Global Day of Parents

sarvatIrthamayI maataa sarvadevamayaH pitaa
maataraM pitaraM tasmaat sarvayatnena pUjayet

Mother is (the embodiment) of all pilgrimages, father is (the embodiment) of all deities. Hence, mother and father are to be revered with all efforts.

Old Sanskrit Shloka

Parents are the bedrock of society. Without parents to nurture a child, physically, mentally, spiritually, socially and psychologically, we may well have been living in isolation! They say a parent a born along with the child and so the importance of a parent in the child’s life, especially in the early years can’t be emphasised enough.

Being a parent is the most important job in the world. The first 1,000 days of life is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a baby’s brain and shape a child’s ability to learn and grow. Parents want to give their children the best they can. Yet, many have no choice but to work long hours, often away from home, to support their families. Parents need time to give their child the best start in life. Parenting is probably one of the most fulfilling, if not the most demanding job we will ever have! The responsibility to care for another tiny human being who depends on you and your partner for their very survival is immense, but it is something we humans do so quite instinctively. After all, the urge to procreate is in our DNA, though there are exceptions to the rule.

A parent is a child’s first hero. A girl’s first love is her father and when she looks for partners as she grows up, she will look for a man like her father if she has been brought up in a loving environment and the opposite of her father if her father had been abusive growing up. Likewise, for a boy, his mother is the first woman in his life. He will probably look for a woman like her when he is looking to get into a relationship and will most likely compare women he meets with his mother. Again, a loving mother will inspire him to look for similar qualities in his partner and an abusive and non-maternal mother figure will make him look for someone with the exact opposite qualities.

Parents nurture their children throughout their lives, guiding them, sometimes invisibly. They play multiple roles in their children’s lives – as teachers, as coaches, as psychologists, as friends and as parents.

Because parents such a huge role in everybody’s lives the United Nations decided to observe June 1, that today as the Global Day of Parents. This day was proclaimed in 2012 and honours parents throughout the world. The Global Day provides an opportunity to appreciate all parents in all parts of the world for their selfless commitment to children and their lifelong sacrifice towards nurturing this relationship.

Emphasising the critical role of parents in the rearing of children, the Global Day of Parents recognises also that the family has the primary responsibility for the nurturing and protection of children. For the full and harmonious development of their personality, children should grow up in a family environment and in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.

The central goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the world leaders in 2015, focus on ending poverty, promoting shared economic prosperity, social development and people’s well-being while protecting the environment. Families remain at the centre of social life ensuring the well-being of their members, educating and socializing children and youth and caring for young and old.

In particular, family-oriented policies can contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals 1 to 5 relating to doing away with poverty and hunger; ensuring healthy lives and promoting of well-being for all ages; ensuring educational opportunities throughout the lifespan and achieving gender equality.

So why celebrate such a day? Days like this reminds us to respect others. As a child, you are taught to respect others, especially our elders, but I believe that you have to respect everyone, irrespective of the fact that they are older than you. Our parents have been with us through thick and thin and have been there for us in every stage of our life. A parental unit is not just a mother or a father, it is the two individuals who have brought you to life, so a day like this showcases the other parent who may not be taking an active interest in their child’s life, but on days like this, they can spend some time with their child or vice versa and learn from each other. Parenting is like playing a game of tag. It is hard going it alone and so when you are a parental unit, you have to recognise that both partners play an equal part in bringing up their children.

So take some time today to talk to your parentsm, your first teacher and nurturer and tell them how much you love them and appreciate all that they have gone through to bring you up to be the person you are today. And if you are a parent yourself, give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done!

International Day of Families

Today is the International Day of Families. The day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 and reflects the importance the international community attaches to families. The International Day of Families provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting families.

Families—both traditional and non-traditional—are the foundation of society. Some of the most formative years of our lives are spent growing up with our families, so they should be celebrated! A parent is the the first and most important teacher in every child’s life. There’s an Indian adage in Sanskrit which goes, “Mata, Pita, Guru, Daivam”. This shows the four most important people in a person’s life – their mother, father, followed by their teacher and finally the divine or God. So the first teacher for a child is his or her mother who is responsible for giving him life and sustaining him. So the importance of family starts at birth and stays constant throughout life. As children grow into their teens and early adulthood, families can be a bedrock of support during times of change. Families meet a child’s physical and emotional needs, model good values to them, provide them with sustenance and protection, advocate for them and offer guidance in all areas of their lives.

Although families all over the world have transformed greatly over the past decades in terms of their structure and as a result of global trends and demographic changes, the United Nations still recognizes the family as the basic unit of society. This day provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting them. It has inspired a series of awareness-raising events, including national family days. In many countries, this day is an opportunity to highlight different areas of interest and importance to families.

Families are both beneficiaries but most importantly the agents of development. The role of families in development was recognized by the World Summit for Social Development in its Copenhagen Declaration. The message of Copenhagen still rings true after a quarter century of development: “The goals and objectives of social development require continuous efforts to reduce and eliminate major sources of social distress and instability for the family and for society.” Then, governments pledged to “place particular focus on and give priority attention to the fight against the world-wide conditions that pose severe threats to the health, safety, peace, security and well-being of our people”.

The Copenhagen Declaration recognized that the family was the basic unit of society and acknowledged that it plays a key role in development and is entitled to receive comprehensive protection and support. Governments further recognized that the family should be strengthened, with attention to the rights, capabilities and responsibilities of its members. It is important to remind us that the Declaration also recognized that “in different cultural, political and social systems various forms of family exist”.

This year, the 25th anniversary of the World Summit for Social Development, is probably one of the most challenging times globally with the COVID-19 panademic making everything topsy-turvy. We now know that governments world over have to put into place social policies protecting the most vulnerable individuals and families. It is the families who bear the brunt of the crisis, sheltering their members from harm, caring for out of school children and at the same time continuing their work responsibilities. Families become the hub of intergenerational interactions that support us in the crisis. Under economic duress poverty deepens. In times of uncertainty stress increases often resulting in growing violence against women and children. That is why the support for vulnerable families, those who lost income, those in inadequate housing, those with young children, older persons and persons with disabilities is imperative now more than ever. So the theme this year is “Families in Development: Copenhagen & Beijing + 25”.

This year’s celebration of the International Day of Families reminds us that the goals of Copenhagen are still relevant in the rapidly changing world. The World Social Summit as well as the International Year of the Family and its follow-up processes have served as catalysts for integrating a family perspective into overall social policy making. Further advancement of family policy in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development depends on how well issues of family policy are integrated into the overall development planning at national levels. It is imperative that such policies effectively respond to the numerous challenges faced by families in a rapidly changing world now facing an unprecedented global health and social crisis.

How can you observe this day? Today, you can’t get out of the home, so since it’s a day for family, spend more time with your family and today reflect what family means to you. Family can also mean the family you choose – your friends and extended family who love and accept you no matter what.

The International Day of Families is important because it highlights the importance of family in society. A stronger family leads to a stronger community and help each member in the family lead fulfilling lives while caring for each other. Not all families look like yours, but they are also a family. This day bring that reality in focus and helps us understand that different families exist. Finally this day is an opportunity to have conversations with your own family, those serious conversations with your children and significant other which you may have been postponing.

So how will you celebrate this day? Will you have ‘that’ conversation with your family and if yes, which one will that be?

Childhood Memories

Childhood memories are the dreams that stay with you after you wake up

As I grow older, I start remembering old memories, so I thought I will start putting it down here just as a way to preserve these memories.

As I look back, my first memory is that of my grandmother. I have written about her before and she is someone who has really shaped me. I was the first born grandchild on both sides of the family (maternal and paternal) and was quite pampered until my sister came along a couple of years later.

I miust have been around 3-4 years old and one afternoon was with my mother who was buy vegetables from a vendor on the road outside our building. I now can’t remember why, but while she was busy haggling with the vendor, I quickly darted across the road. Those days not many people owned cars in India but somehow at that very exact time, a car drove on the road and I was probably knocked down. My mum was frantic and someone quickly went up to my home and got my grandmother. There was a doctor’s clinic just opposite our building and just where I was probably knocked down. I was quickly taken to the doctor who advised that the wound which was superficial and just below my left eyebrow be stitched up. My grandmother flatly refused saying what if something happened and my eye got hurt. Even today when my eyebrows are shaped, you can see the faint scar that remained from my accident when I was a toddler. Nothing really happened to me and I was ok within a day or two.

Another memory I have is of my sister. She must have been around 2-3 years old and I was about 4-5 years old. She was and has been incredibly bold as a person. On a Sunday evening, my parents had taken us to Dadar for shopping. This was in Dadar which has this bridge which spans the train stations of the Western and Central railways and the corresponding Dadar stations and which connects what is called Dadar TT (called because a long time ago the trams used to terminate here and so TT stands for Tram Terminus. The trams have gone for a long long time, but even today that circle is called Dadar TT) and Dadar BB (I didn’t know why Dadar BB was called that until I did a Google search. It seems that since the western line which it lies on was part of the Bombay & Baroda & Central India (BB&CI) Railway, hence the BB. You learn something new every day).

This incident happened either on the bridge or just after we crossed the bridge to the western side. The road and market was quite crowded and my parents had a tight grip on us. But while walking, we suddenly realised that my sister was missing. My parents went crazy looking for her and starting looking frantically. After a while they saw a police chowky (a police box which is usually there in crowded locales so that the police from the local police station can do crowd control and keep an eye) and went to ask the policeman stationed there if he could help. He promised to check and told us to come back to him in a while. After searching unsuccessfully for another 10-15 minutes, we went back to the chowky to see my sister there waiting for us!

What happened was she suddenly found herself alone in the crowd and wanted to use her brain. She went to the nearest adult she could find and told him that her parents were lost and that if they could help her. She was lucky that the person who found her was a decent man and he took her to the police chowky and handed her over to the beat policeman who knowing my parents were looking for her decided to keep her while waiting for them to come back. My parents were so relieved to find her and found her ingenuity brave that she pretty much got away with slipping from my mother in the first place.

This story has now gone down in my family lore and my parents and grandparents (when they were alive) used to dish it out so many time! I am sure her children have also heard parts, if not this story in its entity. If not, I am going to tell them the next time I meet them.

Memories: The time I repeated Junior KG

Do memories become stronger as you grow old? I wonder about this because these days I have been thinking about my childhood a lot. So here’s another memory for your reading pleasure plus for me to browse when I am old and probably senile.

A small background before I start – when I was young, I remember my dad telling me that our area was designed to be an educational hub when the city of Bombay was being expanded. So if you draw a circle of around 2 km diameter around my home, you will find many educational institutions like schools, colleges and even higher educational institutions. This includes my dad’s alma mater as well as the school me and my sister went to.

This memory is around the time I was about three years old. Since we had many schools in our vicinity, it’s quite usual to see students on their way to school in the mornings. Growing up, there were many people around my age group (give or take five years) in my building and when I was around three years old, they were all in school too. My mum was handling me and my sister who was a toddler around that time. We also had a fulltime mum’s helper named Maria who would come in the mornings and go back in the evenings and her main job was to help my mum look after two young children and play with me. Maria stayed with us for about two years and then left as she was getting married. By then I started formal school and my sister was also slightly older so my mum was able to manage without a helper.

When I used to see my friends go to school and also see all the children going to school from our home, I also decided that I wanted to go to school. However, the school my mum had decided for me would only take me in for Kindergarten 1 at the age of four which was still a year away. I have spoken more about the discussions and arguments my mum and grandmother had in deciding the school I would attend in a previous post.

I started throwing mega tantrums about going to school and used to create a ruckus at home because I wanted to go to school. Exasperated, my parents decided to send me to a school which was literally next door. This school would allow me to get into Kindergarten 1 or Junior KG as it was known in Bombay then. So I started going to school and was thrilled. I think I started school after the formal term had started because I don’t remember wearing the school’s uniform and used to wear my normal clothes to school. Most days, it used to be either my mum or Maria who would take me to school around 8:30 – 9 am and bring me back around lunchtime.

I must have been a model student there because the teacher who used teach me remembered me right around the time I was in college and would ask my mum about me when she met her on the streets. I used to be so touched when my mum used to tell me about her encounters with the teacher. Someone who in her career has taught thousands of students who pass through her class still remembers this one girl who was so determined to go to school, even though she was there in her class for less than a year. I actually have no memories about this teacher and don’t remember her name or even face.

So this is how I repeated Junior KG!

Memories: Grandmother Tales – 2

I am the first grandchild in both my paternal and maternal families and hence have been quite pampered, atleast until my sister was born, around 18 months later.

They say children don’t really have memories until they are around 2 years old, and I am also not very sure if this is a genuine memory or the following memory is something that is there because it was told to me by people. This memory is of the time when my sister was born. I had an aunt who used to stay in New Delhi at that point in time as her husband was in the armed services and lived in a defence colony. My paternal grandparents took me with them when they went to visit her. I was, as I mentioned, around 18 months old at that time. I was extremely close to my paternal grandmother so it should not have been an issue for me to be away from my parents for a couple of months. My grandparents took me with them so my mother who was recruperating the birth of my sister at her mum’s place need not have the hassle of looking after an active toddler too.

It’s important in this story to note that the then Indian Prime Minister had declared a state of emergancy in the country during that period. Since we were living in a defence area, that place was highly regulated and strict. I have memories of Indira Gandhi coming on television nightly, probably talking about the situation in the country. For some reason I was very scared of her and this was excabated by them telling me that if I did something naughty, she will come and take me away! Imagine how terrified I was then, an 18-month old toddler, away from my parents for the very first time in my life. And I was in a situation where I could not even get to my mum if I wanted to until and unless I was taken back to Bombay.

This aunt of mine did not have any children and perhaps the way things worked back then was like this. But if something like this happened today, all hell would have broken loose. I also think women at that time were more conditioned to just accept what their elders tell them. I don’t condemn anyone in a similar situation, but it has to be a very excruciating situation before I would allow something like that to happen with me and my children.

My relationship with my paternal grandmother was very special. In tamil families, the oldest grandchild is given the paternal parent’s name (depending on gender), the next oldest, the maternal grandparents name, if of the same gender and so on. So by this naming convention, my grandmother’s name was bestowed upon me. But so that the younger generation don’t call a child by the same name as that of an elder, this was usually the formal name with another name being used at home and in casual settings. In mine and my sister’s case, though our grandmother’s names are mentioned in our birth certificates, it also includes our other name, which then became our formal name.

So in the light of the above paragraph, like I said, I had a very special connection with my paternal grandmother. She lived with us till I was around 6-7 years old, then moved to be with my paternal uncle who moved to another state for work as he was still unmarried then. I still remember all the stories she used to tell us and the yummy dishes she made for us. And when they would visit us during holidays, or we visited them when they decided to make Bangalore their retirement home, I would snuggle with her at night, because I missed her so much!

She passed away suddenly when I was 16 and I think I cried almost a week thinking about her. In fact, I had made plans to go alone to Bangalore after my grade 12 exams to stay an extra month with her before the rest of the family came, but that plan just remained that.

I really enjoyed writing this post, so much that I will share more childhood memories in the coming months. I should do this before I forget them, after all, oral memories much be written down before they are forgotten.

In case you want to know more about my paternal grandmother, here’s another post I wrote a few years back.

What are your memories about your grandmother? Do you have a favourite one?