Nature and Nurture


“I would have loved to join you all over this weekend, but I teach English to immigrants” – One of our ‘white’ friends in UK during my initial days there. Just getting into my sales sector and being a married, teetotaler, new to country employee, I found my husband Bala’s university colleagues more open to get into groups. They were diverse too. It included Brits, Jamaicans, an Arabic, an Indian, a German, and a Barbadian. Their discussions varied from accents to dialects to baking and cooking to cultures to racism. To me, who grew up with ‘Fair & Lovely’, a face cream to enhance fair skin by the Hindustan Unilever company, racism is totally an ambiguous concept. Racism to Indians is a concept we compromise and get used to on a daily basis. It could happen with in the families to inter-state. Many of us wake up to the word racism only when we step out of the country! To non-Indians, we are all brown skinned and this Indian concept of fairness doesn’t matter. So this Indian fairness, a myopic concept of what is fair on which the fairness and skin-bleaching industry is built, is a made to believe concept. This is both a nature and a nurture problem. But why?

Every country has its own internal differences and issues that are unavoidable or inevitable. India too has them. Wounded by innumerable invasions, cultural disparities, and religious persecutions India has been evolving every day for the past 3700 years. Now, the fight is between the powerful vs the normal citizens, and with politicians giving every struggle a political touch, it has become the responsibility of India’s mature citizens to truly demonstrate ‘unity in diversity’ with all these ongoing issues. There are about 50+public holidays in India and children have always been growing in a multi-cultural society for as long as any one can remember- the amalgamation of nature and nurture. But we still believe in white is good, black is bad; with an instilled Indian belief that southerners are dark /black in complexion, this is also a also a North vs South problem. Yet, applying those fairness creams, we join the BLM (Black lives matter) movements that happen abroad. Rather ironically, the same film stars who are brand ambassadors of these creams are the first to tweet support for BLM.

It has always been the case of the stronger oppressing the weaker, be it under the pretense of colonialism, nepotism, capitalism, or racism; across the countries, across the cultures! So, is this a nature vs nurture problem or a question of mind over matter? May be both, or to put in simpler words, it’s the mindset. But with societies evolving, can we generalise opinions and facts? The answer is “NO”!
Unquestionably black lives matter; human lives matter; women matter; lives matter. We are all one human race. Who are we to decide if one race is more equal or less? And why do we even have to fight for what is ours? Even after decades of abolishing slavery and untouchability, after the win in the women’s suffrage movements why are we on streets fighting for equality? What can we do to be the change? Definitely not by sharing what’s already been published in the news papers; not by taking political sides to stay disguised and play the game of equality. As literate souls, we need to look inwards and educate ourselves and the ones dependent on us for their formation.

I have observed that not all families or parents discuss these issues with children and these future citizens are raised being totally blinded to the efforts put in by some reformists and achievements that happen slowly but steadily. Until children reach to their individuation process, their thoughts and deeds are either taught and practised at home, or hereditary.

“Can you decline a service offered by a doctor that doesn’t belong to your caste/religion/faith? If the head of the district/state/country who hails from another faith invites you to dinner, would you reject it? In the casteist society, some were treated inhumanly by others, and our forefathers might have done it too. Would you be okay if your own friend harbours such an opinion against you and humiliates you? It’s time we bear the brunt to bring in the desired change. One cannot be prejudiced, judged, discriminated or hated based on the physical appearances or the nature of the birth.” This was my dad’s response to my sister’s query about casteism in India.
With head held high and hand on my heart, I can proudly say, he showed us the path of humanity and led us the right way. In this whole process of uplifting the down trodden masses, my dad was a victim too. He was denied prestigious professor posts in reputed universities twice -once by a powerful sect and another time because of ‘generalised’ view by the decision maker, whose forefathers might have been oppressed on the name of casteism. He never complained about those nor developed hatred against any one particular community. All he did and does is to encourage any one interested in pursuing education and support them how ever he could including feeding those aspirants at home- irrespective of what caste or religion they belong to. These life lessons have been helping me navigate professionally and personally, and not be judgemental based on people’s appearances and origin. Be it my dad in his own country or my kids else where or me or you -everyone of us is always generalised and judged. Yet, the beauty of this journey is meeting similar people with same values; majority of them don’t share my nationality, skin colour or faith. People aren’t all good or bad based on their physical appearances.

Next time, before any of us try to generalise, remember, that’s not fair!

Yes, people are being oppressed and movements must be justified. I exercised my first right to vote at the age of 18 with pride without totally appreciating the women’s suffrage movements that went behind. I also enjoyed living in the West without being humiliated everyday because of my skin colour. There were lots of sacrifices made by our pioneers and the BLMs help us survive too. I would also appreciate white people who fought for our human rights then and participating now in the BLM movements just like many of the social reformers from the Hindu upper castes that fought against untouchability, and men who fought against sati (cruel system to kill wives whose lost their husbands). I believe that to bring in the equality, we don’t have to pull others down. Equality cannot be a wheel in which some one has to be oppressed all the times. We need a change in the mind set. One cannot bring in their preexisting opinions while dealing with people of any colour or country. Yes, we do carry a herd mentality that represents us and separates one sect of people to the other. But every interaction must be started afresh. It has to be beyond the method in madness. All we need is to remind ourselves that we are humans first.

In innumerable counts, I have seen people vehemently spreading hatred and I wonder what they teach their children? The golden rule for parenting is to not say ‘don’t‘ to a child; instead its advised we offer them a safer alternative and encourage they try that. So, that principle doesn’t apply to these adults? Judging everyone based on their appearances, culture, and likes/dislikes is utter nonsense. Instead, to express what one prefers and why is much more a better approach than announcing what one hates! This latter approach doesn’t serve any purpose.

Be the change doesn’t mean preach hatred. Be the change is to do something valuable that really could help those who need it. Be the change includes educating our own children about how they deal with others including being empathetic towards everyone’s needs, being socially responsible, being part of community events- not just our dedicated group that only caters to our individual needs; using our language/professional skills not to just support our children get those ‘voluntary hours’ but truly dedicate time and efforts to those communities that are in desperate need for them just like our English friend I mentioned in the beginning.

Any movement aimed at bringing in equality or treating every one and thing with respect should be an ongoing process, not triggered by one event that creates the troughs and crests momentarily. “Go with an open mind when you meet any one. Let not their colour, creed, faith provoke you into assumptions. Have an open dialogue, offer a true hand of friendship. Not everyone can be friends, but that shouldn’t be b(i)ased on physical appearances. Everyone is equally equal”- is what I teach my kids. What do you teach them?

Happy Mother’s Day

A mother/amma is the one who has warmth and care for anyone who needs it; needless to say, we all do, don’t we? One need not deliver an offspring to be called a Mother. Not everyone who does can be a caring mother. To all those wonderful beings who nurture anyone in need with care and love – Happy Mother’s Day!

It will take me another forty years to describe my mum, Sarada, her warmth, and nurture. Born in an affluent family, being raised with utmost love, she molded herself to the needs of the family she is married into. My dad hailed from a lower middle class and always was quenched in thirst for knowledge, but he had the responsibilities of his siblings-older and younger. At a very young age of 21, he joined as a lecturer and continued his quest to learning deeper and more by doing PhD. But alongside, my mum was the one who had a lot of compromises and sacrifices to make to let everything run smoothly.

Over the time, with my dad, Dr Ayalasomayajula Gopalarao garu, becoming a well-respected and busier literary personality, she resigned her job as a teacher at a school where my sister and I studied, and continued her studies online and earned her master’s degree. But, none of us had to do any compromises that may have had her duties lessened. My mum, who never cooked until she got married, believed the same in raising us. She always believed women should be financially independent and thus always did what she had to, to make us totally believe that we were in the ‘student phase’- only studying and having the fun a child deserves, and encouraging us to make great friendships- nothing else was thrust upon us! At that point, me and my sister were the only ones from our neighbourhood who went to an English medium private school that was then the top most rated in the town! My dad took every cue my mum gave him with regards to our raising. To date she has this fascination of speaking fluently in English- that I am sure, we, as her daughters fulfilled.

My dad growing up with financial restraints and unable to study at University as a full time student, always had a special place for students with similar struggles. So, he continued the tradition of ‘varalabbay’– feeding students on 2-3 specified days of the week at home. He couldn’t have done these without my mum’s support as she has to cook fresh for all of us on those days, and not an easy task! Those students considered my parents as theirs.

One of the best memories from childhood usually are the birthday parties. Until now without needing any reminders, friends and relatives wish me on my birthday only because of how my mum used to host the parties. Dad is also all up for celebrations too. Mum is an excellent cook and used to bake egg-less cakes in pressure cooker on sand in place of water. Those were the days sans internet- WOW! The other regular birthday dish was ‘saimya pulao‘. The whole neighbourhood buzzed with her hospitality. I have had so much fun celebrating birthdays with friends as a kid and an young adult, now I make it a point that I celebrate it not partying but through giving to those in need. Here, I have to thank my husband, who cares and shares this joy of giving.

My mum is a softhearted person with self-respect and due respect for others. I am sort of short tempered, and all she tells me is to hold on to my emotions and reminds me to not let them loose; how ever others may behave, I shouldn’t change my core principles but be my caring self; I shouldn’t do anything that make me regret of my deeds in years to come. A tough ask but I am trying my best. At this juncture, I must mention my maternal grand parents who were as soft, and were enamored with this culture of spreading love and warmth.

Mathru devo bhawa,
Pitru bevo bhawa
acharya devo bhawa
Athidhi devo bhava
Respects to Mother, Father, Guru and Guest. They are all forms of God.
This is the culture that nurtured me and alike.

How are you today?

Last month a rather peculiar incident was witnessed by my son. He’d forgotten to sign-out of his system at school, and a couple of students from next period, put some inappropriate stuff on his page. His teachers found who that were, and made them apologise. So, his lesson to take home was to wrap-up properly. Thanks to his teachers, this innocuous incident was dealt with firmly, yet swiftly! But that has evoked many thoughts, innumerable instances that prompted what that would have led to if not addressed properly! What about the all vile, spiteful events that keep raising their heads very so often in and around us in the form or bullying and goes unreported or unaddressed.

Bullying, a word that should be highlighted enough to be wiped off the human-dictionary! When it comes to the choices of schools, as a parent, my first priority is for zero-tolerance towards bullying, not those schools that can make my children robots and Wikipedia. This bullying is not pertained just to schools or to younger children. Silent suffering leads into depression and mental illness. We should nip it in the bud to eradicate just as we did with small pox and polio. This thought of standing up for yourself should be sown at the embryonic stage. In this modern era, schools pay the pivotal role in this process. Pain should neither be ignored nor subdued, but dealt with properly. The cognitive brain should realise the pain has disappeared totally.

Going back to the incident at my son’s middle school, he showed me this letter written by his seniors. I’m in awe of his teachers. I’m more in awe of these students who owned the mistake. They were helped to demonstrate the true meaning of ‘apologising’. Teachers should be passionate towards the role they play in designing every kid’s life They lay the foundation for a better tomorrow. Kids who are raised with self-respect and receive support to address any pain inflicted, emerge as confident and stronger adults. In this particular instance, I’m overjoyed to see how teachers channelized these students who did a mischievous act without realizing the repercussions nor intended to hurt one child. It’s an act at the spur of the moment. There will be many that are done aiming and targeting one particular individual only because they appear vulnerable. Hence, I believe we need to weave human relations that will act as a cushion to raise a harmonious society. We need to be caring and empathetic. Schools, caretakers, and parents should act as strong anchor points. We don’t have to be perfect at everything and anything. As much as kids must be taught to accept failures, they must be taught to handle success too.

Kids who are shy, who are bullied, and who are constantly shunned, are made to believe they are born to suffer and that they aren’t lucky! Lucky or not, no one has right to bully others. Every one is equally equal. Way back in early 90’s my sister’s friends did a project on horoscopes and scientific relations. They came up with lots of predictions; one was, “you are lucky but never happy”. I could never comprehend that until I hit my adulthood. Now, when I entered the era of quadragenarian , I have realised, you may be lucky and not happy. But you can choose to be happy even if not lucky”! Self confidence and self respect are the DNA blocks for a healthy life. No one has right to hurt others. Kids must be taught the importance of social manners.

Bullying has no religion nor limited to races. We see one or two spikes when certain incidents get reported. But it’s prevalent every where.Google Wiki says, ” About one person in 5,000–15,000 dies by suicide every year (1.4% of all deaths), with a reported global rate of 10.7 per 100,000 population in 2015 (was 11.6 in 2008).” To curb this, we need human relations, every school needs counsellors, every citizen must act as soldier bringing bullying down at the bud stage. I’ve been an agony aunt for many of my friends/acquaintances. But there is no human chain that keeps this going. We get busy, we get consumed by our own desires and careers.

All we need is to do, ask anyone who is quiet or appearing disconnected or who always active or anyone we see, ” how are you today?” Every one must do their bit before bullying or other selfish motives consume us all.

It’s okay to fail!

Patience, perseverance, and empathy!

An MBA friend of mine, who I treat as my own sister, raised this very good question on, “how to teach children to deal with disappointments and failures”! Firstly, let’s remind ourselves that failure is also an option. An unavoidable option in everyone’s life; if not now, a little later. But it better be now than later. Let that ‘now’ lay a strong foundation for a successful, happy tomorrow.

This takes me back to late 2000’s when I was referred this book on parenting, ” Super Powers to Parents ” (by Stephen Briers), by my very good friend in England. Take home point from that book was addressing on how to use praise words for our children that makes them stay focussed by registering on what actually the praise is meant for. What could imply to them their exact value we carry in our hearts and minds.


Sharing an article that’s very relevant here: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/emotional-intelligence-the-psychology-of-better-parenting-1.899058

“I’m proud of your ‘achievement’ ” is a better suggested method of parenting than, ” I’m proud of you” as a token of appreciation. If you are using the latter, does that imply you are NOT proud of your children when they fail at achieving a medal in a competition? Are you trying to plant seeds of success is what will make you feel proud of them? But celebrating success or an achievement is important too. In this deadly competitive world, we need to train kids to give their best. But how they fare shouldn’t set a basis of them perceiving our love!

It’s our primary responsibility to teach our children to be empathetic and responsible. If we are upset with them, it’s not with them but with their behaviour or acts that might land them in trouble. We will always love and be proud of them. It’s the deeds we are aiming at, not them as individuals.

Let’s not make them victims of instant gratification that makes it hard for them to accept a failure. I have met kids who are champions at what all they do, find a way to blame others for them not faring well. High parental push, heavy expectations, and an urge to top absolutely at everything and anything make kids look for loop holes in the system, and start either a blame game or demean others who’re vulnerable. We need to coach them to accept the fact that life is only fair if it has little ups and downs. I also come across children who are scared to accept a defeat. They are only worth their constant successes, a deep rooted emotion installed by parents. These parents assume making winning as a habit will help them in long run. On the contrary, we are raising fed-up or anxious adults, who cannot be part of any team work.

Our children should never be coerced into fulfilling our unfulfilled dreams; the worst, training them into making another mini-us because we have been successful on our chosen paths! It’s ok for them to not be praised at every instance as said by Dr Taylor in this article:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-power-prime/200909/parenting-dont-praise-your-children

We expect our children to top absolutely in everything that’s available around! We want their glasses to be replaced by contacts, their uneven teeth to be bound by their braces, their failures to appear as life failures, and more over, teach them that failure is ‘never’ an option! Let’s do what our children need, not what pleases others about them. Let’s not make them people pleasers for nothing. Happiness is the paramount feature at any stage of life. Life need not be impeccable. It’s only natural to be imperfect and learn from our mistakes.

Let’s not deliver and train kids as a show-off to the society! Let’s teach our children to take steps that may fail them at times, and that we are there to hold them. We are pleased, upset or proud of their deeds, but we always love them; no matter what! Let them trust us, let them know failing is a part of life. Every failure has a lesson to teach which successful may not have a chance to learn!   It’s okay to fail.

Stoneman Douglas’ evolving leaders, you are USA’s hope!

“Pen is mightier than the gun”! In the western primary education system, we find a lot of relaxation, an openness for the growth of mind and a wide scope for the reasoning skills to be nurtured. This was to reduce child labour and to bring everyone to schools. The West has always inspired the world. Their innovation, their R&D, their democracy! What’s wrong with the US, more so now? Are teachers meant to spend their time learning to shoot and using guns instead of pens? Can we guarantee teachers will remain stable all the time? Can we promise a good night’s sleep to our teachers with the possibility of using a gun next day at school?

Once in his/her childhood, every child wants to become a teacher- that’s how much teachers inspire. We want children to be inspired towards automatic guns and magazines NOW?? India has taught the world the importance of non-violence. Mahatma Gandhi ruled out any other beliefs but non violence and India became independent. This thought process was nearly a hundred years old yet works. Nelson Mandela repeated it in South Africa as late as the 1990s.

Why do citizens need guns, that too assault rifles, in this modern world? Are our laws so loose? Was our police and defense system so weakly woven? Is our democracy failing? Gun to gun, eye to eye, violence to violence – the modern US mantra? I am baffled between “TOY GUNS ” and “GUNS as TOYS” with no age limit.  I had to witness a chat in our local neighbourhood group where supporters of ‘carrying-guns-openly in Texas-legal’ advised us to move back if we were petrified! How and when can one determine, one is in a sane state of mind or otherwise? I may be a happy person but feel disturbed when I see someone or something! ‘Get a taste of your own medicine’ is what’s happening. Do we like the taste? Can we change it for a  sweeter, happier society? Can we change it to a hopeful society where parents don’t have to kiss their scholarship winning, ready-for-university high-school kids for one last time but many many more times just as they expected to do!

But our future is hopeful. These children of Stoneman Douglas are highly determined. They are composed, they are articulated, they believe in love not in war. They want their senators to not accept funds from the NRA. They want their teachers to give them subject knowledge, imbibe them with morals, they want this incident to be the last.. no more schools, no more parents should go through this. I believe in their beliefs.

Mr. President, time to learn from these future citizens.  What you think and propose is DATED!!!