Tag Archives: parents

Winning isn’t everything

I’ve often wondered where our urge to win stems from. What prompts us to want to come first? Why is coming second or third not good enough?

As a kid, I was always taught that winning isn’t everything and yet when it came to class tests or sports meets, my parents would set the bar so high that, sometimes, it was almost impossible to reach.

As an abstract concept it worked well, but in reality, not so much.

When the report card came, instead of congratulating me on scoring 92 percent in the finals, my dad would ask, “Who came first?” followed by “How could she score 95 percent and you couldn’t?”

Dejected and teary-eyed I’d head to my room.

Later I would be taken out to dinner as a “treat” and mom and dad would look proudly at me, encouraging me to study harder, nudging me to go that extra mile.

I was a bright kid — they didn’t want to see my talent go waste. And they knew that out in the world, coming first was going to get me places. No one cared if you were one of the top three, let alone the top five, they reasoned.

Some children cheated — took little “chits” to class, had their art projects completed by their moms, indirectly bribed the teachers.

Because winning meant too much.

And since everyone was doing it, it was somehow justified.

So much for the mandatory moral science classes all of us attended.

I was too self-righteous. And my mom was too busy.

Most of all, I couldn’t lie to myself.

Because at the end of the day, all said and done, you might have good grades on paper, but in your heart you know you’re a failure. You may have it but you know you didn’t deserve it.

I didn’t want sleepless nights.

I knew my parents had a lot of expectations from me, but I had decided early on that my best is all I could give it. And if it wasn’t good enough to earn me the best spot then so be it.

Even today I see my friends urge their toddlers to out run each other, to come first, to be better … nay, to be the best.

Because what good is second-best?

And every time someone says, “it’s all about participation,” or “it’s all about having fun” — they’re perceived as talking to the losers’ club.

But isn’t that really the essence of competitions? The ability to show one’s mastery over a subject or a sport with the help of an opponent? About enjoying yourself?

It’s not about showing the world that you’re the best, it’s about being the best you can be. There’s a distinct difference between the two.

That’s not how the world works, though.

Winning and cheating go hand-in-hand. We learn that there are moral, social, economic repercussions for those who cheat; that those people pay somehow, some time, somewhere…but when we look around us we find them getting better grades, more money, more power.

The hunger to win feeds corruption. It brings out not only the best, but also the worst in us.

Think about it the next time you feel dejected about your (or your children’s) less-than-desirable performance report.

If you gave it your best shot, be content.

This is an abstraction that when applied in reality will serve you well.

Read David’s well-written post on the same subject, especially the study [PDF] he refers to about bronze medal winners in the Olympics who were “simply happy to have received any honors at all (instead of no medal for fourth place).”

In the end it’s all about perception — the one you have of your self outweighs what anyone else thinks of you.

Go get ’em, tiger!

 

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The “religion” of humanity

Note: Fair warning that this post might offend some people. You may find yourself outraged, but please know, I am not attacking your belief system, simply stating my own. I would appreciate if you’d extend the same courtesy to me when commenting.

Watching Religulous last night just made me realize how we give a lot of significance to things we know nothing about.

India, one of the most secular countries in the nation, is routinely shaken by communal violence. Headlines that rip your heart: “Thirty-eight people burnt alive, 12 among them were children.”

“Property worth lakhs of rupees gutted down to ashes.”

“Shops looted and vehicles torched.”

Vikram Patel, Swastik Mehta, Joy Lobo, Heeralal Shah, Brian Phillips, Iqbal Mehmood, Aslam Khan – casualties of a war they didn’t start.

Their names bearing no significance – becoming only statistics splashed in newspapers people eat paapri-chaat on.

And it’s no different anywhere else in the world – hundreds of thousands dead in the name of religion. Politicians and religious leaders use rhetoric. They instigate mass hysteria. And caught between this war of words, the common man suffers.

I’ve always wondered how we end up determining our religion. Who tells us whether we are Hindus or Muslims? Christians or Jews? Scientologists or atheists? Is it the blood running through our veins? Is it a chemical reaction in our brains? Is it somehow something we just “know” when we enter this world?

No.

It’s people.

Starting with our parents. Reinforced by our social circle. Validated by our priests.

Let’s consider a hypothetical situation: if a child is born to a woman who practiced Islam and she dies in childbirth; no one knows how to ID her; a Christian couple adopt him, baptize him, take him to Church every Sunday; but he is raised by their devout Hindu maid who reads passages from the Gita to him all the time.

What is this child’s religion?

Is he Muslim by accident of birth? Is he Hindu because he bowed to all the gods and chanted the Gayatri mantra day in and day out? Is he Christian because that’s the religion his parents identify with?

Isn’t religion just an organized social club where membership is determined by birth? You meet people with the same “beliefs,” perform the same rituals, and bow to the same deity (or different “preferred” ones if you have an array of 300-million to choose from)?

People don’t understand most of the stuff they do in the name of religion but do it anyway because they “don’t want to make Him angry” or because “you just don’t question these things!”

I call this worshipping fear.

One would think that with all our technological advances and better understanding of the cosmos, we, as Earthlings, would acknowledge that religion was “invented” to build community, to give people something to affiliate themselves with. To try and explain the unexplainable.

In today’s world where we know how to reprogram skin cells into stem cells, when we’re inventing ways to turn water into fuel, when we’re  finding evidence of water and carbon dioxide on a planet outside our solar system, to still hang on to stories our ancestors made up to control societies …?

It just doesn’t feel right.

I vividly remember Bombay burning as an aftermath of the Babri Masjid debacle and witnessed gory scenes of communal unrest in Gujarat that followed a decade later. Countless children were orphaned, millions of national wealth destroyed, innumerable lives cut short unwontedly; and yet we fight over constructing a temple, a church, or a masjid.

Is the construction of any of these buildings worth a public massacre? Can these brick and mortar structures be rightfully called holy? Isn’t this just human slaughter in the face of religious superiority? And who is to say which section’s God is the all-powerful one?

The way I see it, no one wins.

Religion only makes us lose touch with humanity. With what really matters. The symbols, the edifices, the nomenclatures – they’re just things we, the people, created.

When a child wails, do you hear Ram, or Allah, or Jesus?

No. You just hear a human being crying for comfort.

All we need is compassion. Empathy for each other. Peace within ourselves.

And for that we need to look inward.

Think about it before passing judgment.


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To let: a healthy womb

Two recent cases on surrogate adoptions have had me thinking the last couple of days.

I’ve learned from the experiences of two very close friends that motherhood is almost like a rebirth for a woman.

It’s more than just a physical rollercoaster ride – it’s an emotional voyage that springs new life.

For the better part of a year, a woman nurtures a new being within her womb – thinking about, speaking to, and bonding with this unseen fusion of sperm and egg … her child. Her flesh and blood. Her own creation.

For nine months, she waits in anticipation for that one moment when she will be able to see her baby, feel the infant’s breath, touch those little fingers – make that connection come alive in a very real sense. That one precious moment that surpasses everything else she has experienced thus far.

And then she has to give it away. To immediately render all that she’s experienced for three-quarters of a year, a memory. To give “her” child to someone else.

Of course, it’s an arrangement she entered knowing full well the implications of the transaction. But did she really know? For a first-time mom, could she have anticipated the emotions she would go through? Could she have guessed what it would really mean to separate herself from her newborn?

I have no maternal inclinations except for the general fact that I like kids — the kind who go back to their parents after two hours of play time. Despite that objective stance, I cannot entertain the thought of giving away “my” child to somebody else.

Difficult doesn’t even begin to describe the emotional toll something like this would take.

Yet some people would rather take this route than consider adoption. As much as it commodifies children.

Most people deep down would rather pass on their genes than adopt as they simply don’t know the background of children they adopt. Plus there are so many tests you have to go through, to prove you are a decent parent, it is enough to put anyone off adoption or fostering. Going for surrogacy suddenly appears appealing in comparison…..

Naomi Canton, Expat on the Edge

To me, it just seems a lot to ask for — just for the sake of passing down your genes. Or for the sake of “convenience.”

Whether she does it for money or as a gesture of love for a relative or friend, I don’t think any woman can be ever thanked adequately for first nurturing a life and then disowning it.

Thoughts?

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True love

Love to some is like a cloud

To some as strong as steel

For some a way of living

For some a way to feel

Some say love is holding on

And some say let it go

While some say love is everything

Some say they don’t know…

Love — the one emotion that all of us experience at some point in our lives. An emotion which defies definition. An overwhelming all-encompassing joy that comes saddled with its share of sadness.

I remember having countless crushes while in school. Our neighbour’s son, my best friend’s brother, a cousin’s friend, our judo teacher … I fancied them for the colour of their eyes, their swagger, or just the way they combed their hair. Harmless “puppy loves” as ephemeral as soap bubbles.

I’d always heard that you won’t even know what hit you when you find the love of your life — the one person you want to spend time with day after day after day. And it was true.

It came at a time when I was mature enough to take on the responsibilities of a relationship which demands a lot of give and not so much of take. Love was the edifice I built on the foundation of friendship. It took time to blossom. It took a lot of understanding, loads of communication, and plenty of patience to become what it is today. 

Most importantly, love to us meant a meeting of minds. Still does.

It was notches above infatuations and what my mom likes to call “the pleasures of the flesh.”

Our parents’ generation was fed lavishly with ideals. Theirs was an era of constraints, restraints, respect, admiration, and oodles of romance. An age where the distance between the sexes somehow managed to help preserve the sanctity of an amorous relationship.

Our generation, with its openness and fading lines of proximity, jumped on to the bandwagon of love with a little more haste and defiance of “traditions.”

The next generation, I fear, is going further downhill — not quite able to distinguish between physical attraction and mental compatibility. Love seems synonymous with both. Exclusively, even.

I am amazed when I hear stories of school kids bragging about the number of physical relationships they have had. I am horrified to learn that girls barely seventeen have already been in and out of five to six “hook ups.” What about the emotional baggage these kids will carry with them?

The mindset of our “always-plugged-in” generation is all too evident in their tweets and Facebook status updates — publicly handling their personal life.

I see more and more focus on physical beauty, less and less regard for intellect. Closeness gets more importance than intimacy. There is more of passion and less of emotion. More of frivolous comradeship, less of true companionship. There is more acquiring and less sharing.

More of me, less of us.

Maybe I’m old school, but to me it seems like the essence of relationships has been forgotten.

There’s much more to being someone’s beau than gifting them red roses and Hallmark cards. What about gifting our time, our company, our support, our friendship…? What about setting priorities where our loved one comes first?

What about giving ourselves, and the ones we love, time and space to build a strong foundation? What about working towards meaningful and lasting friendships?

What about honouring our commitments? What about channeling our energies and emotions towards building lifelong bonds rather than wasting them on seasonal relationships?

Love is so much more than a fleeting song and a glass of wine. It doesn’t always lie on satin sheets. It isn’t found in diamonds and perfumes and flowers.

It’s about respect, companionship, understanding, appreciation. It’s about being yourself and loving the other person for who they are. It’s about making it through thick and thin.

Relationships take work. Love makes it easy.

I believe that true love happens once in a lifetime.

Don’t let frivolous flings tire you out so much that when true love comes your way you aren’t able to receive it with open arms.

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Gift for your baby girl: a breastfeeding doll

Yesterday, a friend forwarded a Huffington Post slideshow of the seven most inappropriate toys for children.

I was appalled, needless to say, but one that had me going “No way!” at the top of my lungs was this particular product: The Bebé Glotón breastfeeding doll.

Who in their right minds would buy a four-year-old girl a toy that teaches her to breastfeed??????? It’s absolutely atrocious!

And wait till you hear the tagline: “Because you shouldn’t have to wait until you have breasts before you start breastfeeding your baby!”

Really?

And just as soon as you develop those mammary glands, go ahead — have a baby. So what if you’re a teenager? You already know how to breastfeed if nothing else!

Is that what we want to teach our little girls? Have babies, breastfeed them and fulfill your mission on earth!!!??!!

I don’t understand how or why the manufacturers can get away with something like this.

Growing up, I never played with utensils or Barbie dolls — instead I got board games and Lego building blocks, but I saw the gender stereotyping where other girls my age would play a nurse or housewife and the boys would play doctors or engineers.

But this takes it to whole new level of ridiculous!

I don’t know if it’s advertised to be an “educational” toy but even if it is, isn’t four years a bit too young to be focusing on having kids and what your yet-to-be-developed breasts can biologically do? And it assumes that the little girl will grow up and want kids! And then breastfeed them!

What kind of education is that?

According to the comments in this San Francisco Chronicle report, these dolls were a huge success with sales hitting the roof and the supplies going out-of-stock within a month.

I really don’t see how this is appropriate, especially for this target age group. Do you?

Thoughts? Comments? Reactions? Outrage?

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Love and Valentine

Everywhere I look today, from the “$1 = 1 kiss” signs on the sidewalk by some ladies raising money for a local charity, to the $9.99 talking teddy bear decking the aisles in Walgreens, love is unmistakably in the air.

Not many know the history of St. Valentine’s martyrdom, yet millions of people around the world engage in celebrations in his name. Growing up, I never knew of Valentine’s Day … it was only when I was in high school — aah that sweet, tender age of 16 — that Archies Cards started promoting this love-fest. Boys went down on their knees “proposing” to their sweethearts across school and college campuses. Girls came home carrying pink soft toys and a blush.

Outraged by the widespread exhibition of such a private emotion, extremists beat up teenagers to “preserve our culture.” This merited national headlines and the following year, Valentine’s Day celebrations picked up more steam. Now we could choose from musical cards to mugs to personalized photo frames embellished with hearts. And then Hallmark entered the fray…

Years later I would get a call from my mom in Iowa City — you didn’t send me a Valentine’s Day card this year! “Huh?” Apparently, the romantic aspect had been extended to parents, grandparents, nephews and nieces, even pets! There was a Valentine card and gift for everyone. Chocolates made especially for the occasion. Pre-fixed menus. Champagne. Oh, I forgot the dozen long-stemmed premium red roses. At a premium, of course.

From a simple note a guy wrote in jail for his beloved, to a no-expenses barred extravaganza. How did we get here? And why?

Why do we let the expression of our emotions become a business? Why can’t we celebrate the one we love by saying thank you? By simple gestures … a peck on the cheek, a shared cold drink, an evening spent talking … and listening.

Why do we have to limit it to one day in the year? A day dedicated to a Saint we know nothing about…

Why do we try to catch that fleeting feeling that happens in that fleeting moment and lock it up just ‘coz the world says it has to be on February 14?

Why can’t we be spontaneous? What stops us from buying red roses, going out for dinner, taking a walk, cherishing our love … on a whim?

Love is no prisoner to a date.

Why are you bound to 2/14, then?

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More in sickness than in health

As I lie in bed coughing, battling body ache, and trying to kill that monster playing ping-pong in my head with Advil, I think of mom and dad.Twenty years ago, I’d be smothered with care and affection. Soup, fruit, hot meals, sponge baths, loving fingers caressing my messy hair … needs met before I even had the chance to articulate them.

It was good to be a child. Even better being an only child. Not that I was pampered … but I could revel in undivided attention. I was the queen of the house. Mom would deny me the title by saying “little princess” instead, but both of us knew.

I wasn’t one of those sturdy,healthy, bouncing babies. More of the wimpy, frail, sickly bambino requiring a lot of nurturing. From what I remember of my childhood, I was sick every time the weather changed 15 degrees; every time we came back from vacation; every time I was around other sick kids. My immunity was always taking a beating from an assortment of viruses and bacteria. I was used to downing pills and syrups, sticking the thermometer in my armpit or mouth depending on the age, and called our family physician, “Dr. Uncle.” Still do.

Teenage years were a tad better, although they were fraught with their own set of mental anguish.

And then came those two years in Iowa City where it hit me for the first time what being sick by oneself really meant. If I needed food, I had to get up myself and make it. Water? Plan ahead. Keep a bottle next to the sleeping bag I called my bed. Medicine? Trudge slowly to the bus stop, haul myself on the bus, go to the clinic, then the pharmacy, and drag my sorry feet back home.

Amid classes, midterms, a foreign country, and many acquaintances but no real friends, falling sick in the first semester was a real eye-opener. I missed my parents a LOT then.

And I miss them today — despite my loving, caring husband, who makes the best daal-chaaval when I’m sick; and friends whom I can count on for anything … I miss my parents’ devoted caregiving. And even though I say this, I know that if they were here today, I’d be acting all grown up and adult-like refusing to be taken care of. “It’s just a sore throat and some body ache, ma,” I’d say refusing her repeated requests to stay still in bed and keep the laptop away. “Stop treating me like a baby!”

If only that were true…

Sigh.

Better will my “adult” body into going downstairs and fixing some lunch now.

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