World Happiness Index

The ‘World Happiness Index’ was recently released by the United Nations. In this report, they took into consideration- income, health and life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity, freedom, and trust. However, I believe, one is not always happy when the aforementioned factors are fulfilled. You aren’t happy because you checked all the items on your list. Sometimes you are just happy for the sake of being happy.

We see around us, beggars on the street, our servants, chauffeurs, and others who may not be as well off. But aren’t they happy too? Does happiness really need an economic backing? Yes, money does make your life comfortable, which does lead to happiness, but does it always?

India ranked 122nd on the ‘World Happiness Index’ out of 155 countries. Shocked?

If you take a look at the report you will notice that Belgium ranked 17th. This is the same country where sex-trafficking is at its peak. Girls are forced into prostitution. I don’t think they are happy. Even though they are not a large part of the population, I think they are a sizeable population of unhappy residents of that country.

Iraq, that has been the epicenter of war and political unrest, has managed to rank 117th on the list. I fail to understand how the residents of that country are happier than India- a peace loving, war free country.

270 girls were kidnapped in Nigeria, and this country, where one is scared for their own safety ranked 95th.

India is a country where people come to find their inner peace and solace. We live in a country where helping a fellow citizen is like our second nature. Yes, we Indians are casteist, racist and even sexist; but we are still a nation where you see wide smiles on every festival, every cricket match that India wins and every time our fellow Indians do their country proud.

According to the assessment made for the years 2016-18, India has to contribute 0.737% to the UN regular budget. This puts India in the 24th place in the list of highest contributors. I am certain India is not lagging behind in generosity.

India gives its citizens the complete freedom of speech unless it is hurtful to anyone in any way. There, another tick in UN’s checklist.

I believe we are a happy country, happier than most other countries. The fact that a sixteen-year-old is writing about how displeased she is with her country being ranked 122nd on the list when she sees happy faces everywhere she turns, is reason enough to believe India deserves to be ranked higher.

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Gender Neutrality

Oxford University has made a bold move, which most conservative individuals might term imprudent and rash. It has introduced the concept of a gender neutral pronoun – ‘ze’. This move was made to prevent students getting offended by the use of wrong pronouns

I firmly believe that the beginning of gender neutral pronouns is a good start for humans to instil in them the sensitivity they have lost.  Being considerate to a transgender or queer individual by addressing them as ‘ze’ will ease their difficult transition. Being transgender is not easy as many people believe. Sometimes even your family does not accept who you are. By using gender neutral pronouns, we in our own way show that we are support these individuals for who they are.

Everyone has a right to define themselves as male, female or transgender or queer. If one does not conform to the binary gender rules, well they don’t have to. Giving people the “ze” option is a thoughtful, considerate move.

Adopting this in other schools and universities would be a dauntless move, especially if it is adopted in Indian universities and schools. Through this action, Indian teens struggling through gender transition would at least not be bullied by intentionally calling them with the wrong pronoun. This will also help Indians become more open-minded and accepting.

However fearless or bold this move is, I don’t believe India is ready for this kind of a radical change. India – whether you like it or not – is a conventional society. I do not think we can just ask Indians to change all of a sudden.

Children learn what their surroundings teach them. One of their biggest influences is their parents. Most parents either consciously biased or unaware about transgenderism. For this thought of having neutral pronouns, it is them who should first make aware about the concept, and then approach the children.

Let’s just start with baby steps, and first bring about acceptance about transgender individuals, rather than suddenly dropping a bomb such as this on Indian society.

© Creatifxpressions

School days are the best days, is not true today.

Maybe it’s what you think, or it’s what you think you should think, but there’s a general belief that your time in school will be the best time of your life. However I strongly believe that this does not hold true anymore.

School days today instead of being filled with joy, sports and fun, are now filled with stress, academic pressure and tension. With the increase in competition in every academic field, children have lost their childhood in going to coaching classes. If one wants to study at the Delhi University, which is one of the best in India, anything less than 96% is unacceptable. With this pressure to perform coupled with parental pressure, stress levels these days are soaring high.

According to a new survey released by the American Psychological Association, during the school year Teen stress levels were found to be at a shocking 5.8 while adult stress levels were 3.1 on a scale of 10. Teen stress levels exceed the normal stress levels by far.

School days were the best days, because every child was a flower of innocence. But this flower of innocence in every child is dying at a much faster rate than before. Children face bullying and teasing on an everyday basis. These activities leave scars on them forever. When ask an individual aged from 35-80 their memory of school would be one of their best memory, but when you ask someone younger, their most distinct memory of school is that of bullying.

Victims of bullying are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University

According to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying

Aren’t these numbers astonishingly high?

In schools where bullying is an everyday affair, how can we call these years the best years of our lives?

All of your teenage years are spent in school. This is the time when you are most insecure and unsure of yourself. As a teenager you want to fit in with the coolest crowd at school. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. And when you don’t conform to these so called standards of being ‘cool’, we children feel insecure about ourselves. Even a simple pimple can cause havoc in our lives. Our appearance is everything. We do anything to fit in. How can we call these the best years of our lives, when we are not discovering who we are, but cloning others, trying to be someone we are not.

According to a teen magazine 77% of teenage girls find themselves overweight even if they are not.

With growing peer pressure from our friends, we feel compelled to dress and talk in a certain way. Statistics of peer pressure confirm that 23percent of teens started drinking before the age of 13 and 67 percent of girls are pressured into dressing a certain way.

Everyone wants the latest gadgets, most trendy clothes and list goes on. Why is this, to fit into the ‘cool’ group at school.

Life can be a wonderful journey even after school. You can travel the world on your own terms, not restricted by where your parents want to go. One can pursue their hobbies and the list goes on.

School can be fun, but even after school life can be enjoyable.

In Rabindranath Tagore’s poem he says:

‘The child who is decked with prince’s robes and who has jeweled chains round his neck,

Losses all pleasure in his play;

Dress hampers him at every step.

In fear that it may be frayed, or stained with dust

He keeps himself from the world,

And is even afraid to move.’

This dress can be the dress itself or even the restrictive rules at school hampering the child from exploring himself.

School life looks like a bed of roses but everyone forgets to see the thorns.

© Creatifxpressions

Strict Parenting is the Root Cause for All of Society’s Problems

We look with wonder and happiness when a child first learns to walk by falling many times and learns to talk without any fear or shyness of making mistakes.  The child only learns because he is not afraid of being reprimanded for the mistake he makes.  As we grow older we forget that we only learn from our mistakes and experiences, don’t we? We forget that unlearning and making mistakes is so fundamental to our learning process.

But, a strict parent typically makes unempathetic rules. Rules made by a strict parent simply have to be followed. No objections. No explanation. No reason. And if the child disobeys the rules…unfair punishment. Interestingly, when children have a lot of strict rules placed upon them, they find a quick alternative to avoid punishment – lying. According to The Youth Centre in Canada, children raised in strict households become secretive to avoid consequences. Children, at the end of the day, are not always able to solve their own problems and need parental advice. However, in this case, the child stops confiding in his parent as he thinks he will be punished for his actions. Over a period of time the child develops the habit of lying and may often do it subconsciously. The bond between parent and child becomes weak due to lack of communication. And the strict parent is totally unaware of it all!

If you look closely you will see that a strict-parent and child relationship is similar to that of bully and victim.  A parent is the child’s role model. If the parent yells the child yells, if a parent uses force the child uses force. And the child begins to learn that fear means power. The child will use what he has learnt and use this with his friends and end up being a bully. This will again become a problem for his parents. You see the vicious cycle here?

Self-discipline and responsibility form the base of a well-rounded individual. There is no internal tool more valuable than self-disciplining. However, the child has to internalize the love of limits and understand why they are important.

But, Strict parents deprive children the opportunity to internalize self-discipline and responsibility.  Strict parents  set too many rules to  follow…the child begins to detest control.  None of us like to be controlled do we? And this causes the child to reject limits that are not empathetic.

Strict parents do not allow their child to make decisions on their own.  This can be rather dangerous…The child will not be able to think on his own and thus he may be easily led by others. The child begins to think the person in authority in a relationship should be obeyed without question. Hasn’t the strict parent crippled the child mentally, physiologically and emotionally? He will need crutches stand for the rest of his life.

2011 PEW Research survey  found that “40% of 18- to 24-year-olds currently live with their parents, and the vast majority of them say they did not move back home because of economic conditions. Young adults, who move out then back in with their parents, have led people to refer to them as the Boomerang Generation.  I believe this is due to the lack of responsibility given to children by their parents. The children do not know how to live on their own because they have never been taught.

Strict parenting undermines the relation between the parent and child. Most importantly it creates individuals who do not understand the importance of self-discipline, who do not question authority and stand up for themselves, and it creates individuals who believe force is the only route to get one’s way.

If we look at the animal kingdom, a lioness lets her cubs explore the surrounding and themselves. However, she sets certain empathetic boundaries and restrictions. She decides the age appropriate freedom. In the same way Children thrive on Limits and Age-appropriate expectations, but only if they’re set with empathy.

As Kahlil Gibran says in his poem “On Children”…

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 He loves also the bow that is stable

This is the debate I spoke in Wisdom World School on 30th July, 2015 in the ‘Inter-House Debate Competition’.

© Creatifxpressions