We all do it subconsciously, try to instil habits and values that we learnt as a child into our own children. But how many of those values still hold water in today’s day and age?
When I was a little girl I remember my parents urging me to befriend a lonely, elderly neighbor. But my 8 year old mind refused to believe that an 80 year old could have anything interesting to offer in terms of play. So every week I would knock on her door for conversation and biscuits. After a few weeks, strangely I remember I used to look forward to these visits. She used to talk about her family, childhood and children, and I used quietly sit on a swing in her verandah and listen to her monologue. Sometimes she used to ask what were they teaching us at school these days and ask me to recite a poem or two. She said I had a nice voice, and that encouraged me to offer to sing to her. Looking back, those were happy memories. Perhaps as happy as the times spent in summer vacation with my cousins.
Values that are repeatedly stated in childhood have a habit of creeping up on your soul. When my children were born, my grandmother helped me thread the waters in the initial days of being a new mother. I doubt if those pearls of wisdom could have been offered by anyone else. I saw the sense in having an “Annaprashan” ceremony after my daughter completed 6 months. My entire neighbourhood rallied around me when it was time to feed her solids with special infant recipes and homely remedies for her GERD situation.
I never felt as if I was living in a city where I had little or no family.
It is true that the circle of care in Indian families extends beyond your nuclear family. It extends to parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and even second cousins and in-laws. The pecking order of veneration given to each relation is also dependant on the age. Our old value and belief system come to our rescue when we least expect it. They not only bind us together but also protect us when we need protecting.
Customs like sitting down on the floor to eat meals, wearing a red bindi on our forehead, lighting a lamp in Pooja Ghar in the evening, bending down and touching the feet of elders in the family, sitting around a tree at dusk in conversation with your neighbours, etc are known to have scientific benefits. Why then should we not pass these benefits to our children?
Because just like us, they too will realize the importance of these values and customs as they grow up and start their own family.