Ananth’s blog on influences set me thinking on how the persons around us impact our thinking and behaviour. His blog was on the conscious impact of few persons around him. I felt that the impact on the sub conscious mind by our environment is worth thinking of.
Last year I attended a marriage in Chennai. My aunt (father’s younger sister) exclaimed that “you look like my brother in your present attire” or something to that effect. Instinctively, I felt flattered. Why should I feel so? My father, from the time I remember, looked his age and some more. He was severely short sighted, though tall, was stooping, had very less teeth, dark complexioned, with a furious temper and highly rigid opinion on several aspects of life. His was a hard act to follow. But still, some of his achievements and decisions make us still look up to him and any resemblance-genetic or otherwise- gives us a sense of inner glow. This however comes with some of the turns and twists life takes and compels us look into the mirror and admit reality at least to ourselves.
In Indian context, the first influence is our parents. The first English alphabets and nursery rhyme was taught to me by my mother whose formal education stopped at primary school. Forty six years back, we had come to Mumbai from a small village in Kerala. We had to adjust to a metro life in a hurry. Learning a foreign language and rhyme (twinkle twinkle little star…) was the first step. I have a sentimental belief that since this was the only subject my mother taught me, I was always good at it.
How did our parents express their love to us or to each other? How many of us remember our parents smiling with a shy love or laughing wickedly over an adult joke said privately to each other? Did they hold each other in their arms and dance the way we saw in the movies of 60s? May be so. Did they do it in our presence? Never. How did this lack of physical or public expression of love (an Indian trait) impact us? Well, most of us – at least in South India- are uncomfortable with a physical expression of love- even of the platonic variety- in public and may be even in private.
What is the situation today? Very difficult to say. My belief is that today’s youth are caught between the example set by their parents and the peer pressure. What is the right thing to do? I feel that some amount of display of positive emotions strengthens relationships and establishes some bonding.
Peer pressure or friends or lack of it is the next strongest influence in any life. How would lack of peer pressure or friends influence a person? Like many shy persons, I found it difficult to create an easy going friendship with the group in which I was studying or working (hai-bye relationship). I did exactly what I felt like doing. Some of it succeeded due to several factors- some within and some beyond my control. But the difficulty in creating an easy going “life of the party” kind of relationship remains.
Peer pressure come most obviously in the “science or commerce” kind of decisions post schooling. Most of such decisions are based not on what the boy or girl wants to do in life post education and how attractive that avenue is. Some years back I had asked my cousin (who is a medical doctor (MBBS)) why is there a craze for medical admission when the returns are not commensurate with the efforts- at least in India. He said that it was due to lack of real understanding of the profession and its pressures. Last week’s news article said that the application for medical admission has fallen significantly while demand for engineering admission has surged. One classic example is the number of engineers who joined for IT related courses even when it was apparent that many of the industry leaders are from different streams of engineering and such streams offered good long term prospects.
There is a big board I see on the way to office every day. It says “To the world you might be one person; to one person you might be the entire world. So drive carefully.” I feel this poignantly states our relationship with those we love very much- spouse, children, parents, siblings etc. Whenever we wear a new dress, after examining the image on the mirror, we go to our spouse and ask hesitantly ‘do I look handsome?’ A small smile of appreciation, a tart comment makes our day. I say to myself- I certainly look handsome in this shirt. I sometimes think that even Manmohan Singh or Sonia Gandhi must be asking their family members about their appearance before stepping into public gaze. This is only a small example how our spouse and/or family members appreciation matters to each person. Family support is a great strength of Indian way of life and gives an anchor for our life.
Do parents listen to their children? Yes, they do; especially when children start growing up and express their opinions. The external environment has changed and is changing so rapidly that only highly self opinionated parents will disregard the views emanating from their children. If we have to keep communication lines open with them, we have to listen, but not necessarily agree with them and provide an adult feedback. Does this influence us? Yes it does. How does it influence us? Not easy to say. But their love and appreciation of our achievements and forgiveness of our failings matters a lot to us- at least to me.
Lastly religion, religious beliefs, practices, rituals and the whole baggage that comes with it. These are so intensely personal that they are hard to pin down or express in a logical or coherent manner. It matters to us hugely. Even lack of belief in all these things matters hugely. Here again the dominating influence is our parents. We observe them and then decide consciously or unconsciously as to what we should do.
I have not touched up on the influence of our life in service as that deserves another blog.
So who influenced you? Why don’t you look at your parent and start wondering how they have influenced you?