Familial dominance more often than not extinguishes many an aspiring flame before the pure oxygen of true understanding enlivens it. Regrettably for many, parents and siblings think they understand every member of the family and have an indisputable right to canalize an 'errant' family member into the 'right' groove, notwithstanding that it is a rut they are trying to push this 'incorrigible' person into. Rather than accredit and celebrate his difference they snub and belittle him. He is sneered at, scolded, threatened and cajoled, sometimes even bribed to be like his brothers and sisters. Undeserved appellations and humiliating epithets divest him of his self-esteem. Their put-down criticisms become self-fulfilling prophecies, convincing the beleaguered member that their mistaken judgments of him are true.
All-knowing neighbours, friends, elders and family are on the quick to adjudicate, pick on and pull down a member who is unlike the rest. Sharp derision and well meant but traumatizing remarks push a child further into a diffident shell or make a monster out of him. He is impelled to retreat into his world of make believe; he becomes afraid to socialize and is promptly tagged a loner. If his frustration erupts in tantrums and rebellion, his behaviour is noxious and merits greater retribution. In extreme cases such a child could grow into a social menace and could even harbor thoughts of suicide or murder. Restless and disconsolate in his little heart, he struggles to understand and be understood. It is very lamentable that lack of sympathy snuffs out the very essence of a child. Bereft of empathy, backing and unconditional love from his near and dear ones, the precious little blossom wilts in his prime.
Unappreciated by his own people, always censured, chastised, shot down and ridiculed such a child retreats into a world of fantasy or into a morose silence reinforcing unwarranted behaviour from elders and peers. Then he is labeled a recluse, a moron, a worthless person! He stands no comparison with his siblings because they dutifully tow the line, are 'great and good kids' and are a source of pride for the family. Amid the glitter and tinkle of glass, a diamond goes unrecognized, uncut, unpolished, languishing for an approver in the dark patronizing alleys of society, customs and family bonds that turn into a noose. It takes a discerning teacher or an outsider to truly value the gem and bring out its brilliance, if he is lucky enough. Most of the time such children are like the glorious golden eagle, which pecked the dirt for worms because he thought he was a chicken and had to live out his life unearthing little wrigglers, like the rest of the brood he had the mishap to be born into.
We must realize that 'different' is not necessarily bad or high-risk. Virtue of birth alone into a particular family or community does not stamp one irrevocably as an indistinct personality. We are all individuals and have a right to our uniqueness even as toddlers. When gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals are fighting for their different sexuality to be accepted and recognized, we have millions of youngsters who have to forfeit their ambitions and dreams on family altars. Subjugated by their omniscient elders and smothered by emotional blackmail they have to go into medicine or engineering or law or the armed forces or this or that and the other because that is what the 'family' has always done. Their singular talents die indecorous deaths; their individuality is silently squelched under the rigid and coercive iron heel of authority. This is a very distressing truth, particularly in our Indian society.
Parents must consciously strive to remember the immortal words of Kahlil Gibran
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.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls live in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The Archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
And He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the Archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so also He loves the bow that is stable.
Children are not given to us to fulfill our unachieved aspirations; we are mere gardeners who must sow the seeds, nurture and water the saplings and watch over them tenderly as they grow and bloom each according to his capacity. They are not our possession and as such must be allowed to follow their own dreams. So let your golden eagle soar; allow the Archer to shoot His arrows swift and far, that they may do His bidding by fulfilling their destinies and surge forth to find their full potential.