When my father was a child…

I recently read this story by Alexandra Ruskin in my son’s text book. It is an interesting tale in which a child talks about his father’s childhood dreams. The story goes like this…

When my father was a child, he was often asked what you would like to be when you grew up. He had different answers each time. First he said he would become a night watchman so that he could roam around freely when everyone else was asleep. Next, he wanted to be an ice cream vendor – have as much ice cream as you want, and yet be able to roam around. Later, he aspired to become a railway engine driver. His parents would laugh at his answers. Father’s dreams kept on changing with time – becoming a pilot, to becoming an actor and so on. Finally, he said he wanted to become a dog. As a dog he could run fast on four legs, bark at people, run after them and laze around – all at his will. He had one problem though. He was unable to scratch his back with his leg like dogs do. He started spending time with dogs to learn the trick. One day an army officer passed by and asked him, “What are you doing with dogs”. Father replied, “I am learning how to be a dog”. When the officer asked why, father said,“ I have been a human for some time and now I want a change. The officer asked him if he knew what a human being was. The father said no and asked him to explain. The officer said, “think over it yourself” and left. Father kept on thinking and realized that he must first learn to become a human being. This time when he shared his desire with his parents, no one laughed. Father had finally got his lesson of life:be a good human being.

My son told me that the teacher asked children the same question in their class after the story. Most children wanted to be achievers in terms of position or money. Only a small group said they would like to be a good human being. When I asked about his response, my son said, “I wanted to be in the group that opted for good human being but most of my friends were in the other group. I was not sure how will I defend my choice. So, I also went with the other group”.

I asked him what does being a good human being mean to you. He thought for a while and said doing good deeds, helping others, etc. I said that is very good and posed another question, “If you see some people beating a man mercilessly on road, what will you do? Will you join the party who is beating because it is in majority or you will try to intervene to make peace and help the man. He said, he will try to intervene to help the man. Then we discussed what is meant by being a good human being. We summarized the discussion with three points: a) we need to do what we believe in and what we feel is the right thing to do. If a large number of people do something, it does not make it right; b) being a good human being does not mean that you can’t be an achiever. You must try to excel in your chosen field and yet be a good human being; and c) in race of life, never compromise on your values.

I hope my son will remember this. I need to reiterate this from time to time though. I shared this episode because it has learning for parents and teachers. Peer pressure plays a dominant role in forming values throughout our lives but is more central in formative years.  We need to talk to children as friends and lead by example. Times have changed. Parents have lesser time for children. Children are living in an environment in which everyone wants to get rich quickly. But we need to lay the foundation of core values in our children. We can’t afford to fail in this.

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3 Responses to When my father was a child…

  1. DR ANURAG VERMA says:

    THE PARENT HAS TO BE A ROLE MODEL AND A FRIEND AND DISCUSS EVERY THING UNDER THE SUN WITH THE CHILD.THE SOONER WE START EARLY IN CHILDHOOD, THE BETTER ,FOR BOTH. CHILDREN LOOK UPON THEIR PARENTS NATURALLY FOR EVERYTHING,NOT FINDING IN THEM. THEY MOVE OUTSIDE AND IN THE UNCONTROLLED MERCILESS WORLD, MOULDING THEIR THOUGHTS,OUTLOOK AND BEHAVIOUR. MORE OFTEN THAN NOT PARENT REALISES TOO LATE AND FORCES HIS VIEW AND EXPECTATION,LEADING TO REBELLION. A LOSE -LOSE SITUATION FOR ALL.
    HEY! YOU ALL KNEW THIS. THEN PRAY WHY DON’T WE ALL ACT.
    CORE VALUES ARE TAKEN CARE OF THEIR OWN

  2. Dr. Rajesh Nair says:

    Dear Sir,

    At times I have this feeling that… where I am heading to, in such busy life… I really have no clue sometime. Then I take a peaceful walk, just to be with myself and then I try to recapture my thoughts.

    Yes, one always remain to be good human being but some time this little insensitiveness due to some cruel people or their behaviour around you, cause lot of pain & agony. In return you tend to be little inhumane to such people or their behaviour. Some time it is spontaneous, may be due to individuals’ lack of power to negotiate with such people.

    I really like what you have discussed with your son “in race of life never compromise on your values.”

    I will surely try to go by this…

  3. Amrita Dass says:

    In a complex, fast changing globalised world, what does not change are values like integrity and standing up for what is just. While discussing such issues with our children is important, parents must be role models for a more profound impact as Afsar has emphasised.

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