STOP… DON’T PUT THEM IN A PRESSURE COOKER…

Today it was my children’s open day. The day when the parents meet the teachers and get to see the answer sheets and report cards. Meeting the teachers was very pleasant experience. But it was meeting the other mothers later that got me thinking.

I met a mother and son duo. Mother was very anxious to know what is the percentage of marks scored by the topper in the class. Is it 94% or 96%? She was really upset that her child does not study and how she gets a headache and falls ill with stress whenever the kid’s exams are near. You know the boy had a Vice-Captain batch pinned on and his marks were 92%. I mean instead of praising his achievements his mother was ranting because he was not the topper.

Another boy scored a good percentage but they were waiting outside the principal’s cabin to meet and complain about the English Teacher and how because of the teacher her son’s marks were going down. There was so much stress on the boy’s face it was evident that he did not want to meet the principal but mother was adamant.

It’s not only in studies I have seen similar instances in sports also.

One of my friend’s children play golf at amateur level. Through her I have heard a lot of stories about how parents try to bribe the caddies to fiddle with the performance rating and bring their children on the top. Or how they berate their children in public if they don’t perform well on a particular day.

Why do we parents forget our own time as kids? Were we best in everything we did? Did we come up to our parents expectations? Or even if we thing we were toppers throughout our life, our child is a different individual living in different times. The kind of pressure on the children these days to perform is so tremendous. We parents try to live our own dreams through our children.

Recently there was a news headline on how a child of class 11 killed another child of class 4 just because he wanted to postpone or cancel the exams and open day. Can you imagine how desperate the boy was? He found killing someone more doable than facing an exam or his parents after the report card was given.

Most of us who are reading this article would think that yes this happens but not with me and my children. I don’t compare or pressurise my children. If you are thinking on those lines then maybe you are right but still I request you to look around. Sit down and communicate with your child. Let him or her know that whatever happens his parents are there by his side.

And do look out for warning signals. Today I saw one. My son scored very badly in his maths exam this time. The answer sheets were shown to the kids at school but he conveniently forgot to tell me the marks. Today in school when I saw his answer sheet it was a shocker for me. I was filled with rage. But then I realized that his low score did not hurt me that much. With a little more practice he can come up again. What pinched me was the fact that my son did not come and tell me his marks. Maybe it’s time for me to “Practice what I Preach”.

So guys keep learning new ideas, new tricks and keep checking whether you are on the right track. Happy Parenting…

OVERLOOKING NAKED TRUTHS…

“My pocket can afford it…”

With the advent of 21st century we have entered into the Global market of availability, everything can be home delivered. It’s just a mile away from us… all that is required is – ‘Can your pocket afford it?’

Oh, I thought it’s Christmas light!
No Problem, how much I need to pay Mr. Cop?

My son’s rash driving broke your Sabji (vegetable) trolley!
No Problem, How much money do you want?

I am conceived!
No Problem, What’s your cost?

“Compare money to Repair” has become the trend of our day.

In a couple of lectures Dr. Ravi Zacharias quotes this story:

“A rich business man boards his flight and sat beside a beautiful lady. In a short while they started introducing each other. After sometime the rich man asked the lady, I want you for tonight….what’s your cost? I can pay you 100 dollars.

The lady stared at him and kept quite. As the flight was about to land, the lady said, “It will be my pleasure to be with you tonight, but I don’t want 100 dollars, I am okay with 10 dollars. The rich man with high tone said, “What do you think about me? Do you know who I am?”

The lady smiled and replied, “Cool down man… We know who we are!

We are just haggling over the price!”

In the craze of “money matters” we are over-looking a NAKED TRUTH – People look at us the same way we look at them. There’s no difference!

The Bible says,
“A good name is more desirable than great riches;
to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.”

“Let’s have the last night tonight…”

I love to spend late evening hours with couple of my good friends over phone calls or chat and often our discussions are based on the topic that pours-out our hearts. We counsel – analyze – comment and exchange ideas. In recent times we were continuously puzzled by some of the real life stories. Most of them gave us the foot note – “Let’s have the last night tonight…”

Relationships have become wardrobe room stories – “I have lost weight; it no longer fits on me. Let me exchange with another one…”

Where do we find 1000 excuses that just make us feel good and look good?
How a beloved can become an unknown person with the dawn of a new day?
In the craze of “feel good and look good” we are over-looking a NAKED TRUTH – There’s a Pay day Someday. None gets free lunch!

The Bible says,
“For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden things,
whether it is good or evil.”

Let’s take the crux of both of the Bible verses as our footnote –

“How do we live TODAY?”

Keep thinking…

ARE THEY, BETTER THAN ME???

Growing up with this question in mind wasn’t too easy for me. I was so absorbed in inferiority complex then, that I used to assess myself in every other situation. The most promising problem for me, that still stands, is comparison. I absolutely hate being compared by others and comparing my ownself to others. Even though, at times, I do the later. If I had to cope with the comparison, then it would have been a little easy. But, with comparison came pressure. Pressure of living up to the expectations of your family, relatives, society as well as friends. I would love to elaborate a little and would make my deepest feelings known to all.

Comparison of health: in this judgemental, small world, I grew up to be a fat girl. I was constantly bullied by peers and elders of our society because of my health and looks. I was constantly reminded that I was never born to eat my favorite food to my hearts content, drink my favorite drinks, as they would make me more fat, dance as it would break the floor, run as it might start an earthquake, wear jeans as all fats would be visible to the world. I was told to hide my body under big loose clothes, eat less food, drink lukewarm water, never to dance or play. Elders of the society (middle aged) named me baby elephant, hippo, big fat hen and some would cutely call me panda. At times, I felt my parents were secretly ashamed of me. Even for them, it was heart wrenching to hear such things. Moreover, comparison of my health to the thinnest one in the family, made me more uncomfortable. it also affected our relationship. Stress and pressure of being presentable and acceptable to the society took my happiness and it still manages to scare me.

Comparing grades: I am a proud member of an intelligent family, but somehow the genes have spared me. They were too busy making me fat that they forgot to code some intelligence. My 10th and 12th grades were horrifying as I was asked to follow my cousins who were more brainy than I. Even in my dreams I would see myself being ridiculed for not getting good grades. My cousins weren’t the ones comparing but the elders were. They did not understand the burden of it. They didn’t understand that I have particular set of qualities which might not match the skill set of my cousins. Anxiety, fear of exams, fear of being pointed out as stupid, fear of failing engulfed me and I drowned in its waves.

Comparing friendship: Are you a good friend? If you have ever been with a group of friends with strong personalities you will understand this. Everyday is a struggle to prove your friendship is true to all of them. At times you might do something that might please one, but not others or vice versa. in such situations, I lost many friends. There were times they would ask me, “I wouldn’t have done that, why did you?”. Many times I was held responsible for things I never did. But one thing that I learnt is that, no matter what, a true friend who knows you in and out will always be with you. They might not agree or support you, but they will remain in your life always. Maybe other are better friends than me, but I still try to be a good one.

Comparing the looks: I am not beautiful, neither am I ugly. It is how God has created me and it is what will be. Looks are so over-rated, well I feel so. Just because, people always favor the beautiful. No matter how good you are at your work, or how precise and perfect you were when you finished the work, or you were the only one who worked for the entire thing, but the name that comes first would be theirs. Its a natural tendency to bend towards the more beautiful ones. I have seen people ignore the ones who love them with all they have, for a good looking person, not so beautiful at heart. Not every good looking person ha a bad heart. Not every average person, is a good human. Still looks take the upper hand. People do not trust people who look average or below. For me, because of my looks, people said, “my!! who will marry you?” For them, my marriage was a shocker.

Comparison of being a type of human: As you have read in one of the article, we have our own way of thinking how the other person should be and how he should love his life. Any deviation makes that person, a matter of discussion in our household. I have been that person, who was discussed for showing some of her reactions and feelings. As it is said, life is not a bed of roses…. it might be the tinniest of thing, but one wrong makes you a bad person for your entire life. For me, not being diplomatic and not thinking before I speak, landed me into a lot of trouble. But, God has helped me through all that situation and now I am a happy person.

Surviving comparisons, its pressure and demands was never an easy game play. But God did help me through. I guess, in this present scenario, many go through this kind of situations and emotional points in life. Assurance is that, if we really believe in our-self and make our own way through this, we will definitely reach our haven, may be tired but free. There will not be despair, but only hope, for a much brighter future, we can behold.

THINK BEFORE YOU DREAM

Think before you dream!! Do we really need to think before we dream? Does dreaming need careful preplanning? What then would be a dream that requires careful calculations and speculations?

This may seem to be an article with a negative note. But, I chose to write it so as to give a peek into many dreams that are left unrealized. I have seen many dreams shattered simply because things didn’t eventually add up when the time came for the rosy dreams to see the light of the day.

Instance 1

A boy excelling in his studies had lofty dreams of making it big in life – to go abroad for higher studies and fulfill his ambition. He was confident of making it big. When the time came however, he had to give in to emotional pressure from his parents who wanted their son to stay close to them and not go abroad. “We don’t want you to excel, just doing decently in your career is enough for us”, were their very words. There was no space for the dreams and aspirations of the son. The son was torn between two equally vital options – either choose career over parents and live with a lifetime of guilt or choose parents over career and regret not making it big in life. No amount of logic or patient explanation could succeed in persuading his parents. Reluctantly, he had to bow down to his emotional self and chose parents over career. He came to this conclusion that he ought to have dreamed according to his parents’ thought process and not his own – he would not have to live with the regret of unfulfilled lofty dreams, then!

Some may say that the son could have done a better job at convincing his parents, or he may have taken a bold decision of achieving his dreams and then his parents would have been proud enough not to hold a grudge against their son, or some others may say that the son was too emotional. Whatever be our respective opinions – the truth is that such a dilemma is faced by many people around us. Is it then wise to think, measure and calculate before dreaming and aspiring?

Instance 2

(Would be better understood by Indians who are familiar with the age-old caste system)

A young successful professional in her late 20s desperate to marry the love of her life who is successful, of the same religion, of an impeccable character, but of a different caste. Assuming initial hesitation, but eventual acceptance by her parents, she has nurtured her love for twelve long years only to face threats of dire consequences from her own beloved family members, when the time comes for her love to fructify. Threats of mass suicide of family members, murder of the boy and his family, coercing a marriage with a caste member at the earliest, creating ruckus at her workplace – all these make her say in lament, “I should have known my parents mindset well before basking in the bliss of love.” Torn between the dilemma of leaving the one with whom she has dreamed of living and loving together and losing her parents who are ready to kill themselves for the sake of caste honour, she sighs, “I ought to have thought before dreaming!”

Instance 3

A young uneducated woman, widowed in the eighth month of her pregnancy, abandoned by her family, raped on the streets while alone with her baby turns to prostitution to fend for her little one. She dreams of a good future for her son. Years pass by and the little one is now a young educated man. Coming to a knowledge of his mother’s life, he hates her for it. With piercing pain in her heart as she reflects over agonizing years, she says, “I wish I had thought before dreaming of a bright future for my son! It would have been better to have begged on the streets and taught my son the art of begging.”

Some may say that the woman could have chosen some other means of earning money – maybe as a maid or by begging rather than selling herself to a brothel. Some may point at the heartless son. Whatever be the case, this is the untold story of sacrifice of many women. And, it is true.

Instance 4

A mother of two decides to walk out of an abusive relationship so that her children are not exposed to aggression and violence everyday. She dreams of an emotionally healthy environment for her children. She works hard to provide for their needs and wants. She showers the best possible love and affection on them. However, one grows up to be a truant and another a rebel. A Counsellor tells her that these disruptive behavior patterns are largely because of a father-absent family. Tears flowing down her cheeks, the mother sighs, “I ought to have thought before dreaming! Had I put up with the domestic violence, maybe my children would have been well-adjusted with a father still around them!”

What then? Should/can we always think before dreaming? Is it possible? Won’t many of us stop dreaming, then? Are properly planned dreams feasible always? Is it not necessary for people to understand the dreams of others and ensure that they are fulfilled? Do properly planned events become successful always? If not, why are we so reluctant to accommodate the dreams of others?

Worth pondering, for sure!

WHY SARCASM DOES NOT MAKE YOU WITTY

“She’s so fat even a hippo would look slimmer than her.”

“I thought I was looking at a blackhole!”

“Dodos aren’t extinct. I’m looking at one.”

“Looks like the waiter went off to grow those coffee beans.”

And the quintessential Indian snark – “Arey kahan mar gaya?” (Where did you go off to?) Actually, nothing in the English language comes close to translating the anger, frustration and derision in this Hindi idiom that literally means ‘did you die or what’.

When we, at Candles Online, decided that this week would be dedicated to ‘Pour Out’, meaning thereby that we would get an opportunity to rant on anything that our hearts desired, I jumped at the opportunity of writing about Sarcasm and how we seem to confuse it with wit. Well of course, there is a fair bit of wit involved in making a sarcastic comment – you have to know the recipient, you have to select a thorny topic that irks them every time, or would irk anybody in a certain situation, and find a clever way to garb that in a jocular form so no one can call you a meanie on your face. That takes intelligence alright. No wonder sarcastic people are also liked so much because it requires ample presence of mind to make sarcasm work. So, to anybody sarcasm = intelligence. But I don’t see it that way, or don’t see it that way anymore. This article makes a case for why witty sarcasm does not make you intelligent.

All of us, at some point in our lives, have been guilty of using the highlighted statements above, or something similar to that. We may have also been at the receiving end of such statements. After all, it’s so satisfying to dole out smart and wicked barbs at others just for the pleasure of watching them cringe or suffer. Right? But when you were at the receiving end of such barbs, did you ever notice the feelings it generated in you, even if it came from a friend? Did you not feel insulted, ridiculed, angry and disgusted, even if it was only for a fraction of a second? Would you want to feel that way? I don’t think I’ve ever come across a person who likes to feel that way, forever or even just once. Then why do we like to incite such feelings in others, when we ourselves would not like to feel that way?

No, no, don’t try to defend your statements. Don’t try to tell me ‘that person deserved it’ or that ‘it was meant as a joke’.

Sarcasm is never, I repeat, NEVER, a positive thing. Even if it is deserved, or meant as a joke, there is an element of derision present in it. Which is why I said, ‘guilty’ at the start of the paragraph above because it is a guilty pleasure that is purely born out of our contempt for someone or a situation.

Being at both the making and receiving end of sarcasm has taught me just one thing – it’s never welcome. I have been one of those people who would make unwarranted sarcastic comments on people only to watch them cringe, or to look smart. I’ve done that even to friends and at the time I used to think that it was cool, that it showed how intelligent I was. Only when I lost a lot of friends owing to my sarcasm did I learn that it just wasn’t worth it. But by then it was too late. There are some of my acquaintances who I’ve met recently and who were unaware of my changed behaviour, they still dislike me because of how I used to make fun of them. And now it hurts!

But I’ve noticed that it’s become a trend these days to not only make sarcastic comments but encourage them too. While I was at school, it used to be considered cool to say ‘Excused!’ in reply to ‘Excuse me‘, or if someone is clumsy, then remark ‘he was born with a hole in his hand‘ or when you bumped into someone, ‘do you have eyes or buttons’. Even when I joined college, it was not only the same, it was happening even more. Maybe I’d always been this sensitive but it always came as a shock to me how someone could be so blatantly contemptible to others, even to their own friends. Maybe that was the reason why I became that way as well, because I saw it happening around me all the time, but I shouldn’t make excuses for the way I behaved. Watch any television show, especially comedies, and you’ll come across characters like Dr. House who makes blood-boiling sarcastic comments. Yes, we love him but that’s because we are not at the receiving end of those comments, unlike his poor co-workers.

So, we know that sarcasm is not a good thing. But how do I prove that sarcasm does not make you intelligent? I’ll give you an example from my life.

A few weeks ago, while I was dining with some friends, I heard someone in my know remark, “I think she’s gone off to Darjeeling to pluck the tea leaves”, to her boyfriend, about a waitress. This was followed by pointless tittering from both she and her boyfriend, who I could see, liked the way his girlfriend made such ‘smart’ comments (trust me, I know this person very well and she LOVES to make sarcastic comments ALL THE TIME). This incident was the reason why I started to think about why we are encouraging sarcasm so much in our society. It’s a nuisance, admittedly, but its encouraged because it gives us pleasure to inflict pain on others. That sort of behaviour is called sadism. Why are we garbing it as intelligence? Why are we encouraging behaviour that inculcates tolerance to sarcasm? Intelligence does not lie in making fun of someone, especially when that someone is in a position where they cannot answer back. Like the waitress in the above case, or a daughter or son in law, or an employee or servant. If you make a sarcastic comment on people who have the better sense to not answer back, and you know that they can’t answer back, then who is the more intelligent of the two?

Real intelligence lies in knowing when to shut up and when to just ignore a person, even when he deserves sarcasm from you.

So if your friend drops something for the thousandth time, now I think it’s better to just walk away rather than say something sarcastic and hurt our relationship. If you have never known just how much more satisfying it is to just walk away from a sarcastic person, rather than getting down to their ugly level, then I urge you, please try it. It’s difficult at first, but ultimately every bully will learn that his barbs are not working on you. But the main reason why you should not be making sarcastic comments is because it hurts someone and because you would not want to hurt that way. 

I hope that I have convinced you, dear readers, that sarcasm is not a witty thing, it is the opposite of it. It may give you a moment’s pleasure, but in the long run, the real loser is you. I know all of us get tempted to succumb to that sweet pleasure, and maybe every now and then someone may deserve it too, but please don’t make it a habit. You never know when you may be at the receiving end.

 

LABELS DON’T WORK

Human beings have the basic tendency to judge others. It could be anything ranging from introvert, reserved, extrovert, friendly, warm, stubborn, crazy, sensitive etc. Labeling or branding is only an extreme form of judging somebody. What we need to realize is that people have phases in life. When we brand or label a person in a certain way, that person tends to become more of the label. If a 5-yr old starts throwing tantrums to get a toy, world labels the child as stubborn. The child might not know the what stubborn means and what the right behavior is, but he understands that people expect him to throw tantrums and only when he does that, his needs will be met, thus he becomes even more stubborn. This is vicious circle, which can be broken only if we stop labeling others.

I was always labeled as a studious and sincere book worm. It was true to some extent. I had very few friends. I was one of the toppers, used to study late nights. I liked reading books and writing diary.

I wasn’t all that studious and book worm. I was fun when I was with my friends. I used to dance, sing and play. But since I was more sincere about my studies than most of my peers, I was labeled as studious. And once I got this label, I too believed that I am too studious. I started believing that a person like me is not really outdoors and playful. Slowly and gradually I started keeping to myself. Writing my diary, reading books, painting were my only hobbies. Dancing and sports was going out of the picture.

What I felt about being labeled like that is very confusing to me till date. I liked being called studious, because that meant that my parents and my teachers are proud of me. But I also did not like it because it made me an outcast in my own friend circle and the group of my cousins. My peers would look at me like somebody different, someone who is too serious and sincere. My sisters believed that I won’t keep their secrets from elders, since I was so very sincere. There were times when I went out of the way and became complete rebel just to prove that I am not all that sincere and that I am one of them. And when my peers saw me as a rebel, they again rejected me because it did not suit the label that I had. My parents saw that I have changed and they too disapproved of the change, they obviously loved the label that I had.

Labels make a huge difference to children. Their innocent minds believe what the world believes about them. They take energy and inspiration from what world judges them as. That makes it extremely important to make sure that we don’t label our children. If we see them being labeled as something negative, then we should put in some extra effort to make the child not believe that label. It is important to them to understand that there is difference between the way the world perceives them and the way they perceive themselves.

EDUCATION – IS IT REALLY SERVING THE PURPOSE?

I was chatting with my friend few weeks ago. And our conversation shifted from daily routine of our lives to his daughter’s education.  He brought up an important issue that he came across in her school.  The teachers at school expressed their displeasure at the child’s inability to converse in English.  That came across as real shock for the father.  Since the day she was born till she stepped out of her home she was habituated listening to her mother tongue.

So whose fault is it, the parents’ or the child?  Or why it is fault at first place, is my question or rather concern.  English is just a language, isn’t it?  Practice it and master it and for the little kid she is it’s pretty easy.  But the modern education perhaps what we see nowadays is all about the obsession with one language “English”.  So much so  that speaking in English is now being taken as a yardstick of how knowledgeable a person is.

I have been in Belgium for almost nine years now.  One thing incredible that I have seen here is citizens respect for and pride in their language (they have two though 😀). I understand that  English language skills are required to be acquired to be at par on international platform but if any student feels comfortable to communicate in mother tongue when English is not required shouldn’t be looked upon down.  That could shatter his or her confidence beyond repair.

English is s just a language, period!

Change is what we need: I vividly remember one of my professor in college ranting one particular point that generation over generation is lapping yet the syllabus being taught isn’t changing.  It’s same for many decades,  reducing the knowledge gained to a mere piece of paper which we call Degree.  The nature of education system is mostly mechanical that produces graduates year after year who struggle to face the high-end demands of the job market.  We need more courses that enable imparting of practical knowledge (read skills) making it possible for students to be job ready, therefore countering the unemployment issues.

Is Education imparting wisdom?  Probably No. Schools and Colleges nowadays are merely producing literates but not educated people who can distinguish between good and bad; right and wrong.  Reason could possibly be commercialisation of Education.  Believe it or not Education is one of the thriving business. Especially schools where fear of parents for  future of their kids is tapped and cashed against the promises of all bright and glossy future. After pocketing sizeable income of parents pressure pedal is pushed real hard with kids underneath it to generate hollow grades.  Pressure deprives the joy of learning.

Teaching is no more a holy occupation for many but has been reduced to a mere profession like any other 9-5 job.  The connect which we had with our teachers, the regard and respect which we hold for them is beyond any word could possibly explain is missing now for sure (rapidly dwindling away).  Their interest was not just our grades but they intended to carve a strong positive personalities out of us.  And when such intention goes amiss there is every chance of students going stray.

To an extent parents are also responsible for such a state of education.  The penchant to be associated with brand (government schools are for people of no class is the general idea floating) and once admission is done after massive donations are offered a majority of parents feel their young ones and their behaviour is the sole responsibility of school.  And this attitude is a big “NO”. Nothing can absolutely absolve parents of their responsibility towards their young ones.

What should be the purpose of Education after all? There’s a saying in my mother tongue (Telugu) that a person without education is a weird animal.  It clearly shows that the purpose of Education is to make a person – a human, build his or her personality, impart wisdom apart from skill.  But the education this generation is receiving is quite hollow and shallow.  The content in books is not enabling our kids to learn about our deep rooted culture, our roots, the reality.  It’s not giving them a reason to be proud of their very own identity, their country.  There’s nothing beyond few people in history and the number of times the country was looted.

Is this scenario good for young and impressionable minds?

Time to think – parents, educational institutions, government.