Saturday, October 29, 2011

Parenting Woes

I honestly cannot understand how parents in the old days had broods of children and still managed to keep their sanity. It was not uncommon in my parents' generation to see families with even up to ten children, and raising them all seemed to be a cake walk for the parents in those families. In my family, there were four of us, and our parents did a superlative job of raising us, I must admit. I don't recall impossible situations with children in my family or my extended family or in those of my neighbors'. The parents I knew had everything quite under control and knew what exactly to do to defuse volatile situations in the home-front, the primary strategy of them all being " Do what I say and don't question me or talk back ... I know what is right for you!" And the children then seemed to take that in stride, but not so these days!

Most families these days have no more than two children, and parents seem to be raising self-centred narcissists who think the world owes them, that they are always right, and that the parents don't know anything at all. Hmmm ... quite a sea change from a generation ago, I would say! And then when these children hit their teenage years, they morph into strangers and monsters by turns, with whom communication becomes next to impossible. Interestingly, during one of our lunchtime chats, a friend of mine told how her teenage son would just grunt with nary a word by way of communication all through his teenage years, and would do just what he pleased in open defiance of his parents, but how once he passed those turbulent years, the son she had known originally as a sweet little boy, reemerged. "So there is hope, after all!" were her words, as those of us who had teenage children chuckled nervously.

Added to the woes of parents these days is not knowing how to keep up with their super smart children with their incredible exposure to a wealth of knowledge and limitless opportunities. Children nowadays know ten times more than what their parents did at the same age, so the onus rests on parents to do a quick sprint to catch up with them. Children also need a very good reason to do what the parent asks them to do, and the "because-I-told-you-so" ploy that parents used to unilaterally employ before happens to be just a dud these days. And then again, the parent has to navigate the minefield of their children's teen years (throw in alcohol, drugs, boyfriends/girlfriends, sex, etc., here) and be a friend to them, which is a very difficult thing to do. Keeping one's sanity as a parent, considering all of the above, is doubtful, and if a parent sails through without having to cheerfully wring his or her child's neck, then he or she definitely deserves a gold medal, to say the least! And this comes from a mother who's raising an almost-to-be-16, mercurial, bright and brilliant child!!! :)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Moammar Gaddafi

How the mighty are fallen! A tyrant was killed yesterday by his own countrymen whom he had oppressed for 42 long years. All the bravado and bluster of this despot came to naught when he was flushed out like a rat from a drain not far from his hometown, that after he had unleashed so much of terror and caused untold bloodshed in the previous eight months and had vowed to hunt down his opponents like vermin. Libya's "King of Kings," the "Imam of the Muslims," and "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Libyan Revolution" is dead and gone, like all the other tyrants before him. History is rife with tales of dictators who all fell eventually because of their sadistic and boundless appetite for power. Gaddafi was an eccentric narcissist who could be cunning, cruel, charming, and charismatic by turns. His death-hold on Libya had gone way too long, almost to the point of psychopathy, and now Libya is free at last.

Stories of Nero and Caligula and Hitler and Saddam Hussein and Idi Amin, to name a few, have and are still being revisited by the world over and over again, and for Gaddafi not to have seen his ignominious end coming is quite pathetic and reflective of the denial that all despots are subject to. His Third Universal Theory postulated in The Green Book and made as compulsory study material for all Libyan school children stands testimony to his weird philosophy of a welfare state without laws, money, government, or private enterprise. "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely," said Orwell, and so was it with Gaddafi who got high on power and did not hesitate to murder in cold blood anyone who dared oppose him. He believed in his destiny as the ultimate ruler of Libya, and all the brutality of his regime was a justification in his head to keep that destiny alive. It did not matter to him that so many people would have to die a bloody death because of his maniacal clinging on to power.

"The dark shadow of tyranny has been lifted and with this enormous promise the Libyan people now have a great responsibility to build an inclusive and tolerant and democratic Libya that stands as the ultimate rebuke to Gaddafi's dictatorship," said President Obama on the news of Gaddafi's killing. It remains to be seen how Libya succeeds in its attempts to redeem and rebuild itself into a stronger nation. In the meantime, a dictator is gone, and the world rejoices with the Libyan people!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Me, Myself, And My Religion

I was raised a Seventh Day Adventist by my parents, with a strict dose of religion almost verging on the puritanical. No movies, no radio, no TV, only books, no coffee, no tea, no alcohol or cigarettes around the house, no jewellery, daily prayers, observing the Sabbath from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, being called in for family prayers even if it meant being halfway through a game with the other children on the street, compulsory churchgoing on Saturdays, no cooking or doing work of any kind on the Sabbath day, no celebrating Christmas or Easter or observing Lent like the other Christians, but only celebrating New Year's Day, and so on and so forth. That was our way of life since my earliest memory, my parents having converted to Adventism from the Lutheran Church even before I was born. As an obedient child, I never questioned the strict religious upbringing my parents subjected me and my siblings to. As I grew older, however, my outlook on Christianity and religion, in general, changed radically, leaving me as who I am today.

I am a Christian, no doubt, but certainly not the Bible-toting, regularly-church-going, always-on-my-knees-praying, Bible-verse-spewing-at-the-drop-of-a-hat kind of Christian. I do not wear my religion on my sleeve. I get very uncomfortable when people pontificate to me about religion, or try to emotionally blackmail me using Jesus' name (you know, "If you really love and believe in Jesus, forward this email to 10 other people", or "If you are not ashamed of being a Christian, post this as your Facebook status" kind!) - I always delete or ignore such imperatives, both the religious and the non-religious kinds. I feel there is no need to prove to anyone that I believe in Jesus or in anyone or anything else. My faith is personal and I choose to keep it that way. I personally do not post anything related to religion on Facebook and choose to keep it strictly for social networking purposes, and I certainly have no qualms per se about friends airing their views on religion on Facebook. It is their call to do what they please, and if and when any of their posts DOES appeal to me, I DO hit the LIKE button then without fail. I hate a holier-than-thou attitude in people, and try to stay as far away as possible from such people.

I certainly am a Christian who is not very fanatical about religion. I believe in being good, both in thoughts and in deeds. I believe in loving my neighbor as myself, and in being compassionate and kind and helpful to my fellow human beings. I help the poor and the needy as much as I can, and firmly believe that what goes around, comes around. I begin each day with a prayer and never get out of bed without thanking God for keeping me safe through the night and having added another day to my life. I never eat a meal without saying grace, and I never get into bed without a prayer of thanks to God for having been with me throughout the day. These habits are those ingrained in my childhood that I'm still comfortable with. My personal faith keeps me well-grounded, and I see no reason to sit in judgement over others. I am tolerant towards other religions and respect others for what they believe in. I chose to marry a Hindu solely for the good human being that he was, and never insisted he convert to my religion or else. Twenty four years later, we're still going strong, each of us keeping our own religion, and never having fought over religion even once!

More than religion itself, I esteem the love that all religions preach. My son has been exposed to both his parents' religions, but if he chooses not to have a religion at all, that's fine with me too. I would be very pleased if he turned out to be a good human being above everything else, and practised the values of love, respect, compassion, forgiveness and tolerance towards his fellow human beings. My faith is very important to me, but I can't say the same for others, my son included. I was raised an Adventist, for sure, but I'm now a Christian, needless to say, albeit a very different kind of Christian!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Steve Jobs - RIP!

The world, and not just Apple, has lost a visionary, a creative genius, a business mastermind, an innovator nonpareil, and a superlative tech titan just four days ago. The outpouring of grief Steve Jobs' death has spawned has been massive, on a global scale, a grief so simple yet elemental, from both users and non-users of Apple products alike. He revolutionized Silicon Valley and the world in a manner where the appeal of his unparalleled products was greater than the technology itself, it being said that Jobs was not a tech nerd but a business genius who combined technology, product, and appeal into a global marketing phenomenon for Apple. While I join the millions in paying homage to this great man, this post is not about what a great genius Jobs was. It is more about a successful human being who battled pancreatic cancer, just like millions more who share the same plight, and fell prey to it at the pinnacle of his career.

The Web has been abuzz of late about Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, the only authorized one, that is being rushed to the press for early release, now that Jobs has passed away. While it has been a well-known fact that Jobs was very guarded and secretive about his medical condition in order not to panic the investors and send the Apple stocks tumbling, rumors have been swirling around that Jobs was highly distrustful of modern medicine and even after his diagnosis of a neuroendocrine tumor in his pancreas, he chose not to have it surgically removed right away. Surgery is a personal choice and a very important one at that, and the talk was that Jobs' decision not to have had one right away might have cost him his life. No one will know for sure until Isaacson's biography is published, but with Jobs' grounding in Zen Buddhism, I can quite understand what might have made him decide not to have one.

I happened to be watching a panel discussion on CNN about Steve Jobs and his stellar rise in Silicon Valley from the time he dropped out of college, and while everyone was praising him as a genius, the moderator threw in the point that Steve Jobs had also been a perfectionist and a hard taskmaster who drove his team to perfection with singleminded determination, and micro-managed every single aspect of a product, almost to the point of being draconian, and wondered why the American media wasn't talking about that then. Interestingly, one panel member responded that it was a very cultural thing not to speak ill of a dead person, that somehow death negated all the harsh aspects of one's personality, and it was common for one to eulogize the dead person and remember only the good things about him or her. Fair enough, and true to boot, I thought. Whether Jobs chose to have surgery or not, or whether he had it done right away or delayed it, is not for anyone to judge him about, nor would it be appropriate to look into character flaws or personality traits now and to sit in judgement over him. What one has to look into and acknowledge is that Steve Jobs made a mark in this world as an exemplary entrepreneur and stellar genius, but in the face of cancer, proved to be as mortal as the next human being. There is no app for immortality after all, and the world has lost one of its illustrious sons now!

RIP, Steve Jobs!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

"Time, You Old Gipsy Man!"

What, is it October already?!? This sure, steady, and swift passage of time is quite alarming to me, now that I'm getting on in years. It was but the twinkling of an eye ago that I was a mere child basking in the love of my immediate and extended family, yet here I am now edging closer to the wrong (?) side of my remaining years on the planet, I know not how many more! Both my parents are dead and gone, I've seen members of my extended family being snatched away quite prematurely, I see all the young children in the family and those of my friends grow up, get married, and have children of their own, all of which remind me of the inexorable passage of time. And then again I ponder about old age, ill health, loneliness, senility, and human mortality in general. On a deeper level, I'm not even afraid of having to die one day, but the loneliness and helplessness that accompany old age, before one dies, absolutely terrify me!

Geriatrics is a field of study I'm beginning to take a closer look at these days. Health management in one's sunset years, and living a productive, independent life till the very end is getting to be one of my concerns of late. Maybe because I saw my mother die of Alzheimer's three years ago, I've been rattled quite a bit, and maybe that's why I keep asking my son if he'll be there for us when my husband and I get old. It sounds really pathetic, I admit, but I can't help this morbid obsession about old age and losing my faculties and becoming a vegetable of sorts. It's mere wishful thinking on my part that I could just fade into the sunset without any of the allied concerns of old age. And it's wishful thinking again as I utter the lines I learned as a child, written by Ralph Hodgson: "Time, you old gipsy man,/ Will you not stay,/ Put up your caravan/ Just for one day?" I know the gipsy man won't stay. It's October already, and the days move swiftly past, as I wait for the unknown, unforeseeable future!