In the first trimester of every year, there would be uncertainty in most families with children getting ready for higher education. In our family, my niece was one of them. Born and brought up in Bahrain, her parents were of the opinion that she should go abroad. And amazingly; my niece chose our home country and seemed eager to explore the world out yonder…
Memories of my own experiences came flooding back. I thought of how reluctant I had been then to settle in India for my undergraduate course. It was difficult getting used to life in India after life here in the Middle East. It was like I had to do everything all over again. Join a new college, make new friends, learn my mother tongue better if I wanted to be understood…
And then there were the unchartered experiences of life in India waiting to be dealt with. You get branded as the ‘Broiler Chicken’ or ‘Tube Light’ if you failed to understand what people meant. You needed to count every penny of your change to make sure you weren’t being cheated. You had to fight your way to keep your place in a long queue. You certainly did not trust any person who walked by and was kind to you. You valued each and every penny you had because Re. 1 paid for two trips to college in those days with student concession.
And so, it was curious that I felt bad about returning to Bahrain after my short stint in India. I don’t know if it was my ability to adapt or maybe it was just that despite all those grueling experiences, I had somehow become attached to my homeland. I enjoyed how I could have a girl’s night out with my friends after a month of exams. I had firsthand experience of the customs and rituals in my society. I could bargain with the fish monger and fruit seller without looking embarrassed about it. In fact, life in India had taught me how to value all the little things that I did have. Moreover, it had made me tough, I was no longer afraid of going to any particular place unescorted, I learnt to ward off groping hands in the buses, I had developed patience to wait at the public offices to get my certificates attested. After those few years in India, I felt like I was ready to conquer the world as if I had grown wings.
The sheltered life where I lived under parental supervision were behind me and now that I think about it, I wouldn’t trade those years of my life for anything in the world! It was a stage in my life where I was able to learn from what was happening around me in depth…my society, Indian politics, the different characters of people, circumstances that lead to the way some people behave… it was a whole journey of discovery.
Most of all, I learnt to live apart from the protective circle of my parents. I learnt that there were people who did not have families and still survived. I learnt to acknowledge that circumstances always changed no matter how hard you try to hold on to them. And thankfully, I learnt to face the circumstances that changed. As a young adult, these life lessons really helped me for all the challenges that lay ahead.
As an adolescent girl, I could hardly think of a world without my parents. And when my father passed away five years ago, I never thought I could bear the pain and the loneliness. And yet I have survived. And my sisters have survived. And we have made it our objective to be a rock for our mother.
Teaching our kids to be self-reliant mentally and emotionally can be one of the best things that we do for them. Yes, it was hard for me that very first day I put my kids on the bus for their first day at school. And it was hard for me when I saw them bear the pain of a fall or a burn injury. But I was also proud when I saw them bear it with teeth clenched and tears pouring out of their eyes. In a way, I was letting them go little by little. Because it is then that they learn ways to tackle problems in life, whether big or small, without our help and then, learn to soar…
Thus it was with my whole-hearted blessing that I sent my niece off to India. You see, I had shared my varied experiences with her in our aunt-niece heart to heart chats. And she too understood the need for self-reliance. My husband had earlier tried to forestall her going by describing how she wouldn’t get her favorite snacks whenever she wanted and how the mosquitoes would bite. But she wasn’t discouraged. She got on that plane in search of a new horizon. And I’m sure that soon she’ll have learnt the art of surviving under pain and pressure and grow her own wings.
I’m a homemaker and a mother of two, who loves to read, cook and bake and who has recently developed the art of leadership and public speaking through Toastmasters International. I must say, I’m still a bit old fashioned and hence am a bit backward at social media. However, I get pretty chatty when I want to and am a great correspondent. So please free to share your views on my article with me!