“Our” children

 In what sense do our children ‘belong’ to us?

This is the simplest and most profound parenting advice I’ve ever read.

It was written in 1923 by the Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran in his book ‘The Prophet’. Maybe everyone is familiar with this, maybe Archies have even come out with a card with these words on it, but I’m impelled to acknowledge that Kahlil Gibran laid the foundation for everything I was to learn later about raising children. Here it is:

Your children are not your children

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you, 

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. 

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness;

For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.


We connect with characters in books and movies;  we remain connected in spirit with people we love even after they move on to a different dimension; sometimes we feel an instant connection with a person from a different century simply by reading the thoughts he left behind in his writings. Kahlil Gibran is one of those people for me: this page is a Thank You to him across the bridge of Time.


‘God hasn’t made you, He’s making you’.

Through adolescence this line helped me whenever I messed up, which was quite often. I learned to forgive myself and move on, and tried to avoid repeating mistakes.

The same goes for children: they are not finished products anymore than we are. We’ve got to be patient with them. They are growing, learning and evolving every day. They are equipped to grow, like a seed planted in fertile soil and given enough water and sunshine.

Or a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly like in this song by Miley Cyrus for her dad, that my daughter shared with me.



School system – helping kids cope

Parents are often quoted in newspapers saying that the System, rather than themselves, are to be blamed for the intense pressure children are under.

What stops a parent from being a buffer between her child and the System? Here’s an example: Mrs. R’s little daughter is upset because she has been told by a teacher that her punctuation is bad.  How can Mrs. R protect her little girl from feeling miserable? By telling her that punctuation gets better with practice, like reading, handwriting and drawing do, and maybe reading a story aloud to show how punctuation works. She can appreciate the parts the child has punctuated correctly, restoring the child’s confidence.

Harassing children about marks serves no purpose. They are merely a guide to help us see where our child needs to focus a little more. It is the teacher’s way of quantifying a child’s progress, not a judgment.  A child’s test papers should reflect his grasp of concepts, never mind the marks. The purpose of education is to ensure that a child grows up to be an independent thinker, not someone who is only capable of carrying out the instructions of some other parent-figure when he is an adult.

An offshoot of this preoccupation with marks is the practice of packing children off for ‘tuition’ every evening after school for two to three hours. Does this help children, or is it counterproductive? Meanwhile, children lose out on getting time to relax, play outdoors or do things that interest them. Apparently some children are sent for tuition as their parents cannot get them to do their school work. This raises another question: Isn’t it possible to put systems in place so homework is done as a matter of course? While it makes sense to send a child for tuition if he needs extra help with a particular subject, making him spend all evening at a parallel school does not seem fair.

If a child has excessive difficulty with a subject it tells us something important. It tells us that his strength lies elsewhere. If we take this further, we notice that he has a flair for some subjects, things that interest and, therefore, come naturally to him. This observation should serve as the basis for two important processes: one, the child’s discovery of his strengths, from which his belief in himself as a smart kid will begin, and two, a glimmer of a future career based on what he enjoys doing. If we do not jam his thought processes by obsessing about the subjects he is not good at, he ought to find his way towards suitable college courses in due course.

A System is meant for a group to function in a fairly orderly fashion; it is not perfectly tailored for each person in the group. This applies to our school system too. Every parent has to use it to his child’s advantage while attempting to minimize its negative impact on his child.

A little book for The Hindu Child

When my son was about five years old, an older child in the school van asked him if he was a Muslim or a Hindu. As he had never heard either word before he told her, “I’m a Gemini”! Anyway, that was the beginning of his questions to me.

What is a Hindu? What is the difference between Hindus and other people? How many Gods are there? Why are some people so poor? Where did Grandpa go when he died?

I looked in every bookstore for books that could simplify Hindu concepts for him. This was in the late nineties, when we depended on bookstores, not on the internet. I couldn’t find any. Finally I decided to put down on paper what I had imbibed about Hinduism over the years. Those jottings gradually grew into a book, and illustrated and edited by friends who believed in it, reached stores in early 2005.

Review by Bala Chauhan (Deccan Herald):  

http://www.deccanheraldepaper.com/ (DH Archives 24th April, 2005)



 ‘A little book for The Hindu Child’ by Bangalore-based psychiatrist Shyamala Vatsa is an interesting introduction to Hinduism. The book, primarily meant for children and early teens, is equally fascinating to adults because of the way the author has dealt with the content. Her address is straight and her answers to certain very profound questions, to the point and without any dogma. 

In the first chapter ‘What is religion?’ she begins by usual questions like “Who am I?”, “Why was I born?”, “What is God?” and turns to the readers for the answers. “Who can answer these questions? Only you.” The baseline – ‘Find out for yourself’ does wonders and is the essence of Hinduism. 

Dr Vatsa’s approach to the subject is good. Keeping in mind the vulnerability of the age group she has addressed, she has kept away from pedagogy and preaching. Instead, she has, at some places, used classroom lessons to clear doubts on intense questions like the existence of God, meaning and relevance of education, goals in life, etc. and at some, she has used life as a great learning experience to address similar serious queries. She has very simply and interestingly connected the basic principles of Hinduism like the four ashrams or stages in life to everyday life. Brahmacharya, Grahastya, Vanaprastha and Sanyas come out of the dry pages of scriptures and become alive in a young mind. 

Nowhere has she sounded absolute and final in her effort to make her readers understand the subject, and this, I feel, is a remarkable achievement. For instance, when she talks about education, she says, learning something is actually ‘discovering’ something that is already in one’s mind. 

Her definition of right and wrong is equally commendable. ‘Whether a thing is right or wrong depends on why you are doing it. So you have to be clear about your reasons for whatever you do,’ is quite profound. She has explained Karma – one of the underlying principles of Hindu philosophy and at the end, says, “Maybe you don’t believe in Karma or re-birth. Then what do you believe in? Try to argue it out in your mind till you are satisfied.” 

It’s a reaffirmation of her remarks towards the end of the book. “Hinduism is a way of thinking and one of the ways to find out these answers.”

Review by Raj: 


‘Invisible Patterns’ : An introduction to the concept

Some children spontaneously remember their past lives, usually between the ages of two and four years. Carol Bowman, a housewife, experienced this with her own children. Her consequent interest in the subject led her to interview other people in similar situations. Her findings are recorded in a book called ‘Children’s Past Lives’.

The stage of life from ages seven through eleven is called the Latency Period. During this time children are extremely curious about everything. In his book ‘The Spiritual Life of Children’ Dr. Robert Coles, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard, writes about the moral intelligence of children. He says that the conscience, which is already present by then, develops further as the child begins to raise questions about ethical issues.

The story ‘Invisible Patterns’ is about Harsh, a 10-year-old boy who remembers a past life and talks to his parents about it. Despite a belief in rebirth as a theory they are baffled by their son’s experience when actually faced with it. Nevertheless, they encourage him to figure things out for himself. By and by, Harsh begins to notice the invisible patterns that run through the universe as he deals with the ethical dilemmas he comes across in the course of his school life.

Reincarnation has always been a widely-held belief in India. There are often reports in the press of people claiming to remember past lives. Dr. Ian Stevenson, a psychiatrist, followed up about 3000 such cases over 40 years, flying to different countries to meet and interview them. In India Dr.Satwant Pasricha, former Professor of Psychology at NIMHANS, Bangalore, is known for her research in this field. There are also people like Dr. Brian Weiss, author of several books on the subject, who practice past-life regression, offering somewhat indirect proof that rebirth happens.


‘Invisible Patterns’ : what goes around comes around

Invisible Patterns book

A child who can think for himself will use his own moral compass to tell good from bad.

We, as parents, need to encourage independent thinking rather than monitor our children.

The aim of this story is to get a child to listen to his inner voice and use his own judgement in making choices.