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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Milestones, urgings, reminders

People seem to like reading my little travelogues – all three that I wrote recently have climbed high on the list of most-read posts. Good to see that.

I noted in a post dated February 29, 2016 that the pageviews counter had crossed the 400,000 mark, and today I see it has topped 480,000: a swift score indeed. I am apparently getting nearly 7,000 views a month now. At this rate, I shall very soon have 500,000-plus on the counter, and then I can take myself seriously as a blogger. Once I head past the million mark, I would wish that Blogger would highlight those particular blogs which have topped that milestone – leaving aside celebrities, there couldn’t be that many of them around the world. Are you listening, Google?

When I started writing this blog, Facebook was only two years old. Ten years before that, the internet was such a small place that you could actually buy a single-volume directory to all the important websites in the world, and in India people hardly knew what to do with it except exchange email. Today the scenario is very different in some respects, though it would take a lot of prodding to persuade me that the average person is using it for much beyond watching smut, booking tickets and playing sundry games. Blog writing – or reading – has certainly not become very widespread. Nevertheless, I have persisted. If and when I give up, that will be for good, but not yet.

I have been lately asked for advice by an ex student from nearly 15 years ago about raising her children well. That is the kind of communication that pleases me much. I admire such people, because they have the honesty, the courage and the earnest eagerness to seek advice on things more serious than nail art. It goes without saying that I wish them well. It is for such people that I wrote To My Daughter, and a lot of stuff on this blog itself – see, for instance, all the posts under the label of ‘education’. There is an ex-student, Shilpi, with whom I have been trying to spread my net wider, so that young parents can be benefited by the kind of advice I offer: maybe that project will bear fruit, maybe it won’t. You can watch this video to find out more about it. Meanwhile, do recall that I keep asking my readers – of the sort I have just mentioned – to open and continue dialogues on the blog by way of asking questions through comments which I can answer to their advantage. One question asked and adequately answered for one person can benefit a hundred others who had never asked: this is something that I have found out over and over in my classes, which is why I encourage serious questions just as assiduously as I discourage silliness and small talk. 

Remember, adults and youngsters alike, it has been said that the only foolish question is the one that you don’t ask.


Sreetama said...

Respected Sir,
That I have not been written-off as a confused parent who is too anxious and over-enthusiastic about ‘parenting’, rather a parent whose concerns have been seriously recognised by you – only reinforces my (and probably of many not so well-informed parents like me) pursuit to be a moderately good parent.
While there’s no denying the fact that my parents as also my teachers, friends, peers have helped and guided me – the best they could have within their limited scope and capabilities - so that I have learnt to somehow manage to survive, I have realised it several times that it would have made a lot of difference (for the good) if I had been equipped with a bit more wisdom from the said people around me.
Bringing up kids ‘safely’ while shifting from one place to another, in a nuclear family with both the parents employed in full-time jobs in indeed a very challenging task. Hence all this hurry and worry !
The queries are varied –
• Assumptions which need to be assessed – right / wrong;
• Doubts which need to be clarified;
• Specific questions to be answered.

I am trying to put forth my queries under each category in a coherent manner :-
• I believe leraning is a never-ending process and while I claim myself to be ‘parent’ – infact I am still picking up pebbles that come on my way. No wonder my queries as a parent are never exhaustive – let me admit that they are haphazard, sometimes vague and new ones haunting every now and then ;
• I believe that come what may - perserverance, honesty, logic and discipline never fails and that the most important training that we need to give to our children is to be resilient;
• I understand that there cannot be a ‘one-size fits all’ absolute instant solution for ‘parenting’ or any ready reckoner viz. ‘ parenting made easy’!
• All we can afford is to sow the seeds of wisdom from the early formative years itself, before we run out of time.
• Considering that not all our children are going to be Great Men and Women school education is a must. How do we choose the schools (though such luxury of ‘choice’ of schools is unthinkable in some places- for instance Delhi) ? As for my 6 year old kid now my only criterion of the right school is where my child is happy to go. But what about the later years ? If the child is not very averse to academics and can predictably earn a livelihood out of her studies what are the pointers that, as parents we need to check out with the school ?
• To uncover all latent talents of a child we engage them in all sorts of activities available (like singing, dancing, playing keyboard, painting, swimming, skating) both during and after school hours. Is this trial and error method to strike the right chord necessary at all or is it better to resort to some more scientific, if any, method of counselling the child from the very early years?
• In order to develop the taste of a reasonably good class in kids what are the books, music, movies that should not be missed at all ?
• Considering the indispensability of the English language and the dearth of really good English around us (esp. with the omnipresent SMS text-enabled language) how to ensure that the kids can grow up to read, write and speak correct English ?

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Dear Sreetama,

Let me, in reply, try to be categorical too.

• Your first assumption is spot-on. As long as you retain that essential humility which allows you to keep learning, your chances of being a good parent will be very high (yes, it will always remain a chancy thing, until the science becomes very much more advanced than it is now – and then it will be robots grooming robots, not parenting any more!)
• Ditto for the next three assumptions. You have already gone a long way down the right road: I meet hundreds of parents every year who haven’t, and don’t even feel the need to. So you deserve good luck.
• No child grows into a great man or woman largely because of the parents’ wishes or efforts: they do so if they have the right genes, the right kind of personal vision and energy, and a very large dollop of luck. As parents and teachers, we can at best give them the tools and some amount of motivation. That said, the best a school can do is not to demotivate her, and I am ashamed to say that even the so-called best schools seem to do that, at least in India. Forget about the big names and fancy claims: all you need to ensure is that the school is a place which, even if it is not actually enjoyable, is not a place which your child absolutely hates, and one which does not over-emphasize examination performance, especially in the early years (believe me, that does no good, and in many cases, does a great deal of harm) but stresses learning good habits, such as reading outside the syllabus, good eating, regular exercise, team work, courtesy, punctuality, taking responsibility, cleanliness and suchlike. These things not only make good, healthy adult citizens but people who are preferred in the job market.
• There is a fine line between encouraging your child to discover her talents and turning her life into a dreary drill of endless extra-curricular classes aimed at turning her into a polymath. Just watch out for talents that she naturally reveals as the years pass by, and support her in cultivating them, whether it be singing or painting, swimming or telling stories. Be careful to see that she enjoys doing them, rather than engaging her in them only to excel in competitions. Remember also that if you give her that freedom, she will use it to experiment with and discard a great many hobbies as she grows up: don’t allow yourself to get quickly frustrated! I should call this ‘trial and discovery’ rather than trial and error.
• About good books, movies and music, my first advice is that the sooner you get them started the better. In this age of mobile phones and social media, age ten will already be far too late to cultivate good taste. If you look up the ‘about me’ profile of myself on my blog, you will find short lists of good books, movies and music that have helped shape my own tastes and those of my daughter. If you are interested, I can send you longer lists. The most important thing is, children should grow up watching their parents cultivating such things: nothing conduces more to good taste than personal example at home.
• The last one would be very, very difficult to achieve. But getting them to read a lot of good books, watch a lot of English movies without subtitles, and to love and respect the language would together go a long way. Also, making them conscious that no matter what their youthful peers on Facebook say, they will be admired for knowing good English and laughed at for the opposite when they grow up.

Finally, it would help a very great deal if you and your husband do all this together, with one mind. Also keep in mind that many of these things are easy to say but very hard to do, especially in a sustained, consistent, long-term way. That is where most parents fail.

Thank you for asking.


Sreetama said...

Respected Sir,
While I am convinced with all your pieces of advice I beg to differ that all these are 'easy' to say, not to expect being so promptly and effectively articulated.
So a heartfelt THANK YOU !
At this stage of parenthood my takeaway is that this ordeal of parenting involves possessing one of the most difficult things in the world - PATIENCE !
So my best wishes to myself and several other parents like me.