After three weeks of business in India, I joined my wife, our son and a small group of his friends for a vacation in Eastern Europe. We visited Krakow, Prague, Vienna and Budapest. While my son and his friends continue on their vacation for other cities in Europe, I had to take leave of them and fly back home. So, today I left very early in the morning to catch my flight out of Budapest to Boston, via Frankfurt.
Today happens to be Father’s Day as well. As I was leaving I told my son, “Thank you for a great vacation with you and with all your friends. Enjoy the rest of the trip”. My son was very kind to say, “Dad, it is all thanks to parents like you and mom, who made it all possible for us”. I was genuinely touched by the warmth and gratitude. But, I wished to acknowledge his efforts and the effort of the younger generation as well. This group of friends is enjoying their vacation, after their graduation and before they embark on their professional careers. So, I hastened to add, “It is also the fruit of all your hard work and perseverance thus far. While parents can be the enablers, the hard work and effort you all have put in thus far has its own rewards as well”.
I write the above to share a few broader points. There is a tendency to extoll the virtues and hardships of the generations past and down play the same in the current generation. “Those glory days of the past ….” is the phrase often noted in the history books. Somehow I do not feel comfortable with that. In every generation there are those who strive hard and make a difference. Their effort and results grow like the branches of the banyan tree, providing the shade and shelter for many to prosper. Clearly the evidences of such growth and accomplishments and their benefits are more readily seen in an old and well grown tree than in the young saplings, which will eventually grow and provide such benefits in the future. It is easier to see the successes and ignore the failures, when we look in the rear view mirror. For every well grown tree that is beneficial to many today, there are many others that did not grow as well. The same goes for the saplings or the future generation. The evidence and the certainty from the past should not be adored due to the fear, the unknowns and hence the uncertainties of the future.
As I grow older my respect for my parents grows as well. My father was a strict disciplinarian. That rubbed off on me to some extent. While my father was strict with his children and other members of the family in many aspects, my strictness applies largely to adherence to the fundamental principles of honesty, respect, truthfulness. I am a strict analyst to understand “why things are the way they are?” more so than merely accepting arbitrary explanations that fit the data on hand. My grandfather always down played any accomplishments, while creating the expectations for even higher accomplishments in the future. This aspirational outlook on life drives me to do something more and better today and tomorrow, than what I have been able to do, till yesterday. I hope these traits will be carried through to the future generations.
There is also a reverse expectation from the previous generations. While children are forgiven for their misdeeds, the parents are expected to be perfect and flawless! We need to recognize that parents and other elders are also individuals and human beings like anyone else. Hence they have their own flaws and limitations. If I do not admit this, my thoughts are drawn into a few negative experiences of life with my elders, which drown out all their positives. When I accept their fallibility, I am also able to appreciate their strengths. When I can see the totality in my parents, I am also able to see the totality of who I am and who the next generation can be? Instead of a false sense of adoration and an unrealistic expectation from our parents and an unreasonable hope and expectation from the future generations, it is better to look at each generation having certain responsibilities, certain accomplishments as well as certain limitations. After all, that is the truth in perpetuity that we see across generations.
Happy Father’s Day — 2013
It is a wonderful statement —- Raji
A realistic assessment of three generations as youngsters, parents and grand parents, I have had similar feelings myself towards elders in my family but I could not have expressed it as well as the blogger has expressed it in this essay.