The 3 Giraffes

All giraffes come from the same family, Giraffidae, in the real world. They enjoy similar grumpy old faces, flaunt tails that seem to serve no purpose and necks and legs for which the word ‘long’ falls short of length.

The 3 Giraffes

3 Giraffes

These 3 giraffes you see lounging on my settee were adopted by us over the last year. They look different from each other – in colour, size, make, material, as they happen to come from different countries. The wooden one is from Nigeria, the yellow from the US and the green one is hand-made in India. But that’s about it. Essentially, they are all giraffes. G for Giraffes.

Just like we from different countries and continents are all humans. H for Humans.

Then, since we all belong to one big homo sapien family walking the planet, why not get together in a closer circle? Why not open the windows of our houses freely to see and perhaps welcome in cultures and ideas that we call ‘foreign’? Why not expose our children to traditions from parts of the world other than ours, which might just make their lives better informed, more interesting and certainly closer to unknown shores?

Look around. We live in a touchy and touch-me-not world. Religion, family values, caste, creed, culture and class are to be protected at all costs. They are like vulnerable beings requiring our defense at the drop of an unkind remark. Languages and ideologies from seven seas away are looked at with suspicion and a mild undercurrent of xenophobia is allowed to live inside most of us. Closer home, even as we cheer like one united country during an India v/s Australia match, the moment the last ball is bowled and the flags on the faces washed away, we forget that oneness and return to reveling in and asserting the various labels of caste, class and gotra our Indian identity comes wrapped in.

It’s not that things are not changing for the better. When once people of two different religions did not break bread on the same table, today they get married and make babies together. Derogatory words for racial minorities are considered just that – derogatory. Schools, colleges, offices see people from all backgrounds and ethnicities rubbing shoulders together. And friendship in the virtual world, is virtually free of identities based on man-made differences. Just like the unconditional friendship between these 3 giraffes in the picture and their friendship with my son.

As I see him playing with them, I think to myself. Does it really matter where they came from, or what language they would have spoken in their animal world? The 4 of them seem absolutely at peace with each other. Should not all relationships transcend shadow lines of maps and shoe-boxes full of discriminatory labels?

And most importantly – Should we not, as parents, make sure our children do not develop any ideas of ‘us’ and ‘them’, usually with a disturbing ‘versus’ in between the two words?

Different cultures have much to show us to entertain us and even more to teach as we go along living life within our own comfortably created systems. Nothing gets lost or compromised by opening our minds to different ideas, as protectors of all things Indian believe. If at all, something new gets born – something that is more colourful, more meaningful and certainly more humane. Even as we raise our children imparting them with values, beliefs and cultural norms that our families have borne down the ages, we can learn to admire, if not adopt practices from other countries as well. And then, if our adopted traditions can carry so much meaning, what makes us think that the alien ones cannot?

For instance, take parenting traditions and habits from across the world. One knock on Sir Google’s door and look what he has to tell us. In Sweden, parents visiting cafes will put their babies to sleep outside in -10 degrees in their prams, parked in a row, even as they sip their cuppa inside. Unusual? Yes, but it is widely believed in Scandinavian countries that fresh air is magic for tiny immune systems and babies are less likely to catch colds from being in the same room as other children.  The Japanese schools allow quarrels to continue knowing that by letting the children fight it out they are learning to develop social adaptability and independence of sorting things out. In Vietnam, children throw their broken milk teeth on their roof tops, wishing the tooth to become the tooth of a mouse, as rodent teeth grow for their whole life. A children’s park in Denmark has trees where children hang their pacifiers from branches as a ceremonial way of saying goodbye to them.

Some of the above would sound bizarre and even cruel to an Indian parent’s eyes, only if we did not dig deep enough to understand the reason behind them. All of the above have their own streams of common logic running beneath them. And that gets me back to the point I began with. Acquainting ourselves and our little ones to foreign customs and traditions can make us see and understand our neighbours, even as it makes them grow to respect the sameness within that difference, a sameness that tags of race, nationality, caste or creed cannot colour over.

H for Human will always come before I for Indian. It’s the need of the hour. Even as we prepare our children for the future, we can do a tiny bit to prepare the future for our children too.

The 3 giraffes. And just a thought.

Sakshi Nanda went from studying Literature to serving the print media and finally settling with two publishing houses who called her editor for a couple of hard-bounds, no more! She writes as a work-from-home mother to realize herself as well as to be read, both – with her 2-year-old boy and her sarkari babu beau as the greatest source of ideas and inspiration. She believes eating baby food is therapeutic and that the pen is man’s best invention, after diapers that is! Meet her at: sakshinanda.blogspot.in

  • Jairam Mohan

    Once again, such a wonderful post narrated in such simple language Sakshi. Have no other choice but to unequivocally agree with you when you say that as parents we should not impose our personal prejudices on our children. We must just make them aware of universal truths, values and let them make their own decisions regarding people, things, faith and beliefs.

    • You are a whirlwind, @jairammohan:disqus I see you commenting, writing, posting, commenting, writing, posting, writing, posting, writing! First, tell me what you eat for breakfast. Second, tell me how to be you, in this diligence, energy and skill. Third, thank you for liking the post. 🙂

  • V ki Amma

    Brilliantly put Sakshi! Yes…diversity is such a critical learning that we often forget its importance when we teach kids about it. Look at the classic Ugly Duckling for instance. I refuse to read it to V because I am troubled with what it tells its readers. Before dealing with rejection, I think its important for him to learn to not to reject someone in the first place. Why can’t we teach our kids to embrace all kinds? Why should one have to deal with rejection? This over-analysis is also a beautiful thing! Don’t you think? 🙂

    • Thanks, @vkiamma:disqus 🙂 We can teach our kids to embrace all kinds. Frankly, I have never understood the point behind the story ‘The Ugly Duckling’. Yes, I love analysing. Makes us grow as parents and individuals. 🙂

  • Sunita Rajwade

    How true. I is for Indian but unfortunately our politicians have corrupted the “i” to represent them. While I agree that “us” versus “them” is not a value to be passed on to children, it is important for children to know who they are….Nationhood and cultural identities are different. What matters is imparting values of tolerance and respect for others’ beliefs.

    • Unfortunately, we are wasting our votes, primarily because of lack of choices to vote for. Children will develop a sense of identity as a given. The process is automatic. What will remain important is to see whether they develop one around ‘exclusivity’ or one which works on inclusiveness. Sounds easy, but is not! 🙂 Yes, tolerance and respect for others’ beliefs is most important. Thanks you dropping your comment, @sunitarajwade:disqus 🙂

  • sajeevkmenon

    Hi Sakshi – It is indeed important for us to open our minds as we live in a globalised world – a world without borders. We have to change our outlook from a frog in a well mentality to make the world a better place!

    • The thing is @sajeevkmenon:disqus, we live in a globalised world without virtual borders, but the borders do exist in our minds, whether we like them or not. 🙂 I agree with you, it requires an outlook change, and a mentality that looks beyond all kinds of labels. Thanks! 🙂

  • स्वाति जैन

    Great piece of writing Sakshi…Indeed we all have to break the preset old ideologies…and see the world with open eyes…

    • Thanks for liking it, @disqus_Lr1VH54Hw6:disqus 🙂

  • So true…. I think we the educated parents who live in different cities of country away from our Home towns can play an important role in spreading H for humans and I for Indians. Good post… keep them coming…

  • Sakshi, this is a lovely post. Written so well and understandingly. Keep it going…..

    • Thank you, @ShailRaghuvanshi:disqus Very happy you liked it! 🙂