betrayals are probably easier to deal with, when compared to a “romantic” relationship- the worst nightmare of an Indian parent!!!  What would happen to their academics? What if the relationship becomes physical? What if they elope and get married? Yes, these are fears that all of us have as parents where romantic relationships are concerned.

We usually try to preempt it by denying them opportunities for interaction with the opposite sex! There are some Colleges of Engineering around Chennai that are experts on these “preventive aspects”. Despite the fact that as parents some of us talk about wanting to be our child’s friend, this is one area that we are distinctly uncomfortable, talking to our child.

Let me make this clear, this is not about sex education alone. Managing a relationship with the opposite sex is something else altogether. .! And God forbid if our child is undergoing some confusion regarding their sexual orientation … I doubt how many of us would be able to  handle that.. !

While hormones might be a key player in attraction, there are also other factors to be considered. Our children are on their way to becoming men/ women and they are trying to experience their masculinity / femininity by getting into a relationship. Having a boyfriend/ girl friend also helps them develop a positive self image especially if they are in a peer group where being attractive to the opposite sex is an important criteria for membership.

However, what I think a teenager or a young adult might find difficult to handle is the extent to which they are going to let another person of the opposite sex determine their self image. A girl who is “popular” with boys generally develops confidence that is way above another who might not be. So, how does this girl who lacks in confidence deal with it? And the “popular” girl – how is she going to deal with competition in the popularity charts? I suppose the same might be true of boys too.

These are issues that our children face  but do not know how to articulate.  Despite being parents who are “open” with our children, they might not know whether or how to talk to us about it. The reason being, we have never discussed these issues with them. We have told our daughters to be “careful” of boys and our sons to stay focused on their studies and not get “distracted” by girls.

So teens try to understand about love and relationship with the opposite sex through books and cinema. And this is where all the problems that we read about stem from…!!

If we watch any Indian movie, what passes for “wooing” of a girl is actually harassment. It is  usually understood as “girls say no because they are too coy to say yes”!! Is it therefore any wonder that there are so many cases of boys stalking girls, sending them messages or trying to physically assault them? To most of them, it might be an exercise in “courtship”!

And then there are girls who are also taken in by all the attention that comes their way thanks to the stalking ( both physical and cyber). It makes them feel like a star.

But it is not right to blame the movies alone for perpetuating such behavior. I think we as parents have also failed in telling our children what a relationship is all about. Instead of denying them opportunities to interact with the opposite sex, we can talk to them about romance and love, telling them what a healthy relationship is all about, how respect should form an integral part of such relationships and how to accept disappointment if feelings are not reciprocated by the person they are interested in.  Our teenagers also need to know how to handle a “break up”. If we can get them to talk about what they are going through should such a thing happen to them, it would prevent a lot of suicides and acid throwing incidents.

While talking is one aspect of the exercise in parenting a teen, there is also the observation part of it that we should keep in mind. Children learn a lot about relationships by watching how the people ( especially parents) around them deal with it. A son who watches his father speak to his mother without respect will find it difficult to learn to respect women. A girl who sees her mother treated with respect by her father will usually not get into a relationship with a controlling or manipulative boy.

Our children are facing way more complicated situations around their lives than we did when we were younger. In a society that is slowly moving out of the traditional arranged marriage situation, children have to learn to identify a person who would help them build a strong and happy relationship. While there is always the distracting influence of looks and charm, our children should be able to identify what makes a person outside of that.  This is a challenge that they have to deal with, because it comes only through trial and error.

As parents I think one of the things we need to learn ( and it is difficult)  is to get our teenagers to talk us about things without getting judgmental or shocked. And then there are “helicopter moms” like me who need to stop hovering around their child, watching them deal with a situation and holding themselves back from wanting to butt in and solve it for them. The physical distance with my child has been helpful in that sense. I am learning to render assistance only when requested.

It is not always the child who is growing up with each birthday. It is also we parents who are growing and (hopefully) learning. As a parent I am only seventeen years old though as an adult I am much older. Each stage in our child’s life brings in new parenting requirements. The crux of good parenting I suppose is to try and understand it well and provide the support required.
 
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