THE TONGUE THAT SPEAKS THE HEART

Language is the vehicle of expression and the heart is best expressed in one’s mother tongue. When we are talking of mother tongue, we need to carefully understand what it connotes. According to UNESCO, India is the ninth most linguistically diverse country of the world, Papua New Guinea being the first with 840 spoken and 12 extinct languages. The Indian Constitution recognizes 22 major languages, written in 13 different scripts, with over 720 dialects! Quite understandably, India doesn’t have a national language. However, Hindi (which is spoken by a majority of Indians – especially in the North, North West, and Central zones) and English (which is considered to be a common medium) are the official languages of India.

The vast diversity of languages read, written and spoken in 29 States and 7 Union Territories, make India a multi-lingual diversity along its length and breadth. The country has seen zealots strive to preserve the linguistic identity of their respective regions with their sweat and blood. With increasing cultural exchange and migration, people have developed a tendency to learn new languages. While this is welcome, it is also essential to preserve one’s parent language.

In 2010, with the death of the last Bo person, the Bo language spoken in parts of Andaman Islands became extinct. A language erased from the face of the earth! The scripts of the Indus Valley Civilization have not been able to be deciphered till date because it has not been possible to decode the codes that the people of that time used. The detailed history of an entire civilization remains a mystery, apart from what has trickled out of the painstaking research of some historians!

If we wish to see the diversity of languages along with the rich foliage of culture and ethnicity survive the tempests of the centuries, we need to ensure that they percolate down the generations. ‘Mother tongue’ has been so labelled because the developing foetus in the mother’s womb starts learning to recognize the sounds and speech patterns of the mother’s voice and is able to differentiate the mother’s sounds and other sounds after birth. That’s why you must have observed babies stop crying as soon as they hear their mother’s voice, no matter how desperately others would be trying to pacify it.  

In a multi-lingual country like India, passing the mother-tongue down the generations is a big challenge in the present day, especially with too many interstate and cross-national marriages seeing the light of the day. And so, either the couples decide to use a common medium of communication or get into frequent conflicts. I have heard of many such couples arrive at the verge of a divorce just because each of them want their children to learn to communicate in his/her mother-tongue. These are critical cases – with the issue in question being seemingly trivial but having serious ramifications.

The human brain is wired to receive, process and learn multiple languages during the stage of language development. The more the number of languages acquired by a child, the more cognitively flexible s/he turns out to be. The ideal time for training in multiple languages, wherever desirable, are the very early years of life. 

While it is a drawback to stick only to one’s vernacular, its a handicap of similar nature to learn unifying/common languages without knowing one’s mother tongue well.

In the present world scenario, in a diverse country like India, in my opinion, children need to be taught three languages – regional language according to the State they belong, Hindi – which is a unifying language within the country and a language for international communication. No matter how globalized the world becomes, the tongue that speaks the heart expresses the best!

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APOLOGISE IF YOU HAVE ERRED

A world where no one commits mistakes, a world where no one hurts anyone or is hurt by anyone, a world where everything that is right is done – what an easy world that would be! A perfect world! A utopian wish, indeed! The world in which we live is anything but close to it. Because we are imperfect living beings in this world, we are bound to falter. Hence, the need to apologize.

A FEW MYTHS THAT NEED BUSTING

  • MYTH: Strive to please everyone. Then you will not have to apologise.

This is far from the truth. The needs, personalities and values of every individual are different. And so, there is almost always a gap between desirable behaviour and real behaviour. An old aged man may want you to sit by his bedside all day long. A six-year-old may want you to play with her as she sets up her dollhouse. Your boss may want you to work overtime everyday without extra pay. In all such circumstances if one strives to please all others, then s/he will end up fighting the guilt pangs and apologising to one’s own self. The truth is that you can never please everyone. It comes with costs. So, there is a need to apologise.

  • MYTH: Apologising would only make you look small in the eyes of others.

Apologising never makes one look small in the eyes of sensible others. It takes a person of pure and courageous heart to admit one’s mistake and apologise. It lifts off the heavy burden from the heart. Rendering an apology helps earn respect. Of course, there will always be people who don’t think much of an apology and one may feel a loss of one’s self-esteem apologising to such people. Nevertheless, it builds a reputation for oneself as an honest apologiser.

  • MYTH: You must apologise only to those elder to you in age or higher than you in authority.

This is a mere carry-over effect of conventional thought patterns of the yesteryears. Younger ones are at times made to apologise to older adults, while adults never think it amiss to commit the same mistakes. This creates a wrong precedence. Apologising to those younger in age or to subordinates sets up an example for them to follow. When children experience parents apologising to them, they learn to do the same. When couples apologise to each other, it removes hidden barriers and makes way for closer bonding.

  • MYTH: Cowards apologise for fear of consequences. The brave don’t budge.

Well actually, its the other way round. The brave step forward to admit their mistakes and apologise even at the cost of ridicule or punishment. Don’t you think it would take courage to own up one’s wrong and say, “I have done it”? People who don’t apologise are the ones who can’t dare to face the truth about themselves or are apprehensive to pay the price that would come as a result of owning up.

  • MYTH: Once you apologise or are apologised to, the relationship is restored.

While it is true that accepting the apology of someone or apologising to someone smoothens the creases, it does not necessarily restore the existing relationship. Restoration takes hard work. It may not happen at times because one or more of among those involved are unwilling. However, an apology rendered and an apology accepted make relationships at least tolerable.

THE LANGUAGE OF APOLOGY

One may apologise in person, verbally or send a letter of apology if the offended person is staying far away. Also, it is important to note that – apology has to be to God and to the offended person. At times it is easier to confess and apologise to God than look the offended person in the eye and beg pardon. However, it is necessary.

For an apology to be complete, the apology rendered by one has to be accepted by the other. In other words, when forgiveness by the offended follows an apology from the offender, the apology is complete.

However, this doesn’t always happen. At times, simply saying ‘Sorry’ is not enough. Take for example, a person who has been reprimanded by his boss for reporting late to office. If he apologises and continues to come late everyday, there is no way the boss can accept his apology. An apology has to be followed up by corrective action to be effective. The person in the example has to report on time every day so that he rectifies his errant behaviour.

Another example – A woman in an extramarital relationship owns up before her husband and begs his forgiveness. Simply saying, ‘I am sorry, I cheated on you’ is not the end of the apology. It has to be followed by an open discussion on the whole issue and what corrective measures she/they need to take to restore their relationship.

Difficulties in apologising arise because of –

  • People are unable to apologise because of a sense of self-worth. Apologising releases oneself from the burden of guilt.
  • At times people admit and apologise, but are hesitant to discuss the whole thing at length. This leaves behind unanswered questions and creates enough room for misunderstandings to trickle in. An open discussion at the cost of being uncomfortable gives the much-needed closure to the errant episode.
  • Many people do not apologise because they fear rejection. However, continuing a relationship with a false base of trust is not a solid foundation for a lasting relationship.
  • People do not apologise because they don’t want to accept responsibility. It is easy to shift the blame to someone else rather than point one’s finger to self. Learning to say ‘I am/was wrong’ shows the maturity of character.

We not only need to apologise but also need to forgive those who apologise to us without carrying a grudge on others. Our Creator God continues to forgive us each day. We need to forgive because we are forgiven.

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – THE BIBLE

FREEDOM SANS RESPONSIBILITY = MISUSED FREEDOM

When little Mercy was not allowed to enter the kitchen or step out of doors without either of her parents accompanying her, she felt caged. A precocious child with just six years of experience on planet earth, she failed to understand why her ‘freedom’ was curtailed. She shared with her Diary Pal how she wished to be free!

Neha was a new bride. Transition from a nuclear family of four to an extended household of twelve hasn’t been easy for her. With the burden of household work and practically no me-time, she wished she could be free.

Jimmy hated his schedule. Wake up early in the morning and exercise before school, heaps of assignments to complete after school, tuitions for helping raise his grades that have been spiraling downwards of late, prepare for periodic tests and sleep off. No time to play or watch TV. To top it all, his mobile has been confiscated by his well-meaning father. At fourteen, Jimmy craves for freedom.

We all have such Mercys, Nehas and Jimmys within us and around us. Oh to have the wings of a bird and fly freely in the sky! But, how do we respond when given such freedom? Freedom is treasured by those who know its worth. It is misused by people who do not value it.

In this article, I’ll focus on the flip side of freedom in relationships.

1. Taken for granted – Shackles are mere objects as many others that one sees around, unless used to bind a person. A shackled person knows the value of freedom like no other. For a person who has never been shackled, freedom doesn’t connote much. As a result there is not much accountability for overt behaviour – be it words or actions. Bonded labourers in faraway lands, treasure freedom when released because once upon a time their freedom was highly elusive. Freedom in relationships is often misused when it is taken for granted. Every relationship is governed by certain unspoken rules of life (besides the clearly charted out ones). These territories of unspoken jurisdiction are the ones which are taken for granted.

The very next day of marriage, the husband decides to make two cups of morning tea for himself and his new bride. This morning routine goes on for days, after which comes a day that he is taken sick. Now if the wife comes back from her morning walk and throws tantrums on not getting her cup of tea, this is precisely a ‘taken for granted’ attitude. Doesn’t this happen often?

2. Lies and Deceit – When freedom comes easy, lies and deceit creep in subtly untaught. Often such lying and deceit go unnoticed till there is a full-blown problem at hand.

A child is given INR 100 to buy certain essentials that the mother requires. On returning, he gives the account of the amount spent and says that he has dropped the remaining amount in the donation box kept in the shop to help an NGO that takes care of orphans. He scores brownie points before his mother for his act of compassion, while in reality he has pocketed the change as a saving for his piggy bank. Another young girl permitted by her parents to spend a night to study with her female friend just before exams, sneaks out to spend the night in her boyfriend’s apartment.

3. Indulgence – Well, this is essentially a foot in the door technique! A little freedom initially emboldens one for more freedom either with permission or with coercion and compulsion. This is a common predicament of the parents of many teenagers, among others. Let me cite a true incident of a young couple who had come to me for Counseling.

A lovestruck couple married young, when both were 21 years of age. After the initial craze of being with each other wore off, the husband felt that he didn’t want to be tied down. He wanted to spend time with his friends (who were of course still studying in college!). The thoughtful wife didn’t throw any tantrums and let her husband have some free time without her. Gradually, those one or two hours of being with friends increased to whole evenings and at times even to night outs, thus annoying the wife. They celebrated their first marriage anniversary with a newborn in their arms. Still the husband’s evening outings and night outs continued. They had their second child two years later. Yet, no change in the young husband’s behaviour and a resultant friction between the couple! A little well-intended freedom created enough room for irresponsible behaviour.

4. Indiscipline – High levels of permissiveness leave no room for accountability. Hence, certain behavioural patterns ensue, sans accountability. Lets consider the common sleep-wake schedules. Without the help of an alarm or a loved one to wake up, most people would end up waking at mid-day. And without a self-check or being prodded by someone to go to bed on time, most people would end up sleeping earlier or later than required and thus would have a chaotic next day at work. Perks of limitless freedom!

In parenting, permissiveness is known for very few guidelines and rules coupled with fulfilling of all the demands of children sans accountability. Thus, children of permissive parents end up exhibiting the same behaviour as adults in their personal relationships and at their workplaces. A couple who have the laissez-faire approach to life are likely to end up with deep resentment for each other within a short span of time simply because their freedom has created inroads to several unwanted guests like anger, jealousy, lack of schedule, etc.

The above four discussed ways of misusing freedom do not in anyway advocate against freedom in relationships. Freedom with responsibility is the freedom that is enjoyed best. Freedom sans boundaries leaves the gateway open for several intruders to invade into our lives and create unwanted pandemonium. After all, not all things that are permissible are beneficial.

The Bible says –

“I have the right to do anything . . . but not everything is beneficial. I have the right to do anything . . . but not everything is constructive.”

A COUNSELING ROBOT

Rashmi, Sophia,  Ursula, Topio, Nao, Enon and Atlas are proud to belong to the same fraternity. They are miles apart from each other and have never got the opportunity to interact. But, all of them are quite skilful in their jobs and have earned much name and fame. They are, however, highly achievement-oriented and strive hard to improve their skills with each passing day. Though they are unaware of each other’s existence, someday they are sure to share the stage – maybe hold hands and proudly wave at the world flashing beaming smiles with glistening teeth to the thunderous applause of us all.

Well, if you haven’t been able to figure out the identities of those mentioned above, they are Humanoid Robots. They have human looks with a head, a torso, two hands and two legs and are programmed for higher order functioning like problem solving, decision making, identifying emotions, etc. – just as human beings do. Their programmers are thrilled at the success of these robots programmed with Artificial Intelligence.

In fact, the humanoid NAO robot has given its first interactive motivational interview few months back, thus making psychologists think if robots could be Counselors! Participants who attended the session in the University of Plymouth were very satisfied with the experience as NAO was very patient, didn’t interrupt in between and was non-judgmental. Well, aren’t these skills supposed to be some of the defining characteristics of Counselors! Tough competition awaits ahead, Counselors!!

As of today, there still are people (mostly in traditional cultures) who are not open to seeking Counseling for the problems they face. They prefer to whine away to death than to be helped to revive and blossom. In a country like India, we encounter lots of denials and hesitation to seek professional help for fear of social taboo, elders-know-best attitude and the deep-rooted understanding that dirty linen should never be taken outdoors. Though people in metro cities are becoming marginally aware and open to Counseling and Counselors are having their presence felt, people in other parts of the country are still not open to the whole idea.

In such a mixed world order, enter Humanoid Robots promising to be good and effective Counselors! One never knows – it may actually help. After all, for some it is easier ventilating before a machine than before a human. No risk of judgmental statements, no risk of leakage of information shared, patient uninterrupted hearing and encouraging suggestions in return. There may soon even be a hug, a pat and a wiping off of tears! All in place. Excellent!

Everything said and done, it is for humans to ponder if it is worth trading life and blood for lifeless ease. We are increasingly progressing into a world of clicks and commands, start-ups and profits, lure of comforts and the attraction of products – all from one’s own living room. Not identifying with technology is perhaps something that is limited to very few geographic pockets of the world today. With such seemingly all-pervasive technological tentacles, the fear of fading human warmth looms large. As such, people need to be encouraged to be sensitive to the emotions of others, to be understanding, etc. etc. And now with the advent of Humanoid Counselors, humans are soon expected to be aliens to their own emotions.

 If you’ve watched Home Alone 4, you wouldn’t have missed observing how Natalie’s luxurious mansion functioned! Remote-controlled doors that open and close with the commands Door Open and Door Close respectively,  a rotating library that turns 180 degrees to expose a bar at the command Open Sesame, cleaning done with the commands Vacuum On and Vacuum Off are the operational features of the mansion. And how happy Kevin, the kiddo is, to have a room full of large screen games of different types! Soon however, he misses the presence of his mom, dad and siblings.

Technology sure does ease man’s labour! Lifeless technology though promises to make life comfortable and liveable, would be a poor replacement to life and blood. We may have Humanoid Counselors, Humanoid parents to supervise children, Humanoid teachers in classrooms and so on, but it sure is a dangerous trade.

There is no escape to the advent of robots and Robotics. The present generation of school-goers find all things manual to be dull, drab and monotonous. Technology allures. Mechanics entice. With pre-teens and teens engrossed in robotics today, the future is bright for a world largely operated by robots.

However as of today, I find it unimaginable for me to have to share my heartaches with a Humanoid Counselor and expect human solutions from an object who has never been human. I would freak out if I were led to a Counseling room to find a robot on the chair as my helper. But, then this leap is on the cards for sure. A few decades before, people commuting to different countries in ships didn’t imagine that airplanes would be the order of the day decades later. And we humans are quick to adopt ease and adapt to it. The younger generation of tomorrow would gladly welcome robot friends and would not wince a bit to discard human aid.

There is no escaping to Robotics. However, till we can, lets strive to keep our humanness intact and encourage others to live up to be the humans they were created in the very first place. Because, when man fiddles with humanity itself, God steps out in His own way to show who truly is the one in control!

GUIDELINES FOR LOVE – ARE THERE ANY?

To love and to be in love with ‘that someone special’ is wonderful. However, ‘love’, I believe has been the most grossly misunderstood and misused word over the ages. Sounds quite blunt, right?

In this article, we are not going into the intricacies of how ‘love’ has been misunderstood and misused. This article is about identifying and living out ‘love’ – more specifically romantic love – in reality.

Pre-teen and teen hearts often flutter with words like love, crush, boyfriend, girlfriend, kiss, date and more such terms found in the league. Rightly so! Pre-hormonal and hormonal bodies tune up the mind and activate the neurotransmitters for higher order human functioning, which includes romantic love.

Love is differently coloured in different societies, though it is experienced by all. In open-cultured societies, the identification and expression of love is encouraged. Whereas, in conservative societies, love often goes unidentified and unexpressed in the absence of appropriate articulation.

Well, times are changing and the world is rapidly turning into a huge global village with an impressive amalgamation of cultures, cuisines and couture. And, it doesn’t take much time for young minds and hearts to blend irrespective of certain externally evident differences. Herein lies the catch!

Firstly, do young people today perceive love with the eyes of the media – romance as portrayed in movies, daily soaps, videos or do they really have an understanding of what love is? Sadly, most youngsters label the fluttering feelings within themselves for another person, as love and that is how they embark on an extremely dangerous emotional roller-coaster ride. Love is a state of being; not a mere feeling. Love is not a feeling; it gives rise to certain feelings and emotions. Once this is understood, the mind steers the ship in the right direction. Hence, it turns out to be worth the wait.

Secondly, do young people decide to be in a love relationship for their own sakes or for the sake of their families or society at large? While, this may seem to be a non-issue in open societies, this sure is an important consideration in conservative close-cultured societies – where families and communities play a dominant part in partner selection. In such settings, love is all hush-hush, spoken with low voices and raised eyebrows and feelings of guilt heaped upon the ‘dared-to-have-loved’ people. Hence, it is important that youngsters gain clarity in this regard before they move ahead.

A word for parents

Irrespective of culture, it is important that people are exposed to the right messages and the right role models. Along with providing food, clothing and shelter, it is also a huge responsibility on the part of parents and elders to impart the essential information regarding love life to their children. None can deny that we’ve all been through such phases of lives ourselves. But, few of us were blessed enough to have been able to discuss such issues with parents. As a result, some ended up being confused, some suppressed love, some committed blunders, and some even gave up their lives! Hence, a word for parents and guardians – do be open enough to talk, discuss, understand and guide (not merely lecture) your pre-teens and teens regarding their impending love life while assuring that you are with them, should they mess up anytime.

A word for young people

People in love or waiting to enter into such a blissful phase need to observe, observe and observe. Observe the person you feel drawn towards and observe your own continued state of mind before you commit into a relationship. And once you commit, stay committed despite all odds unless of course, you realize that there is something that won’t stand the test of times. Love is neither a one-night-stand nor a bet to be won. It can neither develop on coercion nor sustain itself by repeated blind experimentation. It takes hard work, but it sure is worth it all.

A Shakespearean sonnet that I had been taught in my undergraduate class, titled ‘True Love’ is worth mentioning in this article. It speaks of the stability of love amidst tempests and changing times. If love changes, then it was never love in the first place. The sonnet reads thus –

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments; love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:

O, no, it is an ever-fixèd mark,

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wand’ring bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his heighth be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

A world rich in love and blossoming lasting relationships is definitely a world worth looking forward to!

TRIUMPH IN FAILURE

 

Wings, I had wings

To soar high without any attached strings.

 

Dreams, I had dreams

To be the cream in the midst of creams.

 

Goals, I had goals

To touch many parched souls.

 

Ways, I knew the ways

To move on ahead along the coasts and the bays.

 

Steered, through every winding road I steered

No hill, valley or desert I ever feared.

 

Pinnacle, yes my aim was the pinnacle

To reach there, I needed a miracle.

 

Efforts, I put in hard and smart efforts

And I was offered all available supports.

 

Changes, alas there arose changes

In the contours of life’s ranges.

 

Questions, many questions

Gripped at all times the head and heart.

 

Faith, in God strong faith

Was the anchor while the river was in full spate.

 

Alone, never did I feel alone

Remembering always that God is still on the throne.

 

Own, never would He forsake His own

In hopelessness I would never bemoan.

 

Shine, for His grace shall on me shine

And not let me sorrowfully whine.

 

Hope, indeed I have a blessed hope

That I would in darkness never grope.

 

Victory, awaits me sweet victory

To bring an end to this journey’s story.

YOUR THINGS AND YOU

Ever clung to that old rugged jacket of yours every year when it was time for the annual disposal of ‘things you know you would never use again’? Or an old pair of shoes or that grand old wristwatch of years before?

You are not alone!

Yes, most of us are attached to things in our lives that we don’t wish to part with. Though the phenomenon of attachment as such starts from the pre-natal stage itself (attachment with the mother), in this article I am focussing on attachment with inanimate objects.

Many of us wouldn’t have paid a serious thought to this aspect of our lives. Maybe we have considered it too casual to spare a thought about it. But, actions spell more than mere overt behaviour.

Let’s explore some of the reasons for attachment to inanimate objects.

Memories – I treasure things that I receive from people, irrespective of how low or how high the price tag may read. Those things may be mere showpieces or objects of utility. And, I have a tough time discarding such things after a while. Even things like bookmarks, calendars, those small handmade greeting cards exchanged in school days – are my treasures. They bring a smile to my face. The reason why I consider them priceless and of more value than expensive or branded stuff is the memory of the person or situation attached to it.

On my study table sits a table-clock worth INR 30. It was gifted on my birthday almost twelve to thirteen years ago during my undergraduate studies by a  batchmate. It is precious to me! The reason being that the giver came from a not-so-well-off economic background where even sparing INR 30 would have meant that she cut some of her personal expenses. Though I have the means to buy a better-looking table-clock to adorn my table, I won’t be going in for a replacement.

Memories make us hold on to things. Letting go of certain things would mean discarding the memories attached to them.

Emotions – Inanimate objects, though lack the ability to elicit emotions, have emotions attached with them. This is probably why the first thing that most couples do after a break-up is to return the gifts received during the phase of a relationship. Certain objects make us cry, while certain others make us laugh. For some people, there are things that remind them of an injustice done and so they seem to have a sense of attachment to such objects to keep alive the emotions associated with the wrongdoing.

Security – We must have come across children holding onto their stuffed toys while sleeping. Some children carry their toys with them at all points of time. For children, this attachment is a sense of security. Though all children show this behaviour, it is seen more in children belonging to single-parent families, families where both parents are employed and are not able to spend much time with their children, families having an air of tension at all times and in autistic children. Attachment to a toy or a pillow gives a sense of comfort and security to the tender minds. However, if such a thing is observed in adults, it’s time for therapeutic intervention.

Obsession – Obsessive attachment means showing an irrational fondness for an object. Obsession over things leads to mindless hoarding – especially when there are multiple things that one is obsessed about. Obsessive attachment with things goes beyond a simple desire to possess. It is a subtle indicator of an underlying trait of selfishness, covetousness and a desire to flaunt. If any possession of yours is lying unused completely out of the radar of your memory for more than five years, it’s time for you to let go of it. If you have not remembered it being with you all five years, means there are less chances that you actually need it.

Attachment for inanimate things may be because of any reason. But, the bottom line is that there is an earthly tug in most of us. Knowing and reminding ourselves that all matter is transitory and that we humans are mere sojourners on planet earth is something that would help us shed the pull of material attachment to things and turn our focus to concerns of a higher order.

“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” – The Bible