Poetry as a form of literature has often eluded me – in appeal, content, meter or even relevance. Till one lazy Sunday afternoon, when Kahlil Gibran whispered into my ears.
Your children are not your 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, yet they belong not to you.
Their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow
Seek not to make them like you,
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
What was Gibran thinking? Google tells me he wasn’t even a parent!! But this isn’t about him, it’s about me.
Who am I? Tam-Brahm Kid of the 90s, HMT (High Merit Type) at school, scoring centums (Chennai-ism for 100 on 100) at will, joined the Navy, ticked all the boxes, took it a notch higher with a successful corporate career – You get the drift! Gloating in self confidence – Been there, Done that, you see!!
My son? Bright, talented kid, footballer in middle school, budding musician, decent with academics. Mera Beta Engineer Banega happened, pretty much like million Indian parents. IIT JEE, BITSAT, CET, IISER and those numerous acronyms followed, and the parent in me celebrated the Likes and Shares I got from those occasional videos of the piano sessions I shared on my FB page. I showed off his Trinity college and ABRSM certifications in music with great pride. Felt like God!! It couldn’t be better.
Life has strange ways of showing you Who’s the Boss. A few fallen Grades, PTA meetings and interactions with my son’s faculty members at FIITJEE weren’t enough hints. I was in control, you see!! All of us have sat on our dad’s parked scooter sometime as kids and have gone Vrooommmmm…. believing that we are riding the scooter. The truth was the scooter was pretty much doing what it wanted to. Life’s like that. Only, I didn’t know then.
Cut to- “Dad, I don’t think I am cut out for Maths, Physics, Chemistry and definitely not Engineering.”
For a few months, I had been listening to “He has a lot of potential, but the effort is lacking” or “He is very bright in class and understands all concepts, but when it comes to exams, he doesn’t study”.
Looking back, it was then that I started losing it. Musically he kept growing, much to my chagrin. Not a day passed when I did not blow my top when I did not see him studying on my return from work. I locked up his keyboard, sometimes for days together. What made it worse was I was dealing with a younger Me, especially the single minded resolve to have his way. My busy corporate lifestyle didn’t help at all. A random Blood test (thanks to my wife) revealed a 170/110. I was popping pills and driving myself and my son crazy – Weeks passed when we didn’t even speak to each other. All this while, my wife was cool as a cucumber, more stressed over my failing health than with her son. Throughout this journey, she believed that her son had enough skills to excel in his life journey, and no wrong could happen. Faith is a huge support system, indeed.
A career guidance session at Dheya reconfirmed my worst fears – The love of his life was music and he was cut out for it in attitude, personality and interest terms. Dheya taught him to fly high and chase his dreams. Their observation that he was a bright kid and would manage engineering equally well, was music to my ears, pun intended. Ironically, it was music to my son’s ears as well. He now had the much needed ammunition – a professionally conducted psychometric analysis had confirmed his desire to follow music as a serious career profession.
Eventually, I came down from my high horse and a few honest conversations with the boy, we agreed on a “Izzat se” percentage he would aim for. The number isn’t relevant in the current context, but suffice to say he kept his promise. A few BP tablets and mindful breathing sessions later, my anxiety levels reduced.
We laughed more often, the atmosphere lightened and we felt more alive. Suddenly his Board exam scores didn’t matter anymore. My training sessions as a Career Development Facilitator with Dheya, which put me face to face with numerous children, parents and their dreams, gave me a fresh insight into children and their dreams and the extensive reading material Dheya shared with me provided me with the necessary rationale to accept.
Acceptance –that is the key. Once our bridges were built, my son started opening up a lot more. I was amazed at his level of knowledge of music. This was no casual amateur wannabe musician, I realized. His understanding of the likes of Hans Zimmer, John Williams and their ilk, was well researched and came from within. His compositions had a signature sound and a unique tonal quality, which I witnessed in his sample compositions for Berklee school of Music. The boy did have some intense musical sensibilities!
He shared with me details of his Quora page and his followers there. The appreciation he got for some of his answers on Bands, their styles, musicality, trends, performance reviews of digital workstations, Keyboards – in his own inimitable style- was something I had begun to grow proud of. I started following him on Social media (He refuses to make me a friend till date)
Suddenly I felt like God again – I was (re)discovering my son – There is a certain therapeutic experience in rebuilding and repairing relationships.
My son today pursues a three year programme in Music Production and Audio technology at the KM College of Music and Technology (KM Conservatory) in Chennai, a brainchild of AR Rahman. He is on a full fee waiver scholarship offered by Apple Inc, something that he achieved on his own merit, after a grueling set of auditions and interviews. He networks with professionals who walked his path and are now successful, and slowly, yet surely, making a name for himself. Learning fast, learning well, learning better, and learning Happy!! We have a WhatsApp group for the family because “you guys ask the same questions, so I have to repeat”.
Meanwhile, Kahlil Gibran once again whispers in my ears.
“Your children. Your children who are unique, individual human beings, with whom you are only together for a spell. Your children who will help move the wheel of humanity a notch further than you’ll be able to see. Your children who have their own destiny and their own purpose separate and apart from your own.”
Your children who are not really your children at all.
Cdr Raja Narayanaswami Retd
Dheya Career Mentor