Some Advice For My Daughter

44 Comments

Dear daughter,

Dads are only good for two things. Buying ice-cream and dispensing advice. Since the day I can buy you ice-cream is yet some distance in the future, let me start with the advice part. Not that you will listen to, far less understand, anything I am going to say (you are yet to be six months), but then again I tell myself, this not-listening-to-me and not-understanding-a-word-I-say is not likely to get better as you grow older. So why not I say it now when the worst you can do to me is to pull my hair or yank off my glasses ?

So here it is, as simple as I can make it.

Pause. And reflect.

Yes. Pause. And reflect.

For the first ten years of your life and its whereabouts, feel free to ignore this bit of advice. Go with the flow. Go fast. Let everything gush in, as fast as it can.

But as you grow slightly older, like say when you are around your teens, start practicing this “pause and reflect” thing. When you read a book, don’t just get carried away by the story. When you see a movie, don’t just walk out of the theater and forget it. Take some time off to think about what you read or what you saw. Did you like it? If not, why? What was good in the book? What was bad in the movie? Did you like the heroine? Did you hate the villain? And why?

Play a little game. How would you have changed things if you were the author or the director? Think about it for a while. An even better game. Write it down.

In the beginning, I will be there, to take you through this dialog, helping you, goading you along and challenging you in ways dads know how to. But as you grow older, this dialog should become internal, and if possible,  more analytic, more fine-grained, more at a chapter-sentence and scene-level. Not that Baba won’t be there as a reference and a guide.

I realize making time out for post-enjoyment analysis is going to be difficult with what  the Net and a world of games at your fingertips on the smart phone. When I was growing up, I had a lot of “down-time”, in the waiting room of doctors, on the second floor of a L20 from Esplanade to Dunlop, in the houses of relatives who did not even make an attempt to involve children in conversations, which is when I did my Pause and Reflect. It won’t be that easy for you.

But it still needs to be done. Why? So that you understand what’s good cinema and good writing? So that you develop the ability to critically analyze works of art?

Well to an extent yes. But that’s not really the reason why I am going out of way to ask you to “Pause and reflect.” Soon this mental exercise, if you do it enough times, will become an intrinsic part of your process of cognition.

You will ask yourself why you like certain people and not others and why you like rainy days reading books rather than dancing on the terrace (or the other way round).

You will understand what is it that moves you and what does not, what is it that you value and what is it that you don’t, what is within your abilities and what is not.

And through this, you will get to know the most important person in your life. You.

Not that you will ever totally understand yourself, not because you are not smart enough, but because “yourself” is a moving target, the very process of understanding yourself will change you, kind of like Heisenberg’s principle.

But that does not mean you should not try.

Because you see, dear daughter, everyone carries their own personalized definition of happiness (and this definition will also change as you change and I know this is all confusing) . Unless you invest the time to understand “yourself”, you will never even come close to realizing what yours is. And, horror of horrors, you might end up following someone else’s definition.

Trust me, there is a whole industry built around convincing you that someone else’s idea of happiness is actually yours. It’s called advertising. And these guys are getting better every day.

There is a lot more advice still in my jhola, about choices and compromises, the power of imagination and where in Calcutta you should have biriyani. But they shall have to wait right now, because Baba too must pause and reflect.

Till next time.

Love,

Baba.

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44 thoughts on “Some Advice For My Daughter

  1. Dude, teenagers do not pause and reflect.
    The whole point of being a teenager is to avoid pausing and reflecting. So that later on you see the value of it, when the costs and benefits of pause/reflect are far greater in magnitude.

    Good luck!

    • Most people feel teenage is an age of mere enjoyment and wiling away of time. That is not so. Teenagers nowadays are resorting to useless habits and vices. Few lack ambition and go with the crowd. Only if they had ‘paused and reflected’, they would have had more meaningful lives.

  2. Please continue this series. About time the Nehru monopoly on father-daughter communication is unshackled. More importantly though, what were doing at Dunlop?

  3. Good article and good advice. But how you pass on it to her? She is merely six months old. You keep it in writing and then make it read by her when she is able to understand what you mean by “pause and reflect”?

  4. Just loved this post Arnab…profound without being preachy. And, as someone already said, sweet and sublime.

  5. love the post. wholly agree with the importance of pause and effect. being a mother of an energetic kid, i know how important it is to teach children the value of thinking and then forming their opinions. in todays world, people are so eager to form opinions and brandish them even without thinking for a moment. it is high time to pause and reflect. :)

  6. “Trust me, there is a whole industry built around convincing you that someone else’s idea of happiness is actually yours. It’s called advertising.”

    Epic!

  7. Its beautiful…Reminds me of my dad who always insisted me to think and form my own opinions rather than going with what other say or think….the most touching post ever on great bong..Pause and Reflect ..awesome …

  8. Come on @sutapa dont u know where to get Biriyani in Kolkata..U will get it everywhere any roadside dhaba is there,, oi boro boro rongeen chaata niya bosay thake j ora however for better option go for Shiraz restaurants

  9. AWESOME !! One of the best things I have rad in my entire life. Three Cheers. Please put more of your gyaan posts. !

  10. First of all, Congratulations (i may have said this before)!!! Well, Miss Ray has a lot of advice coming her way in the coming years i see.
    Children always hear their parents, they may not follow the advice right away, they will make their own mistakes; mistakes parents fight to keep away and yet they are made. And someday they understand that advice, may not follow but understand nevertheless. Engaging advice, i believe a lot of people need to start inculcating it into their lives (me inclusive).

  11. Aren’t u indirectly expecting her to become a ‘geeky’ person who only introspects, sits in a corner and reads books, looks at paintings and wonders what the colours mean to convey. Personally, I think introspection is a GREAT personality trait. But I wouldn’t impose that on anyone. Including my kids (I have two. Age 4 and 1). Rather. Let them become what they want to be. Including how they approach life and learn from it.

  12. I stayed in Dunlop when i was in Kolkata and travelled in L20 double decker in childhood. Thanks for reminding it.

  13. Its the first article I have read of yours.. And it is very intriguing and thoughtful. knowing yourself is most important part for anyone. I am sure I will be a regular here from now on. Keep up the good words.

  14. well, i would like to incorporate this exercise in my lifestyle.could you give me more advices like this.? i need them, i guess.

    p.s.-ami ekta advice dicchi-biriyani khete hole arsalan e jabe :p (just kidding!)

  15. More an advice to Dads to give their sons/daughters. Ahh yes!!! the challenges both face( dad/son-daughter; I have a 5yr old son) with the competition from the games, extra curricular classes, TV is huge. Looking forward to more from you on this subject. Thanks.

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