Should We Have Children?


One of my young friends, recently married to a highly successful professional asked me this question while discussing some personal matters with me.

I did not take even a moment to answer in the affirmative because parenting is such a joy and something without an equivalent in human emotional well being.

The discussion however turned towards more practical matters like the careers, sacrifices to be made by one or both of them, financial implications etc, and at the end of it all, we came to the conclusion that it would be better if they waited a while to approach the topic again.

The reason for the postponement revolves around two major factors, current liabilities that the two of them are committed to in terms of loans taken to finance their education, followed by the loans taken to finance the purchase of their accommodation, furniture, vehicles etc; and the high cost of the process of bringing up a child or children considering the expenses involved in the confinement, early stages of parenting, followed by the cost of educating the child/ren.

None of the items listed for discussion could have been omitted and sheer logic prevailed at the end.

Like other older people, I too sounded like a nostalgia nut when I talked about my own and Urmeela’s experiences bringing Ranjan into the world and seeing him grow up. But the world has moved on since those days, and the young people now are not willing to undergo the kind of lives we had to go through for that pleasure. They would rather sacrifice parenting so that they could have a standard of living that is so attractive now.

During my parents’ time producing children was like taking out insurance for one’s old age in a society that did not have and still does not have for the vast majority of Indians the safety network that the West offers. In our time, it was for the pleasure of having children and both motives have now been overtaken by sheer economics to say no to parenting!

I think that it is very sad. What about you?

A Father’s Tribute To Another.

This post is addressed to those of my readers who have not had the privilege of reading Conrad’s post on Fathers Day.

If you will spend some time on Conrad’s post and also on the comments therein, you will see what good parenting can do or not do. My comment there says nothing about my own take on the subject whereas Ashok has used the opportunity to tackle his own issues, the way only he can. I have decided to pay my tribute to Joe and Corky and their descendants by this post.

Conrad’s father Joe about who so much has been written by Conrad and supported by some of his regular commentators who have had the privilege of having been his students, says things about which I can only be in awe and perhaps even envious.

My siblings and I have had a completely different experience with our father, so much so that in his twilight years, my father has had to live a life much different than what he could have had. It is for the record that none of us are templates of our father. And as Conrad points out, our mother had to be there for us to cater to our emotional needs and to encourage us in all that we did. That we did not end up in the Lord Of The Flies situation, speaks volumes for her grit and determination. My sister Padmini wrote about her in her blog and some of you are aware of the background.

The four of us have seen at first hand what parenting can do, in positive as well as negative ways, and as I look back in our own lives, with two of us already in grand parenthood and one about to become a grand father in October, Conrad’s take on three generations of fathers touches a chord like very few things have done in my life for me. It is God’s grace that the four of us have been blessed with good children some of who have become good parents too.

Conrad, here is saluting you for that amazing piece of writing which has come from the very bottom of your heart and I can sense the amount of love and respect that you have for what your father has contributed to your family. Like the many other visitors to your blog, I already know the impact that Corky has had and this post clearly shows the impact that Joe has had in your life. Here is also saluting Joe for being Joe. I hope that he reads this.

Children – II

In a comment on my post “Children”, Nitika said “I do believe I belong to my parents.” This post is inspired by her comment and is addressed to her.

But of course, children who believe that they belong to their parents are blessed.

My post was addressed to parents dear Nitika. The more parents let go of their children, the more children would want to belong to such parents. The problem arises when parents do not let their children go. This is not the physical letting go that Omar Khayyam talks about, but the morbid attachment that most parents develop for their children even in the latter’s adult life, and the power games that they play with their children.

Let us take the cases of many unhappy marriages of today. Aren’t most cases about the inability of the husband to reconcile his relationship with his wife and the demands put on him by his mother? Or the husband with his wife’s parent/s? I have seen both types of problems and I can assure you that, this is entirely due to the parents’ inability to let the children go and build new lives and form new relationships.

In India particularly, the process of breaking up of the joint family and setting up unitary families is not as complete as in the West, and even where due to paucity of space, such break up does take place, the emotional break up does not fully take place.

When someone as young as you says that you belong to your parents, it is a tribute to your parents. It is however not a tribute if the parents claim that their children belong to them. That is the message that Omar Khayyam conveys, as I understand it.

I salute your parents.


My friend K came today on his monthly visit. The topic of discussion today was on parenting.

K’s last born, now eighteen lives with him. K as my readers may recollect is a divorced single parent. K’s two elder children are daughters and now married and settled down to domestic and career bliss in India and the USA. K did not need to consult me on parenting for them, but now finds it necessary at least to discuss the matter to see if he is doing the right things with a growing young man who lives at home.

I started off by telling K that I know of no father who has been totally successful in providing the right kind of parenting and that it has been my observation that almost all, bungle their way around this and eventually come out smelling like roses. I also suggested that things will be alright and there is no need to worry unduly about this matter.

Interestingly, the topic then changed to some other matters that have been worrying K and on top of the agenda was the problem of an alcoholic in the family. That discussion took off in a direction that neither of us had anticipated. I had just been south to tackle the same problem for another friend’s family and I shared my experience of that visit and the course of action that we followed there. K is likely to get another meeting organised for me with the people concerned in his family soon and perhaps something will come out of it.

That discussion took us into another matter. K wanted to know why I don’t drink or eat non vegetarian food any more and whether I will start to do both ever again . This has been a topic that I have not discussed with many people, and certainly not with K. K knew that I was quite a bon vivant some years ago and wished to understand what brought about the change and whether the path that I chose is something that I enjoy being on or whether it is a distasteful experience that I am undergoing with some other self imposed compulsions.

That broke some dam inside me. I simply cannot figure out why it happened, but all the whymeitis that has been kept bottled up inside me for years, came out in a torrent, much to the surprise and eventual delight of K. At the end of it all he said, and I quote him verbatim, ” you are now ready for Sanyas.” Some friend!

I now have an idea for a post on whether I am ready for sanyas or not. In the meanwhile, some of my readers who have been following my rants here may have their opinions on the matter. I would be interested in reading their comments.

The Empty Nest Syndrome.

“Kids aren’t ruining parents’ lives,” Dr. Gorchoff said. “It’s just that they’re making it more difficult to have enjoyable interactions together.”

I came across this fascinating article which caught my eye because we went through the empty nest syndrome on three separate occasions and came out of them fairly intact. We were told on all three occasions that we were particularly impacted because we have only one child.

Let me explain.

Firstly, in India, children living with parents and grand parents is still quite prevalent and family ties are very strong. This is changing rapidly, but for our generation, this is still so.

When our son Ranjan was growing up, I was in an employment where, every few years, I was getting transferred on promotions to newer locations. This was impacting Ranjan’s studies quite a bit and when in 1983, when he was just twelve years old, we decided to send him to a boarding school, it was a very difficult decision to make but take it we had to. The timings of the transfers did not particularly accommodate school term timings and this was the primary reason for our decision.

Off he went to boarding school, and for the next three years, my wife Urmeela and I were left to manage on our own. During those days, I was also traveling quite a bit and Urmeela had to be alone at home for about three weeks on average per month.

In 1987, luckily, we were transferred to a city when academic timings coincided, and Ranjan joined us for the next eight years. He completed his college education and post graduation while staying at home. Subsequently, he also got employment where we lived. It was a boon for Urmeela as I was still traveling to the same extent.

In 1995, when I retired for the first time, Ranjan got a job offer in another city that was just too good and he left home again. Since I was at home, it was not too bad for Urmeela and we had a quiet retired life for a few months. I was pulled out of retirement by a local industrial house with an offer that I could not refuse and so for the next thirty months, it was back to corporate life. I completed that assignment and went back into retirement. In the meanwhile, Ranjan returned to our hometown after just over an year’s working as his employer had to shut down due to some family problems of the promoter of the company. Since then, he has been living in our home town, with a few long stretches of overseas postings.

Ranjan got married in 2001 and he and his lovely bride made their home with us. Till 2005, they lived with us when they decided to separate and both took separate residences. Ranjan moved out again and was living as a bachelor for about a year and a half till he decided that the infrastructure in his parents’ home was better than what he had experienced all alone by himself. He is now back with us.

We have thus experienced the empty nest syndrome on three separate occasions and Urmeela has experienced the worst of it because, she was left alone for long stretches of time when neither Ranjan nor I was at home.

The article revived memories of those days, and I can vouch for one thing that the article does not pay sufficient attention to. Whenever the nest was empty, Urmeela and I found it possible to relate to each other in a completely different way than when Ranjan was with us or when he and Leena, his wife were with us. That relating has brought us very close to each other and I sincerely doubt that such closeness would have been possible without the empty nest situations that we experienced.

The article is more relevant to Western readers, but parts of it are relevant to us too. I know that many of my readers are parents with children away from home and it is for this reason that I have thought it prudent to post this article.

How does the article impress you?


When my stepmother passed away recently, I suggested to my father that he moves in with us instead of living alone. He readily agreed and is arriving tomorrow evening.

Getting our home ready for his stay has been quite taxing physically as we have only one bed room in the ground floor which has been used by my wife and me. Since my father is 91 years old, we felt that it is best that he stays downstairs and that we move into one of the bed rooms on the first floor. Shifting, rearranging wardrobes, getting new furniture etc have all been completed just a while ago.

This has meant that one of the topics of conversation in our evening meetings at the park, has revolved around the impending arrival of my father as well as all that it has implied. One of our friends whose daughter lives in the USA just mentioned this during a regular phone call and the following email is the outcome of that tele-conversation between mother and daughter.

“Dear Neelam,

Your mother conveyed to me your surprise when you came to know about the impending arrival of my father to stay with us and your query “Does Ramana Uncle have a father?”

Your mother, as she is wont to, went into peals of laughter as soon as she finished that quotation and I was quite puzzled. It then dawned on me that she was amused at her phrasing of that question as well as yours.

Let me assure you that I am not born of immaculate conception. I am not the Son of God. From all accounts, my mother conceived me as all mothers do, and just as you too did. My father confirms to me that he was very much responsible.

I may give the appearance of being a Supernatural Being, but that is due entirely to my own efforts and my parents are not responsible for that outcome.

If you want any further clarifications, please do not hesitate to ask. I shall be brutally honest in my replies.

With love to the four of you,

Ramana Uncle.”