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     Volume 4 Issue 54 | July 15, 2005 |

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Beholding Life ThroughOur Children

Syed Maqsud Jamil

We experience life everyday. But very seldom do we experience death. It generally visits us through the loss of someone in our family, someone with whom we have shared life very closely. It overwhelms us with poignant pain and sadness. The major feeling is of irredeemable dispossession. I lost my father in 1988. My father had gone as his father had gone 73 years back. I did not see my grandpa, but I behold my grandson where life blooms with fondest colours.

Yet death travels with life. It was around the bedridden elder sister of my ma who breathed her last recently. Its lengthening shadows follow my ma's scrawny frame too. I find it heartless to associate death with her. It is more dutiful for me to think that she is around. The facts of life, however, do not change. My folks talk more of death when it comes to ma but rarely of life. We behold the relentless advance of time and the changes it brings. I would rather content myself by seeing in it life's own pattern of carrying on its continuity by striking a fine balance between the contrasting flows of its rise and decline.

Human family ties in their barest form are matters of possession. Our bondings when we grow up and when we raise our families are our dearest possessions. We want to hold on to these dear possessions as long as we live. Among these possessions our children are among the dearest of the dear. It is here that human beings are most vulnerable. Even the mightiest therefore are woefully weak in parental love, and the vilest become the most virtuous in caring for the child.

The loss of a child is the most lethal blow destiny can deal. It is the cruellest dispossession, a devastation that breaks the mightiest and trivialises the weakest. The pain in it brings to the fore the perishable nature of the most prized and precious possession in the world, and sinks our love and care for our children to the lowest point of vulnerability. The entreaties of Priam the King of the Trojans to Achilles to save the corpse of his dead son Hector from desecration brings out all the pathos of this tragedy when he pleads, "Achilles, fear the gods, and be merciful to me, remembering your own father, though I am even more entitled to compassion, since I have brought myself to do a thing that no one else on earth has done -- I have raised to my lips the hand of the man who killed my son."

We all come to this earth as children. Time raises us and in the end consigns us to perish in dust. Considering the banality of their fate human beings look so gullible in the business of living. The child in us lives to the last. Whether a father or a mother, a grandpa or a grandma, a son or a daughter, human beings are eternal children. Possessive, vulnerable and gullible, we grow to be different men and women, unique in every respect. We are so different, yet so alike in attributes we bring to the world.

From early childhood we learn to love ourselves. Along with a sense of possession, self-perpetuation is one of the dominant instincts that rule us in our journey through life. These two traits have great influence over us in how we look upon our children, how we raise them and what we want them to be. The intent is the kindest of all feelings. Yet it produces different results to gladden our hearts or to add to our burden of woe. It is common for us to think that they will perpetuate us after we are gone. We want them to continue our successes, to carry on what we have been and to be what we want them to be. Those of us who fail or fall short of what we wanted to be, want our children to reach for it, and to what we could not. The wages of this task heavy, heavier for those who are not fortunate, for our children are what they are, not what we are.

Every man is his own man. Even blood ties do not have absolute mastery over it. My father was his own man, I am my own, my son his own and so will be my grandson. Life has eternal diversity. My father was a sombre gentleman and sternly wanted me to excel. He represented the practice of the time that valued highest application under conditions of limited means and simple living. But unfortunately he did not have reasons to rejoice. I on my part preferred pliability with my son and thankfully the result has not been disappointing. Oddly though, he looks to be a stern father with his four-and-a-half-year-old son, my grandson.

I tend to think that today's children are unbound, obviously bolder than we were. They have a self for everyone to see and to handle accordingly. I mean they are more accessible and open for interaction. Exposure to the diversity of communication technology is likely to endow them with a keen mind, a resourceful perception and a sharp intellect. We are however not living in an age of contentment. It is no longer a popular virtue to cultivate. For the rich the scenario is completely different where everything is there for the asking. It is not without its perils for their wards may end up as perennial dependents. What I mean is that the self-effort for excellence continues to be a rewarding virtue at all times.

Our children are our blessings and, in odd cases, our bane too. It applies for all ages. Parenthood has both pleasures and perils. There are many theories and prescriptions for making the best out of it. To my mind the damnation in parenthood lies equally in us as in the many ways of our children. It is necessary that our guardianship does not fall into neglect, but we should exercise it with ease and gentleness. For our children are not what we are, they are what they are. It will be appropriate to end here with the celebrated lines from Kahlil Gibran: "Your children are not our children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
for their thoughts dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams."

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