Oh No! Please do not judge me as a mother who has already set goals for her kids to grow up to be a doctor, or an engineer or even a dancer or musician for that matter. At the same time neither am I sure nor do I commit to be that liberal mother who might just take it in my stride when Nik might grow up and come up to me saying, “Mom! I want to be a communist activist! I will fight against the capitalist system that is ruining our country!”
Then, what is it that I am really scared of? Before I answer my own question, let me take you through a small background of why this question has been troubling me for a couple of days.
When Nik was just two years old, we took a family outing to a multiplex to watch Bajirao Mastani. Apart from the visual spectacle that Mr. Bhansali presented to the audience, I personally found little originality in the plot. It was a period love story afterall. I felt I was watching a little twisted and “Marathi” version of Devdas or Ram Leela. Leaving that apart, one particular scene that gripped my attention and set me pondering was the one which included a dialogue between the female Protagonist “Mastani” (Ms. Podukone) and her son “Shamsher Bahadur”.
For those who havn’t seen the movie, I will elaborate on the scene a little bit. “Mastani is all chained in a prison along with her son and is being coaxed into leaving “Bajirao” and the Peshwa territory, which she obviously refuses to because she deeply, madly, truly loves “Bajirao” and cannot think of a life without and away from him. Her keepers try and put her in a fix by taking her son away from her in a threat to finish him off.
The exact dialogue there is “Bachche ko utha lo”(Pick up the child!). “Mastani” at that moment reverts saying “Bajirao ka beta hai. Khud chalkar jaaega” (He is Bajirao’s son. Will walk away on his own). This is followed by a series of courage enticing questions she shoots at her 6 or 7 year old, to which the son responds quite dauntingly for his age. And then he hugs his mother and walks off with the guards.
And, this set my mind rolling.
On one hand my heart went out for that boy, who had been given that “Taleem” of fearlessness and heroism that runs in his blood. And simultaneously, my minds reeled with a daunting possibility that may be in reality this 7 or something year old must have clung to his mother crying out his lungs saying that he did not want to leave her. It could have so happened that he was scared and pleaded to his mother to do whatever it takes to keep him along with her.
When I voiced my thoughts to my husband his reply that agitated me even further. He said, “Bajirao aur Mastani ka beta hai. Courageous toh hoga hi” (He is a son of two extremely courageous people, and so is bound to be courageous himself)
Ever since husband’s reply to my query , I have been quite uneasy and unsure of how such expectations impact a child’s upbringing and his future. In my own family, I have heard comments (or may be they think these are complements) such as, “His parents are so educated and extremely qualified. He is bound to do well in his studies.” While Nik is too young to understand what is being said, I already feel the burden of people’s expectations from my son for something his parent’s have achieved in life. (I think I now understand Abhishek Bachchan’s plight or for that matter Rahul Gandhi’s woes) I often wonder, how long will it be before I too will begin to have expectations from my kids and make them carry the baggage of our backgrounds on his psychic?
I know I have always carried the baggage of my parents expectations from me, which i feel has been a major factor in me doing decently well for myself academically and professionally. Coming from that typical middle-class bckground, I would confess that I’ve not been very out-of-the-box in our approach towards life. While I do appreciate those among my peers who have made it big as social volunteers, e-tail entrepreneurs, Ihave had a rather convetional approach towards life. Get a qualification, get-a-job, get married and have kids.
Today I may enjoy and appreciate success stories of engineers turned musicians, economics graduates turned actors, promising investment bankers turned sculptors etc; but will I be equally cool about Nik taking up a path that would lead him to chose a very non-conventional profession. For example, I know of photographers who set out as amateurs but turned into professional full-timers just by virtue of displaying their work over blogs. And successfully so! How so ever exciting and a dream run kind of stories these may seem, am I prepared enough to allow Nik to experiment with his life?
And thus the question, “WILL MY SON GROW UP TO BE WHAT HE SHOULD GROW UP TO BE?” Am I providing or rather, do I have it in me to provide my children with a truly unbiased learning environment which will help him experiment with his skills and abilities and look for his very own niche in this jungle of a world? Will I not ever be influenced by the aspiration of being a parent to an academic prodigy or a sports genius or a gifted artist? How far am I willing to risk the perceived financial security of my children’s future and let them just be?
Let alone the professional aspect, am I even prepared to let my children not be burdened by the do-don’ts of the civilized society and develop an independent view of what is right while making their decisions. Will I be strong enough when the moment of truth arrives to just let go and stand by my children in whatever they decide for themselves?
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