Skip to main content

Sharing the Past, Learning from it

I realize that most of what I convey to my three year old son, Adi is borrowed from my own childhood. As I grow older, I feel closer to those memories. By sharing those experiences with Adi, I feel that he will understand who I am and why I believe in certain things that root me to my identity and view of life. Growing up in Africa was like being alienated from my motherland in every way. Initially, it was tough to survive in school because of obvious differences. Some girls would pull my hair and ask, "Why do you have such hair?" or "Why is your skin color different from ours?" or "Why do you worship weird looking gods and not Jesus?"

It wasnt just non-Indians who had questions to ask. If I spoke with African friends, I had Indian friends who told me, "Listen, they are blacks so dont mingle too much. Their culture is different." No offence meant, but I've lived all my growing years with African people and I believe they are really warm, caring and godfearing people. I can't say the same for my Indian counterparts with the same confidence because I believe hypocrisy - the art of saying one thing and doing the opposie - is truly an Indian trait. I dont know why and where it originated from but I see it so rampant that it is hard for me to mingle with my lot of people because its difficult to trust them. Of course I am very proud of being an Indian but I am not excluding myself when I say this: we assume we are the best moral police, so our whole existence revolves around jumping to immediate conclusions about other people's lives. In comparison, Africans dont do that. They respect privacy a lot and care about being helpful. Please note the thin, blurring line between the Indian idea of nosy-helpful and the African idea of helpful-helpful.

Gradually, I learned to deal with these questions with confidence by saying that I am an Indian and my culture is deep rooted in how I think and what I do. Think about it this way: You may cut the umblical cord but mothers and children don't stop connecting to each other with strong emotional fervor. In the same way, my roots stayed very Indian because of my parents. They understood the importance of helping me strike a balance between my life as a kid in Africa and my identity as an Indian girl. Not every one had it so easy.

In primary school, I remember a Korean guy in my class who never spoke a word to any of his classmates because it was his way of dealing with people who kept asking him about his 'different' eyes. He always kept silent. I used to imitate him for a day or two and then i got fed up because I could never stop talking. I had to always keep talking. During school holidays, my dad would teach me how to write and read Malayalam, which is my mother tongue. He would put on Malayalam music, explain the poetry and the lyrics and what the poets may have intended to convey. I was really small at the time but I soaked up all of it like a sponge.

At the same time, my dad didnt try to choke my individuality. He encouraged me to do what I believe is right and that continues. Its not about being forced into one's identity but about being aware of who I am and what my choices are when growing up in a totally different place.

When I came back to India as a teenager in 1992, it was very difficult to fit in but I think I managed the transition pretty well. I like to share most of my childhood and growing up moments with my son.

Recently, I got my son a picture Atlas book and showed him the map of Africa. I told him that this is where your mom grew up and went to school. So now, he really wants to know about it. When I show him the Pyramids, I tell him that this is a place your dad visited and he loves that place. Anytime we see anything resembling a pyramid, my son remembers that at once and likes to hear my husband talk about it. Sharing these memories we hold close to our heart becomes priceless when we share it and leave it as a legacy with our kids. I know that when my father talks about his childhood, it makes me feel closer to him. It helps me understand and appreciate him though it makes him very nostalgic. By telling our kids about our past, the good and the bad, I think they will respect us more even if they dont really agree with us.

When I tell my son about little things like what made me cry when I was a kid or how my dad took me for walks and perched me on top of an old plane wreck so that I felt like I'm flying that plane, I can see how Adi loves it. His imagination takes him to that spot in Africa because I describe it for him and he listens very carefully. I tell him these little stories so that it helps him understand me and the choices that I make.

I believe that it will make kids stronger and emotionally secure when we are honest with them about everything. Learning from the past is definitely a good way to start.

Comments

Houseonahill said…
Swapna,

This is such a powerful and moving post ~ Beautifully written and emotional
GentleLavender said…
Thanks so much. Do write your thoughts in more detail, would love to read.
its a beautiful post Swapna..loved it...Hammad

Most Popular Posts

Mahamrityunjaya Mantra: Meaning, Benefit of Chanting and Who can Chant the Mantra

There are very few mantras that are as powerful as the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra. [ALSO READ: How to NEVER EVER GIVE UP on the spiritual path]

Mahamrityunjaya Mantra: Benefit of chanting this mantra
This mantra is believed to have the power to remove all sufferings, diseases and bestow the one who chants it with good health and long life. It is also believed that constant contemplation of the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra can help spiritual aspirants to overcome the cycle of birth and death.
What got me fascinated about this mantra is something personal.  I learned this mantra from my father but it is my maternal grandmother who chanted it all the time and repeatedly told me of its tremendous power to protect. However, I did not chant this mantra regularly. 
But at the age of two, my son was taught some mantras by my mother who explained what it means to him and he became very enthusiastic about chanting the mantras. Following this, my mother taught him the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra and he took to …

The Ugly Truth about Caste in Kerala

This post on Kerala's caste system has not been written with an intention to ridicule or glorify any caste as such. I do not ever judge or like to be judged on the basis of my caste. I do not support any form of caste discrimination because I know exactly how it feels to be treated differently because of one's caste. It isn't a great feeling.  

First Question is always "What is your Caste?" In Kerala, one of the first things you are bound to be asked by even new people you've just met is, "What is your caste?"  This is not a tirade against any caste but my experience, personally. And just for information, I have never used my caste name 'Menon' to this day. That is something I have learned from my father - who has never used 'Menon' in his name because he believes his destiny is shaped by values, vision and actions, not  by his caste.
As some one who is a Menon by birth, I can also tell you frankly that it often feels like a curse to be…

Amazing Signs You are an Earth Angel

Doreen Virtue’s book, “Assertiveness for Earth Angels” brings to life the reality of Earth Angels in very easy way. It’s an exciting must-read! [ALSO READ: How to NEVER EVER GIVE UP on the spiritual path]

Earth Angels have amazing super powers in: MusicArtsWriting HealingManifesting miracles for others such as controlling weather conditions &  becoming invisible at will
DO READ: ASK MORE, FEAR LESS.

How to Identify Earth Angels by their Traits
To know whether you are an Earth Angel, take a look at their known traits that are explained in this book:


You have a graceful and compassionate aura that inspires people.Your presence “lifts” everyone to happier spirits – it is proof of who you really are.You don’t judge others but you overdo the “acceptance” bit. So, you tolerate even those who show no respect for boundaries.You cannot stand anyone suffering or being in pain. You are constantly “rescuing people” because it is in your nature to want to see everyone happy in this world. But y…

Gayatri Mantra as Panchamukhi: Get it right or let it go

Most people do not understand the importance of chanting the Gayatri mantra because they are not aware of its power. It is only when I began to read Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba's teachings that I learned how sacred and powerful the chanting of the Gayatri mantra is.
The Vedas represent the breath of God. The Gayatri mantra is the very basis of the Vedas. Try not to undertake chanting the Gayatri mantra as a light endeavor or as a hobby. It has to be chanted with faith, discipline and purity of mind and body. Be steady with your sadhana if you want to reap the spiritual dividend associated with the Gayatri mantra  and never once hesitate once you decide to do it.
Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba said that the Gayatri Mantra is referred to as Pancha Mukhi, the Goddess with five faces that represent the five pranas or life forces. Here's more on it.


Chant the Gayatri Mantra correctly: Pause Five Times Here are some important things to keep in mind while chanting the Gayatri mantra:

1. Wh…

Top 10 Skincare tips for Summer

Come summer, and we women worry a lot about how the sun lashes out on our skin. True, skincare tips for the summer are plenty but what about the hushed secrets - yes, those tried and tested family secrets that are passed on from mother to daughters? [ALSO READ: How to NEVER EVER GIVE UP on the spiritual path]




Here are some that are totally easy to do. Best of all, these are effective and bring on a feel-good factor in the peak of summer.

1. Replace water with rosewater. It keeps your skin luminous and fragrant throughout the day. It's a good toner too.

2. Cleanse your skin by combining these ingredients - honey, milk, rosewater/rosepetals and turmeric. Add a dash of olive oil and yes, it feels wonderful.

3. Almond oil body baths are a must-have! You will smell delicious all day. This summer, skip all those body lotions & moisturizers! You will love the way almond oil pampers your skin all day!

4. Use a mixture of almond oil and olive oil for your feet. Your feet will sparkle an…

Five ways to take charge of your anger

“It is wise to direct your anger towards problems -- not people; to focus your energies on answers -- not excuses.” ― William Arthur Ward I hear this a lot from youngsters around me: It's fine to rant, vent and lose one's temper. It's fashionable to be scornful and rude to everyone. It's great to vent. What's the big deal about getting angry? After all, if you cannot express what pisses you off, how can you call yourself human? [Also read: How to NEVER EVER GIVE UP on the spiritual path] Here's what I think: Anger is a projection of our own minds. It stems from layered fears and the need to dominate and differentiate yourself from others whose actions or reactions we want to control. It destroys us first before it goes out and delivers blows to others around. That is why spiritual seekers work constantly towards conquering anger and fear. The two are so deeply inter related. You have to conquer both and not just one of the two. 

Yet, from my experience, I can tell…

Wake up time: There's no Woman in the Moon

How I love this awesome quote! Here it goes: 

Even the moon gets to put its feet up once a month. Man in the moon, of course. If it was a woman in the moon, she would never sit down, would she? - Allison Pearson
True, isn't it? Well, this almost sums up my typical day and don't you dare envy me for it! Okay, read on first:)
Sneak Peek into a Working Woman's Busy Routine
When your curtains filter in that soft beam of early dawn, DON"T even dream of snuggling back into the warm covers for even FIVE seconds...just run out of the covers as though your house is on fire...that way, you will get some exercise and burst off some sleepy calories too!
Rush to kitchen, make tea so that your fingers don't turn numb by the time you eat breakfast. Remember to twiddle your toes through the winter socks to make sure you know that you are still alive and kicking, if you know what I mean. Tip in the brat's ready-to-drink-after-boiled-milk and make sure you are generous with the suga…