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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Speech of Mr. K Haridas on the IOFC-AKASHA "Change Starts with ME" Conference 5 July 2009 in Kuala Lumpur.

K Haridas NairAt the very outset allow me to thank Mr. Nandor Lim and the organizers for the invitation to share some reflections with all of you.

We are all indebted to our families. They are a part of our lives about which we had no choice. For many family has been a good experience while there are many others for whom family has been a traumatic experience. Our parents and grandparents did not go through a programme or a course on how to be good parents. Similarly many of us who are now parents have likewise not had any training to be parents.

This is an on the job programme and those who do well are those who are clear at the very outset that marriage is a commitment and that family is a growing process. Yes, we all fall in love and with very good intentions get married. Then we realise that marriage is more than love as an emotion – that marriage is the first step in a journey that we make together and a partnership on which we have to invest time, energy, thought and resources. Family is the outcome of the marriage.

The notion of family is also changing. The family that represented the era of my grandparents was different from that of my parents and definitely very different from what is my experience. So in a changing situation there will always be challenges. We are all dysfunctional in different ways and it is a question of how serious the dys-functionality is and how this has an impact on our children.

Yes we inherit traits from our parents and their style of upbringing. Seriously dysfunctional families would be those involved with drugs, violence, abuse of one form or another and this leaves scars on the children. Yet they are still our parents and if we come from a family where patriarchy reigns (that is where the father decides everything and knows what is best for the family) than that also has an impact on everyone.

“Change starts with me” is not about blaming our parents and seeing how wrong the have been to me. They tried to do their best in spite of themselves. It is about understanding what has happened and by looking at ourselves and our families so that we find that needed understanding and healing which helps us from not repeating the same mistakes with our own families.

You may realise that the child in you has been hurt, injured and violated by the inadequacies in parenting by your parents. However if you blame them then this is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you may find in them and regardless of how much you hold them responsible this will not change you. The only thing blame does is to keep the focus off you by looking for external reasons to explain your unhappiness or frustrations.

You may succeed in making another feel guilty about something by holding them responsible but you will not succeed in changing whatever it is about you that keep you unhappy. Your sharing must empower others because you have empowered yourself by taking responsibility for your unhappiness and feelings. Only you can do this adequately.

It is about breaking the cycle of fear, anger or violence in our responses and lives. It is not about telling our families and dear one about the wrong they have done to us but about taking responsibility, growing up and recognizing that I have to change and find that fullness of love based on forgiveness. Love and blame cannot co-exist and true and fundamental change is never based on blame. Our good and bad experiences provide us with opportunities to express gratitude and seek the possibilities for change.

There is no perfect family – there is only a growing family one in which everyone has a part and in which the parents have to provide the leadership and example. This is a journey of love, hard work and investment. We all know that it is only that which we invest time, money and effort which really grows. This is true of mutual funds as well as growing vegetables. So we have to all ask ourselves in this day and age whether we are investing and doing this ourselves with our families.

Marriage as I stressed is only the first step. It is a beginning where we have to share our commitments with one another. It is about both partners dealing with their weaknesses and sharing their strengths. It is about love the emotion becoming love the verb. This is why to love is tough. The basis of creating a loving relationship that continues to grow instead of stagnating is constant understanding, appreciation, tenderness and respect for one another despite what the day may have been.

You will first have to find this reservoir of love in your own life and for this silent reflection, accepting values in your own life and touching those deeper emotions in yourself is important. This is what IofC is all about, helping individuals to be in touch with their deepest selves through time invested in silence, sharing and reflection. It is about improving you and becoming a more refined individual.

Through this you develop new and positive responses. Not everyone is perfect and good everyday. There are times when you have to be generous, other times when she has to be understanding. At difficult times do your responses take you closer together? When she provokes you can you become more tender, when he hinders you can you become more loving. This calls for inner toughness that is based on a long term commitment.

I have been married for twenty six years and have three daughters. Daily I have to think for them and do what is necessary. We have had great times together and also times when we have had to work things out patiently. At the end of the day family is a great gift and the joy you get from having an enjoyable family is worth all the investment in terms of giving all the time and caring for them.

In the long run no amount of valentine flowers or gifts can substitute for that quality of tough love that enables two people to remain in love and not be swept away by anger and reaction. Yes in growing together we need friends, family, counseling, religion and values. We need to remind ourselves and one another what were our commitments when we started this journey. Acceptance involves forgiveness and moving ahead together. It is about loving yourself, loving others and stepping out with your family.

So, when we talk of ‘Love starting from the home’ we are talking about a very serious issue – we are talking about tough love that is always responding when the other is reacting. You may be starting on your journey and if this is so you can pay heed to other people’s experiences. Alternatively, you may be going through a tough time but be assured that you can always change yourself and when you do this you introduce a new factor and this may hold fresh possibilities.

At the end of the day it is what we do together for others that will sustain our family and our relationship. If it is only family centered and for our own selfish ends than life will be tough going. It is in our giving to others and doing things beyond ourselves that we find meaning, value and joy. This is what family is all about – it is the nursery for society and a family that grows together gives together.