” Teach him to hit back.”
This was what I told a net friend, who followed my earlier suggestion to teach his child some simple hymns and asked how he should proceed further. He was taken aback; I could hear his gasping for words.
” Sir, are you the correct person whom I wanted to talk to? He continued as if by my mistake, he had entered a Hyderabad biriyani hotel, wearing an exposed sacred thread across his shoulders. ” Earlier you exhorted the importance of guiding children through the path of devotion and hitting or kicking was not a part of it.”
” Exactlly,” I conceded.” Retaliation was not a part of it but I want your son to be taught that art too. Let him learn a few more short hymns with meaning and then you can go to the next level. Simultaneously, you should teach him to be fearless and that includes hitting back , if necessary”
Another net friend was more outspoken, when he wondered, ” the other day you spoke like a saint and today..”. I intervened and completed, ” and today, I am talking like a Satan, right ?”
“Thank you sir, my wife wants me. ” He wanted to escape from me, but I tried to detain him.” Young man, please ask her to pick up the parallel phone.”
” Sorry Sir, she never speaks on parallel connection,” said the dutiful husband and put down the phone. Now, let me explain to you why I wanted the fathers to inculcate a small dosage of courage into the veins of their children. I consider that as important as the knowledge on their culture, customs and class room study.
All of you know that I am not a saint and a few know that I am not a Satan even. It is not an issue which affects you. It doesn’t even affect my own people because they are aware that I can neither do the good of a saint nor the harm of a devil. The issue here is not that at all. My emphasis on emboldening the kids is due to my experience that at the individual and community level Brahmins are not as bold as others. I wish I am proved wrong. All the other communities are united in their assessment that brahmins are spineless.
That blot has to be removed. In the olden days the Brahmins were revered as ‘Boodevas’ or gods on the earth, as they were unselfish and dedicated their life in prayers and for the welfare of the society.Today, they work for their own uplift. The devotional path I suggested earlier was to ensure a smooth sail and what I am advocating now is also for the same purpose. We are not even hissing now, when biting has become unavoidable to save our self, our pride, our family, our stand in the society. Building your body to make it fit to resist diseases and hit back the one who hits you, is equally important as studying Vedas or sastras or singing hymns . I say this from my experience. If you disagree with me, you can put down the phone. Your wife might want you.
Though born in the citadel of Kerala Iyers, Kalpathy, I was raised in a non-brahmin environ, ours being the only brahmin family there. My father chose that place as business prospects were good there. Timber sales was prospering, as merchants from the neighboring Tamil speaking state, thronged . Our shop was near the Railway station and the floating publtic was a prominent source of business. Muslims formed a good percentage of the population, mostly doing menial jobs, railway porters, coolies and also as some shopkeepers, street vendors etc. The timber brokers were mostly Muslims and right from my childhood, I had closely observed their skill in negotiating with the buyers and sellers and reach at a price acceptable to both. Once the transaction is struck, then starts the negotiation with the Railways or truck managers for transporting the wood to the respective destination. The mostly illiterate or semi literate Muslims exhibited unbelievable skill in negotiations and getting the work done. So were the moothans, pillais, Chettiars and others in the Palakkad angadi or wholesale market, which I used to visit often along with my father. They had no pen power, Most of them didn’t know even to sign their names, but their mind was sharp and their body was strong. The early experience with big and small merchants helped me much later, when I took up an entirely new profession, after my retirement in a senior position in the Government service. That was selling clothes ! As the area manager of Bombay Dyeing company, I could negotiate with MDs and VPs of corporate houses for their requirement of uniform clothes for their workers and also with small retail outlets with equal ease. Five years I worked in that capacity and obtained a number of saris for my wife at concessional rate. Chasing in hot sun, settus and mudalies is no hardship at all, if you can make your wife smile with a new Bombay Dyeing sari every other day !
The Muslim kids were just ‘thrown’ to the market, soon after they completed their elementary schooling or preliminary training in the madarsas, religious schools. Mostly they had to feed themselves and even feed their parents and siblings soon they enter the teen age.The kids used to catch fish, bring vegetables from the Palakkad angadi and sell in retail, carrying them on their head in a basket initially, then in a bicycle or engage in other petty business like buying firewood from big shops and selling to tea shops and hoteliers. When boys from other communities complete the SSLC or enter the college , the Muslim kids would have started their own shops, though in a small scale. As they were forced to stand on their own legs, right from their first- alphabetical age, they had to struggle for existence and that helped them immensely to face the life courageously. They had to fight for their very survival. That made them, men. There is a saying in Malayalam, “Maappila kutty, mony kutty- Mulim boys are smart.”
On the other hand, in the agraharam across the river, even in very poor families, children were somehow sent for studies and most of them did well and were able to complete the matriculation. They were given a lot of affection and the over protection, in some cases, made them meek. They were obedient to their parents, a commendable quality no doubt, but excess obedience curtailed, at least in some cases, their ability to think objectively and analyze problems impartially. The excess doses of god-fearing the ‘Ummachi kannaikuthum’ threat, and ‘don’t touch this, don’t touch that’ advises, all made with good intention on the part of the parents, contributed for the lack of intrepidity in the kids.They lacked the spirit of adventure.
No doubt the children grew as ‘ideal’ sons and admirable students but their presence was scanty in play grounds or literary debates or college elections. By virtue of their abilities they should have been in the forefront in all the above fields, but they were mostly at the back seat, except in the classrooms. Those who had to stop their studies at the matriculation level, either joined as clerks, teachers or worked as gumasthas under the shopkeepers. Some got trained in shorthand and typewriting and caught the next available train to Bombay and prospered. Among them, how many took efforts to start their own business or work independently, I do not know. Those who were forced to stay back and work under moothans and chetttiar or Muslim settus too had ample opportunity to start something of their own independently, initially in a small level which could have been expanded and enlarged in due course.Very few attempted that . However, many of our boys who joined as servers in hotels, opened their own shops with the support of their kind brahmin employers. General tendency was to stay safe under the patronage of the employer, instead of venturing out in the sun and toil. Avoid adventures and risk taking, was their general stand.
“Sukama kulikkanam, chappadanam, thoonkanam. – nice bath, sumptuous food and sound sleep “- Simple and contented life That was their aim.”What else is required in life,?” you may ask. Nothing more then. Not now.
A farmer knows how to protect his crops by scaring the crows or killing the rats and pigs. Our children should know that.
How to train them in scaring the crows and killing the pests ?These are some simple methods I find useful, from my personal experience. You are welcome to hear these suggestions or keep down your phone. Your wife might need you.
1.Likes,dislikes, jealousy,affection, compassion, desires and all such characteristics accompany babies when they enter this world. Love them as innocent babies but treat them as grown ups. They watch your movements, hear your words and learn them when they grow and try to imitate you at a certain age and worship you for a short while and dislike you when you do something not to their liking. Never neglect your kids.”avan kozhanthai thanae, avanukku enna theriium- he is a kid after all, what does he know?” attitude of yours is not acceptable to him. Many of your words and behavior will be remembered by him till his last day. I am awestruck sometime at the questions my grand kids ask . We never dared to ask such questions when we were of their age and even many years latter. From the very early days, the kids absorb what we say or what they see, and retain them in their memory and question us when they come across a contrast or contradiction. So, behave in the presence of your child.
2. When your kid toddles and falls, don’t rush to help him to get up. Let him raise on his own, doesn’t matter even if it ends in more slipping and continuous wailing. When you teach you kid swimming, you can only show the technique. You cannot swim for him. He has to swim. The first step for that is regaining the balance on his own while toddling.
3. In the initial stage, the parents first and then the siblings influence the child, most. All in the family are the role models for the kid. A child grown in an abusive atmosphere is unlikely to become a calm and compassionate adult. Never scream at anyone in the house, even at your wife, an innocent woman obeying your every word. If she is a type who retorts, naturally you will not shout at her but you will shout at the kid. Avoid that. He will retort when he grows up and you sag.
4. Never beat your kid. You are at the wrong end of the stick if you use a stick to discipline your child. ‘Kozhanthaikalai aditchu valarthanum’- is an outdated method. We raised four kids without hitting even once, without even screaming at them. My father raised six of us by disciplining us just by rolling his eye balls and staring us for a few seconds. I like the type of punishment the parents award here, in USA. That is called ‘sit out’ . The kid is made to sit in a corner for 10 or 20 minutes, not allowing to mover or talk. For a honey bee- like vibrant kid, it is a big punishment. I don’t mind sitting in a corner for hours together. That is why I am not given that punishment by my children.
” Appa, will you stop singing for five minutes ?,” they request. They are intelligent; I raised them without the help of a stick .
5.Allow the kid to play outside if you are satisfied that the area is safe. Let him earn the friendship of the Nature and see for himself the beauty of the sky, trees, birds and animals. The Nature is a big, benevolent guru. Let him play with other kids. If he comes home complaining that his friend hit him, ask him to return the hit next time. Don’t show excess concern at anytime, if he returns home, get hurt, even if he fractures a limb.Take him to a doctor and get the problem attended to. The kid should play, fight with other kids, fall, get hurt, get drenched in rain, get roasted in the sun, get used to all type of weather. Make him weather proof. that is not done by encasing him in your sari folds or enriching him with unlimited pampering. If you want him to grow into a healthy adult, efficient and responsible, helpful to himself and the family and useful to the society, allow him to face the waggeries of the weather, the waves of the ocean of life.
6 Allow the child to talk and ask questions . Never say, ‘vayai moodu’ or shut up. many questions children ask are difficult to answer. Try to answer as many questions as possible and as many times as required, patiently and intelligently. That will increase his inquisitiveness. The ‘Shut up’ order will dampen the spirit of questioning. Don’t be a land roller on his inquisitiveness . A grand daughter of my extended family, Anika (3 +) was repeatedly chatting seated on the back seat of the car and her mother, Aashu, who was driving the car was going on encouraging her. I didn’t question my niece, a medical specialist, why she was doing that stupid thing, which might divert her attention and also tire the kid, thought I wanted to, as I was trained to think before questioning. That waiting paid me. The kid was telling stories, fabricated from her own imagination and the learned mother was encouraging her.”You know mom, the huge Vancouver mountains developed their own wings and suddenly raised up, up and up and dashed the clouds, tushum, tushum and it rained filling the Vancouver lakes and, and, our house front, ah, I swam, I swam and Avuukth jumped into the water and flashed——” her story went on .
7. Some kids might be hyper active like Ishaan, my sister’s grandson. He is in midway between 3 & 4, aggressive but extremely affectionate. For a week end, my nephews and nieces had come to my eldest son’s house here, in Baltimore, as they do often. My daughter in law was making dosai and she served the first round to the mail members as is the usual practice. Little Ishaan, watching from a corner, was fuming in anger and dashed into the kitchen, pulled the dress of Meghana and in a voice mixed with anger and helplessness, yelled, ‘Amma needs dosai’. His mother’s eyes swelled with tears and mind with motherly pride. “Here is my son who will stand by me, when I grow old,” Mahima would have thought. Mothers who hear me will understand the sentiments better. Why only mothers, I hear you asking. Because, mothers are mothers and fathers are fathers. The grand pas, like me, become mothers, as we recall the enjoyment and excitement we had as fathers, although long back, when we see the grands kids talk wisely or play naughty. We were all happy though surprised at Ishaan’s action in seeking justice for his mom, who was ‘starving’ while his father and his brothers were served the snack, one after the other. He could never watch and tolerate the ‘injustice’ done to his mom. You know how his parents are diverting that kid’s surplus energy? Apart from his usual per-school course, he is coached in soccer, swimming, Tennis and piano. Kids are power stations and that vital force has to be diverted to creativity. Thrashing them in anger is throttling their creativity.
8..Never create an impression in the mind of the kid that the God is a school teacher with a stick or a police man with a gun.Teach him to love God. Show him the sky, sun, moon, clouds and stars, if he question where the God is . Then he may ask why you are worshiping the idols in the temples and pictures in your pooja room. Tell him that they too are gods. If he grows with the knowledge that God is every where, he will love Him and NOT Fear Him.. One of the reasons for our men becoming my feather-minded, is the fear of God induced in them, in their childhood. They should not depend on God for every answer they write in the exam papers . I have seen Brahmin boys touching the feet of Ganesh or Saraswathy in the pictures on the writing pad they bring to the exam halls and reverently lifting that hand towards their head or eyes, before answering each question. This is not an exaggeration. Their parents should have instructed them to believe in their own strength. They could crack a coconut after they pass the exam, before the Ganpathy idol in the temple close to them.
Allow them to grow as a powerful personality , having faith in their own strength, fighting their own battle. And fighting means kicking back if he is kicked and hitting back if he is hit. Train your kid for that. God will help him.
Now, you may happily put down the phone. your wife wants you to prepare coffee. Don’t hit her, as she has not hit you. And nothing wrong in obeying the affectionate demands of your better half. All brave men do that. You have become brave after reading this article.
April 8, 2012
Mama, pramadama ezutheerukkael.