Sunday, April 17, 2011

Weaving the social fabric

The story of  2 sisters confined in their house for 7 months and the debate on the role of society has been on for last 24 hours. I personally was horrified to hear about it. 2 women, educated, coming from a well educated nuclear family and in such appalling state. There is  a role society needs to play but there is  a role each one needs to play- we need to weave our own social fabric as well

My mother lost her father when she was just two years old and my grandmother just 21. She and my uncle actually grew up in her maternal household- a joint family with multiple cousin sisters and brothers. She believes that her aunt which whom she spent sometime is her second mom. In her own words, despite having no father, she never really missed him to be around only because she had a strong family around her.

We grew up in a nuclear family. But then the annual vacations ensured that we remained in touch. The social fabric my mom developed ensured that we remain interconnected with family at large. Most of us take pride in the strong family we come from where we remain connected to first cousins and beyond and not just immediate family. I don't think  all of us talk or meet so often but its so deeply interconnected that we all turn up in celebrations and in grief. In our case, it also got extended to some family friends and neighbours so while the aunt living in front of our house would have met me only twice in last ten years but she would know everything about me and I would also get briefed on the same whenever i visit home.

In our case, I have to work exponentially hard to weave that social fabric. The annual visits from/ to grandparents place is limited as people move places and both partners working. It gets all the more difficult in this age as every one is available in digital space- You don't need to write long letters - you can pick up the phone and talk and for younger ones, you know them real time via skype, facebook and more.  But this is fine with people like us- who have been part of both worlds and have our relationships rooted in the social fabric enough that these new accesses just manifests them in a different form. However what about our children- they cannot initiate relationships in the digital world- they need to know what it is like to have a security at the back of your mind that yes, there are parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, family friends whom I can go to if anything goes wrong. Some of the things which help in that context -
- Have a sibling for your child. This is not to say that people who have decided to have single child for their own reasons are not thinking about their child but believe me having your own brother or a sister 24*7 around you makes so much difference to you. You have a buddy and you are a team always. The sense of social security which we look for begins from here and it remains in times to come
- We are a protective parent generation. What if they get hurt in the park? what if the kids around are bully ? Let the maid play with them? The least we can do is make our children form and value relationships on their own. This can happen only when you let go of them a little. Let them play , fight, cry and make up. Its a joy to see when my daughter looking forward to her evening play time with some great friends she has made in the apartment building. They gate crash each other houses, spend time together and even attend activity classes together
- Get them to reach out to families - I have seen parents fretting over their children during weddings, family get togethers. Often on a visit to their home country or home towns, the children are left behind as parents complete their annual relatives meetings. Our children live anyways in a nuclear capsule - Its okay if they sleep late one night or getting tired. Our kids are packed at the back of the car and they travel with us wherever we go and whomever we meet. Best is to call people over to meet at home. Let them absorb the thrill like we used to have - So and So uncle and aunty will be coming for dinner tonight or evening tea will be at this ones place.

On a closing note, While there have been changes in the society. We are glad that people are minding their own business rather than putting their nose in neighbours affairs but we should also remember , the extent to which we are social or unsocial is something we decide and its one thing that gets passed on from generations - the way you have been brought up most of the time determines how will you be with family, friends and  society at large. So sometimes when we all get nagged by our parents to call aunt living far off or visit old family friends now settled in your city and we do it also reluctantly , its a social fabric we are weaving- something which will help us in times to come

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Let there be space in your togetherness

This thought stemmed from one incident - I met a couple few days back. They seem to be always be there for each other. They are both working couples and they always hung out together...parties, family functions, gyms , shopping malls. The guy was enamoured as the girl even refused to go to her parents house without him. They were married on Facebook, had a common bank account , shared passwords of their emails . In most people's eyes they were the perfect couple truly made for each other. The problem started soon when they seemed to yearn for space yet not able to voice it out lest it manifests as not loving each other anymore and it exploded when they had a child who required more of the mother initially. They just did not know how to give each other space and resulted in the woman getting into a depression.
This got me thinking. The pressure on relationships today often makes them claustrophobic. So much has been written to be more participative, communicative and sharing and caring in a relationship, that sometimes the pressure often leads to missing out on your personal space. The irony is that more often than not we don't realize it as well and breakdown of relationships often started getting attributed to other things than the root cause.
The other noticeable thing is that more often than not , we attribute this to adults. If you be a little perceptive, you will see that we often miss the same point when it comes to children. Sometimes the over protective zeal and paranoia results in being all over your children all the time. I noticed this with a lady I see in my building. She picks up and drops her son everyday to school . Being only child, she pays great attention and the child has his study time, TV time , even soup time. They come down together where she plays with him in the park. In fact she refused for a car pool as well as she thinks its quality time with the child. Anyone would have given her full marks for being the best mother possible - I did as well. Unless one day, I saw her 6 year old shouting and crying in despair that I want to play with my friends , go to their house, go for school picnic and why are always with me.? Now she might have some valid reason for all you know- health etc but I do feel that she needs to let him move out a little on his own.
The expression of togetherness has manifested itself in a big way in our lives. Most people today struggle to maintain a balance between personal space and togetherness with their loved ones. Its often confusing as young adults or as young parents to decide how to be your own self without giving the message of being selfish. On one hand, you hear that true love is finding your soul mate and becoming One and on other hand , you also need to keep a piece of yourself only for you. Its more difficult when you are a parent- you are trying to be protective, caring but when do you get on the verge that it becomes stifling for your child , you never come to know.
The answers are not easy to find - may be we need to go back to basics - a balance of everything needs to be maintained , excess of everything is bad. However how do we do that without someone pointing fingers at us for thinking only for ourselves ? These are not so easy to come by. In all that, here's what Gibran said long ago - its so apt and true
But let there be spaces in your togetherness
and let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love:
let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls."