Gurmehar and all the ruckus!

This morning I woke up to whatapp messages and facebook posts all commenting about Gurmehar. So I went online to see what the fuss was actually about.

After reading a lot of articles and the newspaper, I must say, I stand by her. She is spunky all right. For those who criticise her, and most of you are too young to remember, the politicization of college unions was what got a lot of students threatened and killed and so elections to the students councils were eventually banned in Maharashtra in1992.

The lift of the ban was viewed with mixed feelings. There was apprehension that the violence would start all over again and that these political murders would claim the lives of the youth.

This article by Sunil Rajguru says it all :

And I am surprised that people, who are normally quite sane, have gone on a rampage against this girl. What has she said that is wrong? Why should she not speak out? All she has done is voice her opinion. How many of us do that? On Facebook, on twitter, on whatapp, all of us have vented against some political party at some time or the other.

So why single her out?

Just because she seems to be a soft target? I am glad her teachers have stood by her. She needs that.

As an educator, as a mother of daughters, as a woman, I hope to have raised and taught my kids to stand up for what they believe in and against what they feel is wrong.

The other thing that has come up is the picture of her saying that Pakistan didn’t kill her father, war did. I must say, I absolutely agree with this. It is war that kills. It is greed that kills not any particular nationality.

When one of our soldiers is killed we immediately talk about how he is a son, father, husband. But when our troops kill a Pakistani soldier, we think it is all right, because they are our enemies. Then we don’t stop to think that he is a father, a son, a husband.

That is what war does. It dehumanises us.

The other day, I very proudly shared an incident with my friend telling him that someone had asked me if I was a Gujarati and I had replied that I was an Indian. My friend asked me why I had said that I was an Indian.

He said, if I didn’t find being Indian problematic, why was I offended being called a Gujju? That really made me think.  I wondered if I should say I am a human being because I aspire to be part of the world, not narrowed down by barriers. But then I looked at my dog cuddling by my side and the rapport I had with her and thought of the endless killing of animals and trees around us and I knew I had to truthfully say, I am a living being. At least that is what I aspire to be, though I know it sounds very smug and arrogant.

But once you realise that you are part of one world, you perspective changes so much. Then war, rape, murder of any living being becomes abhorrent.

I am reminded of the poem by Robert Frost “Mending Wall” where he says that there is something in nature that doesn’t like a wall and that she will do her best to bring them down, either through roots of plants or burrowing animals that create gaps and finally make the wall crumble.

He asks his neighbour with whom he shares the wall why they need to build it as they have different trees growing on their lands. His neighbour replies that “good fences make good neighbours” and when asked why all that he says is that his father told him so.

Where Pakistan and other countries are concerned also I think we just go with what our political fathers have told us. And the people in those countries too do the same and so we keep building fences and walls rather than bridges.

We keep living in the past and don’t even want to think of a future of peace and love, of a place where we live and let live. Of a world that is tolerant and co-operative.

And so I am glad that there is a young girl who is idealistic enough to voice her opinion even in the face of dire threats!

“Saathiya” Peer educators!

This morning at breakfast, my daughter suddenly shouted, “What? I can’t believe it! Is this really happening? In India? Under the BJP rule? Oh wow! I wonder whose brain child this is!”

“What are you talking about?” I asked her. And she showed me this post

I must say, I am really impressed. To quote from the article, “In a bid to reach out to 26 crore adolescents in the country on health issues, the Ministry has decided to involve 1.65 lakh peer educators called “Saathiya”.

Health Secretary CK Mishra launched the ‘Saathiya Resource Kits’ along with the ‘Saathiya Salah’ – a mobile app for adolescents – under the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) program.

This programme aims to reach out to the youth, the adolescents and educate them about sex, attraction, respect for the other and other things that kids at that age are curious about but don’t have the guts to ask anyone.

To quote from the article again, Yes, adolescents frequently fall in love. They can feel attraction for a friend or any individual of the same or opposite sex. It is normal to have special feelings for someone. It is important for adolescents to understand that such relationships are based on mutual consent, trust, transparency and respect. It is alright to talk about such feelings to the person for whom you have them but always in a respectful manner… Boys should understand that when a girl says ‘no’ it means no,” reads the resource material in Hindi that is going to be circulated to states as part of the adolescent peer-education plan.”

A boy can cry to give vent to his feelings. He can also be soft-spoken or shy. Being rude and insensitive is not a sign of masculinity. It is alright for boys to like things like cooking and designing that are normally associated with girls; adopting the role of the other gender does not mean that he is not male. The same applies for girls who talk too much or like to dress like boys or play games like boys. It is wrong to label such people as ‘sissy’ or ‘tomboy’.”

 It goes on to talk about safe sex and masturbation as one of the options.

This was really something I never expected to see in India in a million years. I am so glad that it is being talked about and if implemented well, it will really have a great impact.

Yes, it seems radical, but isn’t it high time we stop burying our head in the sand and stop believing that teenagers are kids who should be protected from everything to do with sex till they get married. There is enough material out there to give them answers, mainly the wrong ones.

Telling them that attraction is normal, whether towards the opposite sex or the same sex is a bold statement and I am sure a lot of people are going to find it difficult to digest.

But I am sure the people who are looking forward to a more enlightened country where tolerance and respect form the basis of society, will definitely welcome this.

I for one, applaud this bold much needed sensible way of dealing with the issues we have and educating our young ones in the true sense. This is education at its best, not history or geography, but teaching our kids to live in the real world and giving them the tools for it!

What do you think? Please share your feelings in the comments below.

Have You Finished Your Homework?



Over  the last few days, there have been a lot of messages on social media regarding kids who are missing. Most of them have thankfully been found again, but the trend is scary, because a lot of these kids have run away from home or school.

The comments on the social media groups regarding this have been varied, from relief that the children have been found, to blaming the children for not being able to deal with failure and running away in the face of obstacles.

For God’s sake! They are just kids! How many of us as adults are able to deal with failure or pressure? We have this convenient fall back of “Oh I’m so depressed” or “I have so much of stress!”  But what does a child say? What would you say to a child who told you that he or she was under a lot of stress or in a state of depression? Most adults would just scoff at the idea. “Really? At your age? What do you know about stress or depression?”

But look at the lives they live today. Even top executives have shorter work days.  I asked a few students what their schedule was. They are in school from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. That is seven hours in school. Add to that the hours spent on homework and tuition classes and projects.  That is like 10 to 12 hours a day!

And what do they get at the end of it? Just questions and nagging from parents?

Let’s consider two sentences. “I love you!”  and “Have you finished your homework/portion?”

Which of these have you used more in the last few months /years while talking to your child?

Every single parent I spoke to ruefully admitted that they rarely told their kids how much they loved them or how important they were, while almost everyday there was an arguement about homework and studies.

I agree that we all want our kids to be successful in life. But where is it written that only getting high grades ensures success? What will make your child successful is something that is never taught in school. And that is the belief in himself or herself. That is something only you as a parent can build.

It involves time and effort. It involves communicating with your child. It involves going against social trends. This can happen only when we as parents change our mindset and stop looking at our kids as trophy kids whose achievements reflect back on us.

We need to accept our kids as they are, average grades and all. Then and only then are we laying the true foundations of their success.