By RAJESH C. OZA
The Dating Dilemma
Dear PMG: I have a couple of teenagers, one entering high school and one in junior high school. The older one recently confided in me, saying, “I feel like an outcast or a nerd when there are opportunities to date (and I can’t).” My husband is really opposed to the kids dating, even going so far as to say that the music they listen to is vulgar. He’s so vocal about this that the kids won’t even talk to him about how they feel. I think that maybe we’ll be opening up a Pandora’s Box if we say yes to our children, but if we say no they’ll just do whatever they want behind our backs. We hear about all kinds of things that American kids do on dates, even before they enter their teens. I want our kids to be happy, but I also want to set some limits.
“I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.” (M. K. Gandhi).
Quite a dilemma you have here: your traditions (and your husband’s strong desire to maintain those traditions) on one side, and the winds of change (your children’s equally strong desire to sail those winds) on the other side.
The challenge here is to balance change and continuity, modernity and tradition. But there is also a challenge to listen carefully to what your children want, to be in true dialogue with them, a kind of family Satyalogue. Do you really understand what they want from dating? Do the children you and your husband raised want to do “all kinds of things that American kids do on dates?” And what are those things that you are so afraid of? And are your children not living in America, and thus themselves “American kids”?
From my small understanding of the modern dating scene, it is no longer just a case of one boy and one girl going out. Nowadays kids seem to go out in bunches, talking to each other about all kinds of things ranging from Barack to bhangra, Hillary to hip-hop, and McCain to moshing. There is a strong need for children (and adults for that matter) to develop friendships. These friendships allow kids to feel confident of the world they live in. They also enable them to be open to the diversity of America and beyond. And if you and your husband have instilled in your family the values you treasure, I suspect that your children will, as Gandhiji says, “want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about [their] house as freely as possible. But ? refuse to be blown off [their] feet by any.”
There seems to be an increasing philosophical distance between a rapidly changing modern India and its “Father of the Nation.” But have the prevailing moods and sensibilities made Gandhian philosophy dispensable? Or like all Truth, is it timeless and beyond boundaries? Do the ethics that Mohandas K. Gandhi used in his lifetime in India, England, and South Africa apply to 21st-century desi and pardesi lives in India and America?
It is my conviction that within the breadth of the body of work described as “Gandhian philosophy” lie the answers to our modern issues and dilemmas as well. I invite you to test this hypothesis and send me your ethical quandaries. Depending on the query, “PM” might mean “Prime Minister” for political questions, “Pita and Mata” for familial ones, “Penny-pinching and Money-making” for financial ones, “Pedagogy and Matriculation” for academic ones, or “Physical and Metaphysical” for philosophical ones. You decide which questions require reflection through Gandhiji’s bifocals; the assumption behind the responses will be that we live in a postmodern world that values individual agency, dialogue, and truth. The “G” is shorthand for Gandhiji, for whom I will serve as a kind of translator, using his aphorisms and rendering them relevant to our times.
(Dr. Rajesh C. Oza, president of the OrganiZationAlignment Consulting Group, serves as a consultant to organizations and individuals requiring change leadership. We invite questions for consideration in the PMG column at email@example.com. Along with your submittal, please include your full name and location. You may request your name be withheld in a published question.)
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