Atmanirbhar: Word of The Week but An Attitude for Life

My mum would often say – No one’s indispensable. And this was an oft-repeated statement every time we moved house or city and school. I used to be inconsolable with every change and this statement just made it tougher. It was a cruel realisation that propelled me into growing up.

Then came hostel and a rigorous curriculum. Not only was I on my own but I had to juggle studies, battle loneliness and survive hostel politics and bad food. This line became a recurring theme of my life that I grudgingly accepted.

Life kept throwing curve balls but now my grip on the bat was firmer and I could hit them back. There have been hits and misses but the journey has been extremely satisfying. Self-reliance by far has been on the top of my parenting lessons for my child. The fact that she is an only child has made that realisation even more acute.

We protect our children from adversity fearing the consequences. But when we catch them young and start small, the consequences are usually not that harsh. If there is an unfinished project and despite your reminders it hasn’t been completed, let the child take it to as it is to school. (S)he has to take responsibility for the actions and what follows. Adversity is a far better teacher and much more effective too.

There are times of utter chaos and we are tempted to hit the panic button. If we resist, take a deep breath and step back, we’ve both realised that we can concentrate on what can be done and not on what has happened. Trust me that is a truly empowering feeling.

With the outbreak and the lockdown that has followed, our ability to rely on ourselves has been severely tested. We are trying to tackle zoom meetings; our own and our kids while planning meals and fighting a losing battle with the never-ending piles of dirty clothes and utensils. The physical endurance is still acceptable. It’s the mind that often becomes difficult to control. Especially as we are unable to see the end of the tunnel even after fifty-something days of living in near isolation.

I wonder how it affects my daughter, my nephew and all the children around us. For them this new normal must be nerve wracking. Often, they don’t even know how to verbalise their feelings. I have been giving it a lot of thought (I am sure most of you have) and I do believe this adversity can be an opportunity turned inside out.

They may fall behind in terms of formal education (from all the harried parents online I can make out that they are not exactly pleased with the online classes). But what they are losing out on that front, on another level they just might be learning some precious life lessons.

I often catch my daughter looking at the sunsets from the window. She loves to click pictures of birds against the multi-hued evening sky and is even surfing for photography classes. Who knows where this may take her?

We had come to India in February on what was supposed to be a brief trip with barely four to six pairs of clothes. Even if we are sick of wearing them, we have all learnt to survive with so much less. My daughter misses her stuff but realises that what she has are called privileges now. I would choose to believe that post lockdown, our kids would be more empathetic than we could ever have made them.

For this generation, take outs were a norm and yet here we are making do with what we have. As parents are going back to trying traditional recipes, kids are getting introduced to their culture and their legacy without it being force fed to them.

Left with no choice, kids are writing, reading, painting, inventing simple games, helping their parents, learning to cook and bake and finding joy in family conversations. Weren’t these the things that we were lamenting on in pre-COVID times?

As I write this, I am grateful for the privileges that I have and I want to express my gratitude by passing it on to my kids. When they look back at this time, I want them to remember it as a time that empowered them with self-reliance. A time when they discovered the simple pleasures of life. May they look back at this time when they feel low and it gives them the impetus, they might need in those testing moments.

-Dr. Shivani Salil

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