I want to narrate an incident that I cherish as one of my fondest childhood memories. I come from a laid-back village in the stunning Mussoorie range of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand (India). My parents dreamed of good educational prospects for me and hence they sent me to the gurukul of Parmartha Ashram in Rishikesh. Perhaps that was the first I had ever stepped so far from the comforts of my home. So I, as a young boy, followed my father towards Swargashram where the gurukul is located.
I was not new to rivers and streams. There was a river outside my village which I would cross daily, twice, on the way to my village school. The river was my friend. I would spend hours picking pebbles, bathing, and playing in its quick waters.
But Mother Ganga is of an entirely different magnitude. Her depth, the ethereal emerald tone of its waters, the deafening sound that it makes as it rushes towards Haridwar, and it being my first ever encounter with her, the setting overwhelmed the child who was already dealing with an anxiety of imminent distancing from family.
To further aggravate the situation, we were to cross the river through the suspension bridge. The child in me could not see the large and strong anchorage and towers of the bridge. All I could see was the metal ropes on which were tied seemingly frail suspenders holding the metallic pathway. As I put first step on the bridge it swayed, and with it swayed away the remnants of whatever courage that was in me. I feared that the suspenders will snap and I would be swallowed by the soaring river beneath. Instinctively, I reached out to my father’s hands trying to grab onto his fingers or wrist and surrendering myself to his protection. The weakness in me needed protection of his paternal strength. However, to my dismay he did not offer me the protection I sought and instead rejected my hand that had reached out to him.
I was left to myself, in my own care, to my own protection. In that hapless moment I garnered my courage and advanced another step on the bridge, and then another and another.
It happened long back and having spent decades of crossing the same suspension bridge many times every day on my feet or on my motorcycle, I never felt that fear again.
When I look back at the incident I know that my father had taught me one of the biggest lesson of life that day. The lesson was, if I have to advance and progress I would need to face my fears, and do it alone.
Sometimes I think what if my father had held my hand that day and assured me that he is protecting me. Perhaps I would not have discovered my own inner strength and courage. That incident made me confident that I have it in me, and I can face challenges alone. I can handle any swaying bridges and reach for the other shore, all by myself.
I have faced many such metaphoric swaying bridges since then and by God’s grace, my parents’ blessings, teacher’s guidance, and friend’s love, and the unnerving faith in myself, I have always reached the other shore.
I see many worried parents obsessing over their children. Perhaps when we are telling them to study all the time, showing them the fear of earning bad grades, we are instilling fear of studies in them. When we are telling our daughters to dress-up a particular conservative way, we are suffocating their self-expression and making them afraid of strangers at a large. Instead of telling them the negative or harmful repercussions of particular choices, we should rather inform them about the possible outcomes of their choices and empower them to make correct decisions and confident enough to take care of themselves. Let them not be afraid. Let them be playful, courageous, and confident. Let them face the problems and win over them. You cannot keep them protected for ever. So instead of protecting them, empower them to protect themselves.
“Whatever you are afraid of, face it, and win over it. Any victory, no matter how large or small it is, enforces our confidence and will to combat.
So, win over something everyday.”
Love and Light,