Parenting does not come with an instruction manual. It then follows that parenting in a post globalised world for parents who follow Hindu dharma and would like to inculcate dharmic values in their children is like solving a cryptic crossword. Or eavesdropping while people are speaking a language that we have sadly, over the years, lost the ability to understand! In many ways, this style of parenting involves a rediscovery and reconnection with one’s roots and traditions and recontextualising them in a contemporary context.
“My aim is to take the stress out of Hindu parenting and make it an easy, joyful and cool process of self-discovery for both the parent and child. Many Hindu parents are clueless about how to instil dharmic values in their children. They have contacted me for this and say that they cannot take negativity anymore. However, they respond to positive stimuli and hence the Hindu parenting initiative,” explains Rekha, 51, Founder, Hindu Parenting and a former IT professional with an MBA from Santa Clara University, USA.
After a decadal stint in the US where she worked in the corporate space, Rekha and her family moved back to Bengaluru because she wanted her two children who were growing up to feel connected with their roots.
Serendipity, as we know, propels us to take the road less travelled, even when we are least prepared for it. While doing workshops on financial literacy in private urban schools in the city, Rekha discovered a gulf between students from English medium schools in urban spaces and students in schools where the medium of instruction was the regional language. She further explains that the students in English medium schools didn’t like regional languages! Their favourite subject was English and when it came to a second language, they preferred a foreign language! Ironically, even in school, they were discouraged from speaking in Kannada and instead it was mandatory to speak only in English!
“It saddened me to see how internally colonised we had become… How much we engage in constantly putting ourselves down, denigrate, trivialise or ignore our own traditions and culture while glorifying the outsider,” says Rekha wistfully.
The turning point for Rekha, however, was the anti CAA protests last year.
“It pained me to see Hindu students [several of them were my friends’ children] from prestigious educational institutions in Bengaluru protesting with placards that proclaimed ‘Stop Hindu fascism!’ It seemed as if they were using their power and influence to speak up for everyone except their own identity! I saw a systematic concerted effort all around to present one exclusive point of view. These were the students who would be our future lawyers and media professionals who would write editorials. They showed sympathy for all causes except those of Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh refugees. The issue of citizenship to a mere 30,000 persecuted refugees was made out to be a big deal. These were very poor refugees fighting for their lives facing grave danger and with nowhere to go. Our students, who know all about the plight of refugees across the world, had no empathy for these people.
Students were successfully recruited into the cause and were the face of the anti CAA protests in metro cities like Bengaluru and Pune. Many of our metros seem infected with this virus. It’s a pan-Bharat problem with our education. Somewhere we had lost the plot as Hindu parents,” explains Rekha about the incident that sparked her imagination and propelled her to explore the unexplored.
Rekha’s idea of Hindu parenting emerged six months back. According to her, It was time to address the widespread Macaulayism – the overvaluing and glorification of Western ideas and practices and the corresponding denigration of indigenous traditions and practices that are termed “pagan” and therefore considered morally and intellectually inferior.
“We have learnt to look at ourselves through the eyes of the outsider; we think like English men and women and are alienated from our roots and ourselves,” says Rekha.
Currently, Hindu parenting is building a comprehensive portal (@Indic_Angle) that will be treasure trove of resources for Hindu parents in demystifying Hindu dharma traditions and practices and making it accessible to parents and children. Rekha writes extensively on various issues that connect the two seemingly disparate worlds and in doing so, her writing is a bridge that forms a vital connecting link. For instance, her several pieces such as How to introduce Bhagavad Gita for children, Guru Purnima for kids and Friendship in Bharatiya culture, explore the interface between the ancient and the modern and interpret and recontextualise our traditions in a way that highlights their relevance for today’s parents and children.
“Its all about re-educating, un learning, de learning and decolonising ourselves. And we need to explore creative ways to bring about the change,” says Rekha. For instance, she says, at Hindu Parenting, parents are encouraged to choose a Bharatiya language as a second language for their children [they can always learn a foreign language later] as it helps them to be grounded in their own language and tradition. Children are also encouraged to learn Sanskrit and fine arts in the Bharatiya tradition. Hindu parenting is also building comprehensive resources for parents that can be a ready reckoner for parents, who often juggle with parenting and work. The list also includes book recommendations that introduce children and parents to the relevance of Hindu dharma values and ethos in today’s world.
Rekha acknowledges that her own decolonisation journey has converged with the emergence of Hindu parenting. Acknowledging that “getting out of the Macaulay mindset” was a critical part of her journey, she says that Vamsee Juluri’s Writing across a cracked world was inspirational in enabling her to “explore my identity and voice as a Hindu in today’s world . In a sense, it was a “permission” given to me to take the leap. And Hindu parenting is all about ‘coming out’ of my decolonised closet,” says Rekha perceptively.
As part of the cross cultural exchange programmes in schools, Hindu Parenting aims to train students to be cultural ambassadors rooted in Bharatiya thinking and traditions as they interact with other cultures in a post globalised world.
“If a student from Portugal comes to India, it’s not to learn Shakespeare! They could go to England for that! How, then can we explain our culture to a person from another culture unless we know who we are and why we do what we do?” wonders Rekha, as she marshals the cultural resources to enable this vision.
Rekha is concerned about the chasm and “disconnect” between urban and rural spaces and says there is an imminent need to build bridges of understanding between the student populations in urban and rural schools who seem to belong to “different universes!” According to her, we need to be anchored in Bharatiya traditions and be able to articulate it clearly and forcefully.
“We want to encourage our children to build bridges with children from non-English medium schools (who could easily teach urban kids many things!) before we send them off to build bridges with other cultures of the world!” says Rekha with ironical honesty.
Vamsee Juluri in Rearming Hinduism writes about the need for a revitalised vision of Hindu dharma that is owned and internalised by followers of the tradition, especially parents and their children.
“If you are a parent of a Hindu child, there is one more question you ned to ask yourself too: if you, or your children, do not find intelligent answers for these questions, will your Hindu Dharma remain when they grow up, or when their children come? … But rebuilding Hindu civilization is something that every one of us must be doing, one person, meaningful vision of Hindu Dharma at a time.”
Rekha feels that through Hindu Parenting, she too is addressing the existential crisis that Hindu parents are grappling with and hence seeks to give Hindu parents and children the tools and resources to “intellectually confront the existential challenge” that confronts Hindu dharma today.
“A lack of perspective of our place in the world and zero knowledge of our traditions can make us easy targets to be recruited into anybody’s cause! We Hindus are pressed to prove our so-called secular credentials and seem to be overburdened with the guilt of identifying as a Hindu! I can’t think of another example where a whole population is being convinced to support every cause except their own! Currently, we seem to suffer from this autoimmune disorder of the spirit,” says Rekha as she nails the complex issue with precision and passion.
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