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Friday, January 22, 2010

A Fine Family

I remember reading somewhere, “ A family that prays together, stays together” In most families we have a tradition of all family members having at least one meal together. In the earlier times there was hardly any privacy as most activities including a bath took place in the common space in the house or in the open courtyard. Even reading a newspaper or a weekly magazine was a family activity. Times have changed and there are hardly any spontaneous family activities. Today we have families where each member eats separately, sleeps separately, works separately, relaxes separately, prays separately and yet live under the same roof. Is it something that is a sign of progress or constructive evolution ?

First came the nuclear family and then followed the 'atomic family', where the husband and wife keep spinning around in their own orbits looking after the children in 'time slices' . Some of the indicators of such families are :-

(a) Four or more keys for the main door, to facilitate convenient entry and exit.
(b) A big fridge and a microwave oven
(c) TV in each bed room /living room.
(d) multiple mobile phones
(e) multiple vehicles.

In such a family, it may be assumed that sometime in the evening people do come home and stay under the same roof till morning. In the earlier days people were forced to gather around a central point due to climatic constraints or for sheer convenience. Kitchen is a particularly popular place for a gathering in a cold place like Russia and the English talk of the home and hearth so fondly since it was too cold to stay away from the hearth irrespective of whether you like the people around or not. Then you needed a common place for wash etc. In a tropical country like India In summer people spent the cooler hours in the the courtyard and in winter the daytime was spent under the warm luxuriant winter sun .

Then came TV. A typical Indian middle class family could be seen huddled around the TV watching Ramayana or chitrahar. now with the numerous channels catering to every age group and every interest, you can hardly expect all people to watch the same channel even for a few minutes. More over the families are also have become more heterogeneous.

Today with central air conditioning , attached toilets, and TV / Music Sysytem/ Computer in each room, there is no need to come out except may be for food. but what is food today? pick something fro the refrigerator , have a bite sitting in front of your TV or computer, may be wait for a few minutes at the kitchen to route it via the microwave oven.

Don't we need something that is shared ? even if it be just the physical space ?Architects today, talk about providing a family room in addition to the drawing / dining room. I suppose the family room is a place where people get together to have a conference on some important issues , just as in a conference room in an office. Having a corner designated as family room simply means that bed rooms are for individuals and the drawing /dining rooms for the visitors. Those were the days when the entire house was family room.

With the common physical space gone, what is left now is the cyber space.. If you want to be closer to your children look to his /her profile . There you can come to know from the 'status ' proclaimed to the whole world that your offspring "had a great game today........" or “in a lousy mood....”

I suppose, the least we can do is to make the living room a place where people can spend a few minutes before leaving the house or after coming back. to read a newspaper, watch TV, relax over a cup of coffee or cold drink or simply listen to the sounds in the house; the comforting sounds people moving about, a gentle aroma of a meal being prepared, children playing or fighting among each other.

my space, our space and a place under the sun to find yourself and be yourself

Staking claim to territory/space or fighting for territory is prevalent among all creatures.

As times change the game of 'my space and our space' is manifested in differnt ways,; in the office it is a cornor office or a larger cabin and while travelling it is a window seat or front row. At home , it is not so obvious, but every one including the family pet, finds the most comfortable place for himself/or herself.

While the mundane aspect may be a matter of physical comfort, the more important factor would be the need for privacy, or the need for company. A four year old, may jockey for a place closer to his dad(or mum ).

A couple may look for a place to relax by themselves.

It is not that only the well to do people 'find' theirspace. Look at this villager comfortably perched on a roof top watching the sunset. He seems to be as much at ease, as a sophisticated lady in her drawing room.

It is always a balance between too much proximity which can be intrusive or too much distance leading to loneliness. At Ahmadnagar, during one of the many army courses I have been through, I made it a point to go for an early morning jog. At the end of the run I would stop to enjoy the sunrise. It was a kind of lonely place , a gently sloping ground, in the middle of nowhere. Everyday, without fail, en elderly couple would be sitting there well before the sunrise. They would sit about four feet apart , never closer nor farther. Since the place was desolate, there was no dearth for space. Probably, getting closer would crowd them and getting farther would be lack of company; In any case there was no verbal communication.

There is a requirement of someone near and dear within earshot distance yet non intrusive. To some extent this requirement is fulfilled by non stop FM radio or TV. An added advantage with this surrogate companion is that you can set the volume or turn it off when you want.

The comforting sound of pots and pans, or bangles accompanied by the aroma of cooking can actually be better than a non stop chat. This being the male perspective, I am sure ladies would find it good to have some signs of the presence of a man around; non intrusive I mean. Some music, a game on TV, ruffling of newspaper, cursing or even snoring. Of course, the signs of children in the house is generally distracting , but the absence of the mess they create may be disturbing or even depressing.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Why I don't want to be a normal person ?

My daughter appeared for a music theory exam at bhopal. the music teacher had assured her that she would be helped, to which my daughter had shot back , "i don't cheat"

Eventually the exam was conducted on the terrace of a friend's private house (music teacher's freind) . most of the candidates were adults, who were not only copying from books but had also to be helped by the invigilators to do just that. my daughter kept watching the whole thing while she refused to be part of the cheating that was going on.

her music teacher saw her answer paper, and was surprised to find that many of the answers were correct. He was referring to a book and could find some answers incorrect and offered to help ,"just two lines....". My daughter refused flatly. then came the gem,

" aapka mummy bahut strict hai, papa to normal hai na?"

when i heard that i actually felt so offended. what does it mean when an average indian today, specially on the northern side of the Vindhyas call you normal?

What is a 'normal' person expected to do in this time (kaliyug) and space (bharatvarsh) ?

At the workplace

- Do minimum work and get maximum pay, perks and privilages and 'the other income'; hardwork even a donkey can do, we are human's na ?

As a parent

- admit your child in the institution where you want him to be, after buying/making necessary certificates and negotiating the right price for the right service

As a student

- get maximum marks with minimum studies after all you are training yourself to do the same at the 'workplace'

As a trader /businessman

- Obtain maximum returns for minimum services or goods, afterall you have to get rich quick to prove yourself.

As a taxpayer

- What tax and why ? just pay whatever it takes to avoid tax.

As a teacher

- Earn more from tutorials while conserving time and energy at regular teaching

As a doctor

- Expend your time and effort only on such treatment that maximizes the bill.

As a general citizen

- Spit in public places
- buy a platform ticket, parking ticket or traveling ticket only where absolutely necessary
- follow only such laws/rules where infringements are monitored and where the rates for bribe is higher than the cost of abiding the law.

.....and many more

under such circumstances, It would definitely be a compliment when you hear someone say "Oh, he is abnormal"