By N.K.A. Ballal, Retd. Sr. Vice-President, ITDC
Two friends meet at a Mall. They are seeing each other after a long time. So they hug each other and start chatting. The talk ultimately comes back to their children. “Do you recollect, our children were in the same class,” said Asha.
Yes, my son completed his 12th with great difficulty since you know he was weak in maths. Anyway he did a diploma later and now is employed with a mechanic workshop right across our small home. Earns well enough but is very happy since he all along was a motorcycle enthusiast and now he is able to handle so many of them. He has also learnt to repair foreign bikes and hence is in good demand, said Usha, the other friend.
Oh, I am so sorry to hear about your son. My son completed his M.Tech from iit, kanpur and is now appearing for the civil services exam, said Asha.
Congrats, said Usha, I am very happy for you. But Asha continued, “I am sure you must be disappointed. Both your son and mine were classmates but look now one is a Mechanic and other is likely to become an ias Officer…” Usha kept quiet.
As they finished their shopping and came out, Usha saw her son whiz past in a motorcycle. She called him out. He stopped by and picked up the bags of his mother. She introduced her friend to him and he immediately took her bags too to her car. Asha’s son was waiting in the car. He started to shout at his mother for taking so much time for shopping and wasted his two hours. On reaching home she was feeling disturbed. Her husband came home in the evening and asked her the reason for her bad mood. She told him, “Today, after nearly 20 years, I met my friend Usha. Instead of enjoying her company, I started to talk about our children and boasted about our son. I made some hurtful comments about her son too. I met that boy, who was so well-behaved, courteous, wished me, picked up my bags instantly with a smile. On the contrary, our son was very rude to me. I feel I was wrong.
Of course, you were wrong, said her husband. You were talking to your friend as if your son’s achievements were your own which is not true. Each child is born with his/her own destiny. Please do not try to mix it up with ours. You tried to measure the success story of the children with their studies. It is a fact that most successful businessmen are back-benchers and not top rankers. Our duty as parents is to build characters and give our children space to grow with values which we hold good.
Let us assume, our son grows up and at the age of 50 becomes the Chief Secretary of this State. Are we going to get any share of his wealth or status? No, but if he is well-mannered, humble and down to earth, we as parents will be praised for bringing him up the right way. And on the contrary, if he turns out to be arrogant and ill-mannered, all the blame will come to the parents.
So Asha, if you meet your friend again, do apologise to her. You had no business comparing our children with hers.
This is not a real story. The idea of making up this story is to bring home the fact that whatever the achievements of our children, we should remain grounded to ensure that we give them right values. Parents always tend to get either bouquets or bricks depending on the behaviour of their children. Whenever I talk on this subject of humbleness and courtesy I am reminded of our President, Dr. Abdul Kalam. I have met several Presidents and several of them develop such haughtiness and arrogance. It is seen to be believed. I know of several President families who do shopping and conveniently forget to pay !
Anyway coming back to Dr. Kalam, we had lined up to receive him in Lalitha Mahal Palace Hotel. As is the protocol, we had arranged a nadaswaram party to welcome the President. As he was entering the hotel, he stopped, listened to the music for some time and quietly went to the music party and started talking to them in Tamil. He then posed for a photo with the music party. A simple gesture no doubt, but for the nadaswaram artistes their day was made. It is also a known fact that Dr. Kalam used to pay for the food of all relatives who used to visit him at his Rashtrapati Bhavan!
Another down to earth and well-mannered vvip was the ex-President of usa Barack Obama. Even when in power, he used to visit some restaurants with his family, pay the bills too. After retirement, the us Presidents make money by way of lectures only and do not live a life of luxury as presumed by many. Obama, of course, had a wife, Michelle who ensured that he was grounded all the time.
On a lighter note, there is a small story: Obama with his family once went to a restaurant to have a meal. As they were about to start their meal, a man walked by. As soon as he saw Michelle, he stopped and waved. She immediately waved back, got up from her seat and went up to him to talk. After about ten minutes, she came back and Obama asked her “Who was it?” She replied “He was my classmate. We were very close friends.” Obama, known for his tongue-in-cheek comments said, “If you had married him, you would have been a wife of Vice-President of a company and not President’s wife.” Michelle laughed and said, “No, no Barack, you are wrong. If I had married him, he would have been the President of United States and you would have continued to work in some law firm as a partner.” This is called grounding.
To summarise, it is okay for you to be happy with your children’s success in formal education but do give stress on the two most important things — “Values and Character-building.” Your parenting is not decided by the bank balance or status but by the values you imbibe in them. Small things like giving respect to elders, greeting all with a genuine smile, talking politely, patiently hearing out other’s point of view etc. If by chance your kid is not academically sound, accept him, continue to impart values and never make a cardinal mistake of comparing with other successful kids.