A Mother’s Anxiety about Her Children as Students
A message from Shivani (not real name) from New Delhi: “Udayji, I am facing two serious problems. My 16 year old daughter is not focused in studies. She is not listening to us – she has become a really bad daughter and bad student. Recently, we came to know that she was found roaming around with a couple of Nigerian Blacks, who are druggies. I am very much scared…What to do?”
“Hmm. What’s the second problem?” I asked her.
“My son. We had sent him to study medicine paying huge capitation fee. He mixed up with bad guys there and ended up with police case. We are facing really bad time. We have done lot of poojas, rituals and visited all temples as instructed by our astrologers and pundits. Nothing has changed. I had gone through your article in the website. You are my last resort…Please help us…”
“Shivaniji, what’s your height?”
“Do you go for walk every day?”
“Yes in the morning for 45 minutes- how did you know that?”
“I didn’t. Does your son know how to swim?”
“Is your husband a top government official?”
“Oh! Sir, you are amazing, how did you know that? To hide his identity he wanted me to talk to you. You have jnana-drishti (wisdom-insight).”
I laughed, and then said: “I have just asked a question. But you jumped into conclusion and assumed that I have some special power. No wonder you fall in the trap of astrology-priests combined money-swindlers and believe they can solve your problems. My logic was simple – an average person cannot pay hefty capitation fee. Naturally your husband should be a corrupt government official or rich businessman. If your answer was no, I would have asked the second question – that is, if he was a businessman…”
She paused for a moment.
“Do you want to talk to me further – I would be blunt and straight forward” I asked her.
“Yes, of course – I will listen whatever you say. I know I can trust you…”
“This is the next big blunder. Why should you trust me without verifying?” I asked her: “Okay, did you take them to good restaurants during their schooling? KFC, McDonalds, Pizza hut? And movies?” I asked.
“Yes, yes – almost every day. We have taken them to most luxurious and exotic locations for holidays…We used to take them to multiplexes etc. for movies too,” she said.
“Very good. Did you ever take them to an orphanage, old-age homes or cancer ward of a government hospital?”
“No…Why such questions?”
“Shivaniji, first, let me tell you something. There is no bad student – only bad teachers. There is no bad child – only bad parents…Have you imbibed values and qualities in your daughter? Have you taught them to be humane? Are they aware about problems in life? Have you exposed her to the miseries and hardships in life? If the answer is no, then how can you expect her to be good?”
“Sir – it is a very cruel reply. I didn’t expect you to talk like this – I approached you for solace and you are making me cry…”she said. I ignored that.
“If you want your child to swim, teach him swimming. What will happen to a person (who doesn’t know swimming) falls into ocean or river? You have pushed them to the ‘samsara sagara’ (ocean of material world) without teaching them about life. You have spent lot of money and time for their entertainment. You have shown them only one side of life. Have you ever thought of reading them stories like Panchathantra in their childhood? Did you ever read Dharma Sastra? It wouldn’t have cost you anything – few rupees and few hours, you would have learnt it and taught them too. Instead, you have conditioned your life by seeing movies, TV serials and advertisements…”
She ignored it and said: “Udayji, we paid capitation fees because he didn’t get admission on merit.”
“If your walk mate is 6 feet tall, you will have to take an extra effort (as you are 5.2 feet and legs are smaller) or double up your speed to walk along…”I didn’t finish.
She interrupted: “Amazing! How did you know my husband was 6 feet tall?”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “Shivani, I was trying to tell you something here. Don’t jump into conclusions. I am helping you to introspect yourself as a parent. Everybody knows it is very difficult to get college admissions in India on merit basis as the country follow caste/religion based reservation. So, to get admission, the student should study on double throttle with extra hard work, the way you try catching up your husband while walking…Instead, you have bought out his college admission. It’s shameful. That too, with money made through adharmic way.”
“Oh – Sir, you are not being sympathetic. How can he study without paying money?”
“You had provided them basic education – schooling. That’s enough. Our ancestors taught us education should be given to those who deserve it. Those who qualify for it. You have to prepare children such a way that they take up responsible for their higher studies….Why?”
“As said, today’s parents are under the illusionary world created by market-media. We are living in a superficial shallow life. We believe and follow only superstitions (old and urban) and blind faiths. The biggest challenge we face today is to insulate ourselves from the vagaries of market-media.”
“Udayji, I understood your point. If we parents cannot escape from the clutches of market media, how can we expect non-experienced children to come out? So, what’s the solution?”
“If there is a strong foundation, a building won’t collapse. You have to provide strong Dharma base in childhood.”
“But external forces can also destroy the building. It’s not only parents – children can be influenced by external things. Many things can spoil them…”
“Yes. It’s like saying all smokers would not get cancer so there is nothing wrong in using Tobacco. What kind of logic is that? To counter external influence, make the foundation stronger, that’s all we can do. We know the external temptations are unlimited in today’s world. That means, parents should be more careful and understand their dharma.”
“We did not know about Dharma and busy with other things. Hence couldn’t teach the children. Now, what else can do as an alternative?” she asked a good question.
“There is only one solution – let children take up the responsibility”
“How is it possible?”
“After schooling, let them decide on further studies. You can tell them: If you want good jobs by merit and live with reasonable comforts, you have to go for higher studies. If you don’t still you can live doing some menial low paid jobs. If you want to study further, take up responsibility of your educational expenses. Get a part-time job and earn money through dharmic way. Or you can get scholarships or education loan,” I told her: “And, if you want food and stay in this house, you have to compensate by doing all household work – cleaning, cooking, washing etc…”
“Oh – that’s too much…”
“That’s the only way to make them understand the value of money, hardships in life and miseries around us. They will become good human beings. You have not given them exposure to real life, that’s why they became irresponsible. And now you are now trying cover up your flaws with some superstitious poojas and rituals.”
“Udayji, you are telling that we shouldn’t provide them money, luxury and comforts…”
“Yes. You are giving them a wrong message that anything can be bought by money. A parent can earn as much money as he/she wants (in a righteous way). If children do not follow your dharmic ways, why should you give them money? Today children are made to believe that money coming from parents is their right – a right without responsibility…”
“Children shouldn’t inherit our money, is that you are telling?” she asked.
“Wealth created by parents should be obligatory. If your son is capable, he can make his own money. If he is not, then he will just be wasting your money. Those children most likely will end up as irresponsible morons – a waste for himself, parents and society.”
“We had sent them to our Guruji who gives moral lessons…It also didn’t work,” she again changed the topic.
“Most of the Gurus, priests (any religions) will teach you his beliefs such a way that you become a loyal follower of him/religion. It’s a business. If you want your children to follow any value system, ethics, and morality – you will have to teach them at home. It should come from family and you should be role model to them. If you expect him/her to learn from anywhere else, you are in fool’s paradise. It’s your responsibility to guide them in right way. You brought the children into this world.”
“But it is too late now for such changes. If we become strict now, they will run away…”
“Let them – so that both-sides (parents and children) will suffer. Are you not suffering in the existing situation? It can only go worse. You have created two spoilt demons – Duryodhana and Thadaka. You believed that parenting means pampering and kids gratification. You mistook love for giving her expensive materials, dress and providing flashy life style. By doing this, you have also denied resources of unknown poor people around you. So, you will have to face the consequences of the adharma you had done. If you don’t face it now itself, you will suffer more, that too with compounded interest, in the future.”
“Is there any way out sir? Some pooja or haven?”
“There it goes again,” I couldn’t help laughing: “Why do you hold gods responsible for the results of your own deeds? Let me assure you – NO god can stop the karmic results. Even gods are subjected to the Karmic rule…”
“Udayji – you are scaring me. It’s unlikely of you. You have given solace to many people – I know it.” she asked me: “Is there any way-out?”
“Yes. Rectify your faults. Stop the attitude ‘we know everything’. Stop blaming children for your mistakes. Get ready for some sacrifice in life. Follow a dharmic and sattvik life – you will realize then that the existence leads you ahead. Go to a good teacher or counselor – probably your own parents or grandparents – and re-discover yourself. Then talk to your children.”
“We don’t have matured parents, Udayji. You had written an article age has nothing to do with maturity. Both of our parents believed in show-offs in the society. Please help us.” I talked to her and then her husband for a while. I shared with her what I had learned from our ancestors. Then she asked a very relevant question: “Udayji, according to our tradition what are the qualities of a student?”
According to our ancestors a student need to have five qualities (vidyarthi panch lakshanam): ‘Kaka drushti, bako dhyanam, svana nidra, alpahari, jeerna vastram etat vidyarthi panch lakshanam’ Meaning = He/she has vision and sharpness like a crow, attention (focus/concentration) like crane, sleeps like a dog, eats less and wear simple cheap dress. Those are the main qualities of an ideal student. It’s all related too – for instance, swana nidra (alertness in sleep) is impossible for gluttons.
Our ancestors have clearly given five guidelines for parents too (Pancha Kutumba Sadhana) 1. Good Conduct (Dharmachara) – be a role model, 2. Worship at Home (Dharma Svagriha) – a separate shrine room/place in the home for God, 3. Talking about Righteousness (Dharma Sambhashana) moral Books, Purans, Itihaas and of course the Vedas, 4. Continuing Self-Study (Dharma Svadhyaya) – parents should not stop study and 5. Dharma Sanga: Following the path of dharmic ancestors in the family (or gotra) that is responsible to uphold a tradition.
However, the system and social structure have changed now. But we can take up relevant points, cues and tips from the ancients that are applicable to current social realities. Should we be instrumental to destroy our children by providing them all comforts, luxuries and artificial enjoyments during their study period?
Of course, everything is not in parent’s hands. There are lots of external variables or outside forces that are capable of spoiling them. Some people call it fate. But parents have to do their duty. Let’s try to transform the samsara sagara into the ananda sagara (ocean of bliss).
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