Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Your Children are not Your Children

Followers of the Buddhism philosophy believe in the concept of reincarnation. When a Master passes away, he is believed to be reborn. The Master’s devoted disciples set out on quests to find this ‘special’ child and after a number of spiritual tests by enlightened masters, the reincarnation is confirmed. Then comes the painful part- the parents give up the child to the monastery so that all of humanity can benefit from his teachings. It is their way of life.

Every child is born with a mission, to fulfill a destiny.
Think about it. First as a child, then a parent.

Do you remember the good old days when you used to climb the compound wall or neem tree in your school? It was a moment of exhilaration, when you were free to be anything you dream of- a sailor, a pilot, an astronaut or an actor. But as we grew up, we learned to look at those role-playing games as frivolous childhood acts. And when it’s time to choose higher studies or a career, it’s not even a considerable option. The pilot, sailor, astronaut and actor are dead long before they are allowed to fully take birth.

With time, the child becomes a parent, weighed down by a hundred thousand worldly responsibilities. Perhaps the only fleeting moment of bliss is when you look down upon your baby sleeping peacefully in the cot- its large eyes closed and its little fingers twiddling in sleep, trying to touch the edges of some unfathomable, breathtakingly beautiful dream. And just then, you wake them up.

“Concentrate! Finish your homework first!”
“You want to go for a movie? Did you forget the marks you got in your Math test?”
“You want to be a painter? Have you lost it? Do you know how much you will have to struggle? And what if you don’t make it?”

It’s a vicious circle. You were asked these questions once upon a time, many a long year ago. And now you do the same. Perhaps that is where the problem lies.

Don’t get me wrong. As a parent, you always have your child’s best interests at heart. But sometimes, it is that speck of possessiveness that cataracts your vision.

As children and as growing adults, it is very necessary for us to fail, make mistakes, even fall down and bruise ourselves. Because that is how we grow stronger and learn better. It’s human nature. It’s a basic animal instinct for survival.

If you tell that stubborn child not to touch a hot stove, he will touch it once and see for himself. And then he will learn. Ditto in life.

Every child has a dream. Every child is an individual, a fully empowered spiritual being who will blossom into an adult, just like you did. And every parent must learn to appreciate that.

Yes, every child has a dream. Some may be achievable, some overly ambitious. Some may come true, some may not. But no one, not even the life-giving parent has the right to snatch it away from them.

It is but natural that parents wouldn’t want their children to walk down a path that they have already trodden, and failed. Or maybe not even tried it. But I say, let them see for themselves.

Maybe the child has discovered a newer route, a fresher perspective or a creative solution. Ask yourself- is it right for you to cast your shadow upon every little spark of a flame that your child conjures? Because, if you continue doing that, there will be a point in his/her life when the spark dies away forever- and the child (adult) is condemned to live in a shadow forever.

My father is a businessman- every day, his network of transport vehicles make their way across India’s highways. My mother is a doctor, teacher, social activist and homemaker. But that notwithstanding- they gave me the freedom to move out of home 5 years ago, when I was not yet 18. They let me walk on the road of my choice, sometimes even make a few mistakes to learn from. All the while, they trusted me to make the right choice. With their blessing, I did.

Today, I work as a Writer in Mumbai. I’m independent. And I’ve never been happier. But what makes me really proud is that my younger brother is following his dream today- he is well on his way to become the world’s next Master Chef. This was possible only because of our parents.

Maybe the only way I can thank them today is by spreading this message I’ve learnt from them.

In the words of the poet Khalil Gibran,

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you
You are the bows from which your children
As living arrows are sent forth…”

-Avinash Agarwal

Monday, August 8, 2011

I was asked to write about the 'Benefits of Writing'

Some write to make money.
Some write to fill papers to submit.
Some write to move other people.

Writers write because they have to. Period. It’s who they are, it’s what they do. For them writers, writing is not merely an art of a meager form of expression. It’s a gulp of fresh air, a breath of life. It’s the opening of the windows to their soul, letting caged birds fly out as full-fledged ideas. And letting whiffs of wind come in, bringing with it hatchlings of unnamed, unfulfilled emotions like specks of dust. It is these that grow, evolve and blossom in the lonely nest of a writer’s mind- to take flight as birds of tomorrow.

There are no benefits of writing. Nobody writes to benefit from it. And if they do, they kid themselves. Writers write to write. Writing is its own reward-and its own punishment.

Some write to make money.
Some write to fill papers to submit.
Some write to move other people.

Then there are those who write because they have been sentenced to a lifetime of it- for it is in this impenetrable jungle of an unmovable silence that it all begins to come together as one sound- the rustling of a pen scribbling on paper. And the words etched across the page.

You could call that a benefit of writing, yes. 

- Avinash Agarwal