Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Is India a better place to bring up kids?

This is a serious dilemma that many parents face while living abroad. Many of them site that as the main reason to go back to India and settle there. They think prevailing situation and surrounding conditions in India will allow their kids to learn “Indian culture”. The dilemma mainly raises two questions. First, what do we mean by “bringing up”. Secondly, what do we mean by “Indian Culture” that many of us are so desperate to teach that to their kids?

To me bringing up implies to help the kid to become a better and total human being. Formal education is only a part of that. But the main aspect is learned from parents, society and surrounding environment.

The pressure to succeed there in India is so high that our own parents want us to prosper in every aspect of life. They forcefully impose almost all of their unfulfilled desires on those kids. In India today, we hardly behave in a honest, rational way. Our present society does not support honesty, as a virtue but consider it as a 'drag' force to become 'successful'. We teach our kids the same in the name of reality.

We see good number of kids going to school with heavy load of books and return home to do huge home-work. After coming back from the school they go to music class, then swimming, then home work and so on… They are too busy to spend time with parents. Very limited free time they get, they prefer to spend with TV and/or video games. Kids in the past used to read comic or other books or listening fairy tales from grandparents. This change in habit reduces their ability to imagine, to think 'unthinkable'.

Parents themselves cannot afford to remain honest and straightforward in present Indian society. They hardly can protect their own dignity, be it in the office or in a housing society or neighborhood, if they try to behave honestly, if they oppose corruptions and so on. Kids grow up with a distorted vision about life and "reality". They learn to accept corruption, not to oppose it in the name of “practical sense”. Money becomes almost the sole purpose of life. Accumulation of money and power start becoming the only yardstick to judge “success”. I agree that it's almost a global problem; but in India, it already has taken the dimension of an epidemic. Globalization is making it worse. We are loosing our good values fast while adopting cheap and easily imitable negative aspects of western culture.

In India, we learn that we can get away with almost any crime, "believers" may say "sin", by bribing even God, leave alone government officials and bureaucrats. Many of us feel that observing some bratas and offering costly items to God is sufficient to continue doing crimes and overcome our own limitations, e.g. failure to become rich, failure to pass exams, inability to find suitable spouse and so on. When we see highly visible but utterly corrupt people (e.g. well known political leaders, film actors, industrialists etc) offer huge money and expensive jewelry in the famous temples like that in Tirupati and media loudly advertise & praise it, then we need to acknowledge there is a serious problem with the society.

Our highly 'educated' and religious parents teach their kids not to help any other kid in the school or neighborhood. 'Little' cheating is acceptable to score higher marks n the exams or credit that s/he does not deserve. Kids start learning that showing off (money, power, degree etc.) is the best policy to hide any form of deficiencies or inabilities. From the beginning of their lives they learn that admitting fault and ignorance is a serious crime. It does not surprise me when most of the Indians always try to shift responsibilities and blame others or the 'system'. It not only deprives them from knowing the right thing but also expose their lack of  education.

Many parents blindly follow some rituals in the name of 'tradition' or 'religion' which they cannot explain to their curious kids. They take help of phrases like “you should not question when elders ask you to do something” or "you will know when you grow old". It not only hurt kid's psychology but also trains him/her to loose his/her ability to think independently and ask questions. It has severe consequences both for the kid and the nation. We see the same trend in homes, societies, schools, universities and offices. As a result India now produces mainly technician grade professionals who can walk only through the roads invented and developed by others. We can not make basic computer software like C++ or JAVA or operating systems like Windows or Linux, despite of being the global “power house” in IT. Our much-hyped biotechnology sector can only boast to produce generic drugs (patent expired drugs) and copying products by stealing/breaking patent laws of other countries, sometimes using the loopholes of Indian patent law. Published articles show that the quality of science and research in India is going down fast, despite of huge increase in fund allocation. India now mainly supplies scientific/technical coolies worldwide and due to lack of interest in science education and research among students in  developed countries, Indian techie/science coolies survive & thrive there.

Many studies showed that kids need to play in natural surroundings with bushes, ponds, forest etc. to have a healthy body and mind. But today Indian kids in cities and smaller towns hardly have anything else to do but to waste time in front of TV or video games. It’s almost impossible for kids to play & explore nature, even if their parents want. Land sharks and unplanned growth reduced that probability to a very worrying level. Running after money and busy schedule of parents prevent them from spending time with their kids. Many of them wrongly think money can buy 'education', 'culture' and even happiness. They can not differentiate between scoring high marks and buying degrees with education. This is a very pervasive disease in Indian society today. 

It’s not surprising at all when kids grow up and kick out their old parents. Such parents must not blame the 'system' or write songs, poems on old-age homes. They are responsible for their own fate and fate of the country. For many people, bringing up means enabling kids to earn money and survive with reasonable personal comfort. India is surely the place where they can get a cheap and effective training (I am avoiding the term “education” here) to do just that. But others, who still believe that bringing up means infusing a positive value and a dream to make this world better place, need to think many times before opting for an option to bring up their beloved children in India.

If the child is a girl, then it becomes more problematic. In India, we hardly allow a girl child to develop properly, with an analytical mind and a strong body. We kill most of her qualities (as a human being) in the very beginning and allow her to grow only as a 'girl', playing with dolls, tolerating sexual harassments and bullying by the society and even by the members in her own family. 'Ladki jaisa' (like girls) is a very insulting slang frequently used by parents, even by moms and, most pathetically, even in front of the girl child.

Here in the western world, there is a higher chance that the kid will do something they enjoy. They will not be forced to study medicine or engineering or science when they love journalism or cooking or singing or studying philosophy. There is a higher chance that s/he will love what s/he does and the probability to excel in that field is higher. The probability of the girl child to blossom into a woman with stronger body and logical mind is much higher in a western society as compared to India.

If the kid cannot read Rabindra Nath Tagore, cannot enjoy Durga Puja, can not eat hilsa fish, but enjoy reading Rohl Dahl, sign Celine Dion, enjoy rib-eye steaks, but is a good and honest human being who dream to make this world a better place, I’ll be proud of such kids, despite of being a proud Indian and Bengali myself.

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  1. Anonymous12:55 PM

    India is tough place for tough people, just kidding. I can understand your concern at the same time I would be happier if someone just come up with solution and face the situation. My philosophy is to make world better place ,India has to be better, for the matter of fact all part of the earth has to be better. So I guess moving from the place is not the solution. But it is just my opinion. I am optimistic because my father stayed at India and set an example I would like to follow the same path. I don’t want my kid to get into drugs and sex which I feel % wise India has better track record. I am sure one could argue India has those problems too. But I guess I understand my home better than this and just because Bill Gate has more money I would not like him to be my parent. Sounds funny :), I know. I appreciate the fact that your taking a step forward and thinking about the issues. I will keep c++ and java out of my comments. I love them too :)

  2. I completely agree that India is currently not the best place for a kid to grow up.
    For the city-kids,they grow up playing in concrete playgrounds and seeing pictures of animals/birds/trees.Those who have pets are learning a little bit of compassion but the rest are only learning to be a competetive machine.He/she is only learning 'how to win' and 'never to experience failure'.As a result after growing up their sole purpose of life is to get a job to earn money.They hardly learn any kind of volunteering activity be it in term of money or just physical labour.Suffering from unneccessary tension and terrible insecurity is very common.Lack of any love for nature or animals make them insensitive and selfish. I grew up in Calcutta and talking from my experience.
    On the other hand kids grew up in villages are in even worse situation.They are getting the urban vices like selfishness and lack of closeness to nature and also lacking the competetive edge and exposure.
    I am just supporting this article and sorry I don't have any suggestion for a solution to this.

  3. Anonymous points to drug use % in India being better. I would like to say that there are no surveys in India that give accurate numbers. In my opinion drugs are mostly available to rich kids in India and the current crop of IT kids will be more susceptible.

    Personally, I would like my kid/s to grow in an environment where thinking is encouraged. Realistically it is impossible with so called globalization of every aspect of human life.

    The current Indian education system does not encourage thinking. Expertise in technical implementation is considered genius beacuase it brings in loads of monetary benefits and illusion that money can provide your kids with better life. Originality of thinking is a notion left far behind and often discouraged.

    Bollywood has become the icon of lifestyle in India. If one observes critically the content of the recent mega-blockbusters it goes beyond being pitiful. The movies pre-70s were much more meaningful and sometimes thoughtful. I dont see a Satyajit Ray in India and that saddens me.

    Understand that a kid growing in US is not that well off either. But the system atleast provides avenues for out-of-box thought process or atleast provides avenues to fight the process.

    In the end kids will imitate the environment. Therfore, surround them with thoughts about the betterment of humanity and not just themselves.

  4. Kids in India are not safe at all, as we used to think, so far sexual and physical abuse are concerned. More than half of our kids are abused in India. We only take a false pride of the fact that “70% of the children never reported the abuse”.
    Check the following report by Indian govt:

    And a report in Indian express:

  5. superb article. You have simply put my feelings and thoughts into good words.

  6. A Very honest article. I've always been irked by people claiming that something hurts Indian Culture, whereas they have no clue as to what it is. I don't claim to know any, but i guess the culture we had was much better than what we have now. And you touch a chord about the development of women. I agree 100%. Couldnt be truer.

  7. Violent behavior among kids in India is rising alarmingly in recent days. All round corruption, lack of fear from law and order and a pervasive sense that you can get away after doing even notorious crimes is also taking its toll on kids. Lack of attention and love from their busy parents and deterioration of family values are other major factors. Majority of Indian kids, mostly from rich and powerful family background severely lacks the sense of justice. That behavior cannot be totally changed when they become adult. “Murderous violence among pre-teens has seen a sharp rise in Delhi, an almost four-fold increase in the last 10 years. Worse, only 25% of pre-teen homicidal violence cases are reported, psychologists say, because parents and schools want to suppress such behaviour for fear of harming reputations".

    Can rage drive your child to murder? (Times of India report)

  8. I agree with everything u said except the 'Enjoy rib-eye' steaks in the last line, live and let live Brother!!

  9. sir,
    Its to gud to read this post when people call you freak when you go againt their nature.
    I also have similar views accomplished in my bog.

  10. Anonymous7:41 AM

    Wow that was a good article. To me the last two sentence sums it all up

    "If the kid cannot read Rabindra Nath Tagore, cannot enjoy Durga Puja, can not eat hilsa fish, but enjoy reading Rohl Dahl, sign Celine Dion, enjoy rib-eye steaks, but is a good and honest human being who dream to make this world a better place, I’ll be proud of such kids (despite of being a proud Indian and Bengali myself). "

    And that is what I want my child to grow up into.... a Good Human Being no matter where they are brought up.

    We as Indians gets so involved with teach our kids this and that, customs, traditions, money, religion and some where down the line we forget to teach them to be a good human.

    I so wish we as humans could take the best from both worlds. Western world is not with its social problems but there are a lot of things we can learn from them.

    And another thing that strikes out from this article is about education in India. The emphasis in India is so much to do with Writing till your finger breaks and by hearting and vomiting everything. Once exam is over the knowledge you have learned vanishes.
    The system in the west is so different and the way they are taught they remember it for life and they get more practical knowledge about the world around them which make them better equipped to go into the real world.
    And yes in India we are so good at copying and reproducing than making something our own. Kids in the west are so much more creative and innovative the difference is very visible indeed.

    Our education simply does not equip us with basic oratory and presentation skills which are basic yet necessary skills that life demands.

  11. Anonymous10:04 PM

    Good question.

    Let me tell you this:

    The world is full of bad, no matter where you go and raise your kids, the outcome will be the same regardless. They will be exposed to sex, drugs, scandals etc. It's everywhere in this world and we parents cannot do anything about it shield our kids from it.

    Now..is raising kids in India better than America? Lots of Indians say that raising kids in India is better because it keeps them cultured. While it's true to some extend, it's not going to get them to grow up as the older generations did. And their views and mentality is def going to change on certain things, even things that we don't permit as a while. My brother sent his kids to India for 3 years to study and learn their culture, and while staying there he was VERY disappointed. First of all, the dating system in India is present, which to the older generations is a NO NO. Style is changing and the system is changing. And because of the world influences being brought to India everything is changing. So don't even think or guarantee that your kids will grow up to be in a very homogeneous culture because it's not possible anymore in this globalized world. Only good thing is the education system is good, better than America. In America, there is more freedom, however you can control the amount of your kids' freedom by being a good influence on them and listen to them when they have concerns..they will listen and respect you. In America, when you raise your kids, they will have the ability to learn how to mingle with different types of people from various cultures and backgrounds, not just Indians. They will learn independence and learn how to live their own lives and make choices that will help them become more wise. And through this, they can learn world experiences and bring together good ideas and techniques to live a good life...so yes being OPEN MINDED is a must, not being a conservative, which is common in India and not good. That said there are advantages and disadvantages to both growing up in India and US. However, with positive parenting influences and listening to your children and talking about them, and encouraging them, you should bring up well rounded kids regardless where you are. The "US and abroad brought and born kids are corrupt" is a ridiculous statement to concur and think is better for them to grow up in India because it's nowhere true.

  12. Siddhi10:03 AM

    Good article.

    I would like to add that Indian children are also taught from early on to avoid failure and mistakes. In some families, the degree to which this is done is so high that the child grows up unwilling to try stuff, to take risks - for fear of failure. An off-shoot of this is that if a person's life is even a bit off the standard line which society expects - first school, then college, then job, then marriage, then kids, without a break in-between - then the person is considered as a 'failure' or that there's 'something wrong' with them. So what follows is that everyone's life runs pretty much on the same track whether they want it to or not. I have observed this happening in the middle class a lot.

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  15. Anonymous5:24 PM

    Your article is completely biased.It seems that you did not have a good childhood growing up otherwise you can't write like this. There are good things and bad things everywhere,we should try to bring up kids in such a way that they can make better judgement. Honestly there are lot of things our kids are missing by growing up here,those things also should have been pointed out.

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  17. If we seriously desire for a healthy/responsive society, decent political atmosphere, have to put genuine commitment at our own end - as you know most of the communities (such as Bengali or Telugu) in this sub-continent are clutched by ‘Culture of Poverty' (hopelessness), irrespective of class or economic strata, lives in pavement or apartment. Nobody is ashamed of the deep-rooted corruption in this society by heart, decaying general quality of life, bad Politico-Governance, poor work place, weak mother language, continuous consumption of common Social Space. We love to become parents only by self-procreation (mindlessly & blindfold supported by lame excuses) depriving their(the children) fundamental rights of a caring society, fearless & dignified living. Do not ever search for other positive alternative gesture/values to perform human way of parenthood, i.e. deliberately stop giving birth to any child him/herself here till it improves up to the mark, co-parenting children those are born out of extreme poverty, instead. All of us are driven only by the very animal instinct. If a pure freedom is desired, from vicious cycle of poverty, rotten capitalism need to involve ourselves in 'Production of Space' (Henri Lefebvre) movement, one big passion to override our inherent ‘hopeless’ mindset, quality Politics would certainly come up.

  18. If you dreaming of a well-bred kid, you should pay more attention for his/her education. Spent more time together, and it helps. But if you have a lot of writing papers, it's better to give it for 1st writing service specialist. They'll make everything perfectly.

  19. So who and how are good and honest people? Are the Americans good and honest? Lets ignore that they committed genocide and enslaved an entire race of people. Or even that they invade and bomb sovereign nations. Are the british good people? How about their imperialism across the globe? Or joining their US cousins in bombing Muslim women and kids? Do they qualify as good people?
    Maybe the australians who massacared an entire race of people?
    Seems Indians are a lot more good and honest than any of the above.

  20. I completely agree with every bit of what you said, having been born and brought up in Kolkata, India. What you said is just great and true. What defines a person is not his/her culture, but how he/she is as a human being. Having had enough exposure with mass communication, I have come to an understanding that culture just is not so objective to define. A culture has a lot more complication to it than some narrow minded concepts perceived by most people. India has SEVERAL cultures, not one , and is an amalgamation of multiple concepts. Also, it is a concept that evolves with time, rather than remaining stagnant. It depends on the community, religion and most importantly, values of the person. These values do not need locations to be defined. They are not defined by whether one reads Roald dahl or Rabindranath Tagore (have personally read and enjoyed literatures of both)..the primary goal of any culture is to make a person a good human being and a responsible citizen of the native, or even global society. For example, my cousins in the US know more about Indian dance and music that I myself do. Also,I agree that every society has good and bad citizens alike, but we are yet to have a society in India where people can be less diplomatic and more honest, less hypocritical and perhaps more sensitive to how the rest of the people in this society, country and world are. There is a saying: great minds discuss things. Average minds discuss events. Low minds discuss people. Unfortunately, the middle, upper middle and even upper classes of our society is thriving with such low minds.

  21. Dear Jay I just read this article- arranged and well thought in approach. But as some gentleman above says how do we tackle is the the tricky question and am sure we all need to work towards it if we really want to have a good and shining India in the literal sense (pun intended).
    Your summing up (If the kid cannot read Rabindra Nath Tagore, cannot enjoy Durga Puja, can not eat hilsa fish, but enjoy reading Rohl Dahl, sign Celine Dion, enjoy rib-eye steaks, but is a good and honest human being who dream to make this world a better place, I’ll be proud of such kids, despite of being a proud Indian and Bengali myself) has given me a hope that यहाँ नहीं तो वहाँ बस एक अच्छा इंसान बने वो काफ़ी है that way atleast the count of good people will increase across the world.


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