Right or Wrong – who decides?

A news story has been doing the rounds at many Indian new channels these days. An Indian couple in Norway had their children taken away by the Child Protection Services. Allegedly, because they were feeding the children using their hands and the family slept in one bed, both of which are normal and acceptable in Indian culture (google “Indian couple in Norway” for the complete story).

Maybe there is more to it, but if that is the case, no one is talking about it. If there is nothing else to it, then taking kids away from their parents, separating the family for something as trivial as this, shows a serious lapse in judgement by the authorities. Seriously, what are they thinking? It is hard to imagine that in this age of globalization, a progressive government will refuse to acknowledge cultural differences while making such decisions. Cultural differences or not, since when did feeding kids by hand or co-sleeping become a crime?

Raising a child in a foreign country already has challenges of its own. You sometimes have to follow parenting methods you don’t really believe in, just to avoid being judged, and so that your child is not always the odd one out. It is a good thing to adapt and adjust, to do as Romans do when you are in Rome. In fact I would go one step forward and say it is not just good but necessary to be flexible and tolerant of new beliefs and ideas if you want to lead a happy and productive life, especially so if you live in a foreign land. However, you should not have to live with the fear of your child being taken away for doing what you think is normal, you should not have to compromise on your righteous beliefs and you should definitely not be punished for them.

When someone leaves their country to start a new life, they are looking for growth and a better life. This is not something they consider even in their wildest dreams. This is one of the worst nightmares of any parent that unfortunately came true for the Bhattacharyas.  I hope that the authorities come to their senses before any more damage is caused to the family, and if the parents are truly innocent (which I believe they are for the lack of any convincing evidence to the contrary), they be reunited with their children.

Something to think about

It started out innocently enough. I began to think at parties now and then to loosen up. Inevitably though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker. I began to think alone—“to relax,” I told myself—but I knew it wasn’t true. Thinking became more and more important to me, and eventually I was thinking all the time.

I began to think on the job. I knew that thinking and working don’t mix, but I just couldn’t stop myself. I began to avoid friends at lunchtime so I could read Thoreau and Kafka. I would return to the office dizzied and confused, asking, “What is it exactly we do here?” I soon had a reputation as a heavy thinker. One day the boss called me in. He said, “Skippy, I like you, and it hurts me to say this, but your thinking has become a real problem. If you don’t stop thinking on the job, we’ll have to find someone else.” This gave me a lot to think about.

And at home things weren’t going so great either. One evening I turned off the TV and asked my wife about the meaning of life. She spent the night at her mother’s. I came home early after my conversation with the boss. “Lamb chop,” I confessed, “I’ve been thinking…” “I know you’ve been thinking,” she said, “and I want a divorce.” “But Poopsie, surely it’s not that serious.” “It is serious,” she said, lower lip aquiver. “You think as much as a college professor, and everyone knows college professors don’t make any money, so if you keep up this thinking then we won’t have any money!” “That’s a faulty syllogism,” I said impatiently as she began to cry. I’d had enough. “I’m going to the library!” I snarled, as I stomped out the door.

I drove to the library, PBS blaring on the radio, in the mood for some Nietzsche. I roared into the parking lot and ran up to the big glass doors…and they didn’t open. The library closed?! To this day, I believe that a Higher Power was looking out for me that night. As I sank to the ground scrabbling at the unfeeling glass, whimpering for Zarathustra, a poster caught my eye.

“Friend, is heavy thinking ruining your life?” it asked.

You probably recognize that line from the standard Thinkers Anonymous poster. Which is why I am what I am today: a recovering thinker. I never miss a TA meeting. At each meeting we watch a non-educational video; last week it was “Porky’s III.” Then we share experiences about how we avoided thinking since the last meeting.

Now I have a job and things are a lot better at home.

Life was just…easier, somehow, once I stopped thinking.

via Thinkers Anonymous.

Homage to a great lady

Big Naani (12 Apr 1929 – 15 Jan 2012)

Her grandsons teased her by addressing her by her first name Santosh ji. My son calls her Badi Naani (big grandma) because she is his great grandmother. I have known her since last 9 years or so, ever since I have known Chetan, and she is one of the youngest 82 year olds I have ever known.

She has always been particularly fond of Chetan and Chetan is so much like her that it makes you think he is her son and not her grandson. From the way he sticks his tongue out while concentrating on something, to being a cleanliness freak and a perfectionist in everything he does.

Ever since we moved away from India, one of my biggest fears has been that something wrong might happen to one of our loved ones in our absence and we might not be able to make it back in time. That fear became reality today. Santosh ji left us after suffering a major stroke a couple of days ago. But it seems like she had it planned all along.

As soon as we reached India for our 5 week visit in Nov-Dec last year, she fell really sick and had to be brought to Delhi for treatment and to stay at home till she got better. We went to pick her up from her home town about 10 hours drive from Delhi. We all went. She was in a hospital, unable to comprehend a lot of stuff, even unable to recognize some people she used to meet every day. Still she was concerned about whether there was enough food for us at her home. She still smiled and shook her head when she saw I was wearing jeans and not a traditional dress with enough jewelry. These are the things we all love about her and will miss beyond words.

There is comfort in the fact that we got to spend time with her before this happened. That her great grandson got to know her and she got to see him. That she did not suffer and departed gracefully.

Her husband, Chetan’s grandfather, passed away about 20 years ago. I have always heard her talk about Chowdhary Saab (that’s how she addressed him) with great nostalgia and admiration. I hope she will get to meet him and be with him soon. Free from the limitations and pains of an aging body. Young like she has always been.

Rest in peace Santosh ji. You will always be missed.

What’s in the color

My little boy is getting bigger. He is almost four but sometimes the things he says make me stop in my tracks and wonder if I should start taking him more seriously and treat him like an older kid.

Just the other day, I told him that a friend of mine would be visiting us for dinner. His first question was: “Is your friend like this (touching my face) or like this (touching his own face)?”. The question came as a little surprise to me because he has never asked anything like this before. So this is how the conversation went.

Me: Are you trying to ask if my friend is a boy or a girl?
Viv: No! I’m asking if she is like this or like this (repeating the gesture).
Me: What do you mean by that?
Viv: I’m talking about color.
Me (thinking WHAT THE !?@! and trying to come up with the right answer): It doesn’t matter what color she is, because everyone is the same from the inside.
Viv: But I’m talking about her face!

Luckily for me, he got distracted by something else because I would have hated to answer that question. For some reason, I find it hard to use colors to describe people. It is just weird calling someone white or black or brown. I would rather use nationality or race because I think using skin color to identify someone undermines everything else that they are and brings the focus on just one thing – the color of their skin.

Anyway, just a day later, we had to visit another friend and I was telling him about it when he asked “does your friend speak Hindi?”. Chetan and I gave each other a WOW look, sharing the same feeling, that our little boy is growing up. Maybe, after this recent trip to India, he has realized that the people around him are diverse, that he is different from others, or that his parents are different from others (hence the question: is she like you or like me!).

Whatever it is that goes through his head, it is probably the start of a confusing, but interesting journey for him. In the meantime, we can take comfort in the fact that it is still a while before he will start getting embarrassed by his parents’ accent, and enjoy every moment of growing up with him!