“The Child is father of the Man,” reads the famous line from William Wordsworth. Begetting a child gives unfathomable pleasure. Bringing up the little one is an art. The making and unmaking of a child depends largely on the mother.
Parenting is a task which requires great skill and foresight. Indians form a close-knit community. Every relation has an importance in the Indian family. The Indian mother, after a child is born, lives with the child all day long. The newborn is nurtured with great care, fed as and when it cries, sleeps nestling close to the mother. The children are put in separate rooms once they become self-sufficient and independent. The bonding between the child and the mother is special, enchanting and enhancing too. The proximity developed between the mother and the child lasts all through their life. Indians presume it as a healthy sign but in the West it is eyed differently.
Norway is in the headlines for separating the children of an Indian geoscientist from their parents since May 2011. Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya’s children, three-year old Abigyan and one-year-old Aishwarya, were taken under Norwegian protective care by the Norwegian Welfare services on the ground that the son slept with his father and the mother fed the children with her fingers.
This allegation brings to mind an anecdote from a few decades back, when the former Indian President Dr. Radhakrishnan and the British Prime Minister Churchill met over dinner. As per the Indian custom, the President washed his hands well before eating. While Churchill was busy with spoon and fork, Dr.Radhakrishnan was eating with his fingers. Churchill asked the President to use the spoon and fork for better hygiene. The great scholar quipped, “No one else could use my fingers so I consider it most hygienic.” What would have happened to Dr. Radhakrishnan if he had visited Norway now? He would have been put in a centre and alienated from his kith and kin. Dr. Radahakrishnan is dead and gone. He has escaped the Norwegian authorities.
Norway’s Child Protective Service is a powerful organization which has been charged with being overzealous in protecting the children. The Norwegian Statistical Bureau, in its latest report of 2011, shows that 19 of every 1,000 children born to immigrant parents were taken away from their family homes between 2004 and 2010.
In a report by IBN-CNN, Mr. Bhattacharya says, “We’ve appealed to the government that we’ll leave everything and go back to India. This is a nightmare in our lives. We want to bring back our kids. We were normal parents. There could be several upbringing issues because the culture is different.”
The Indian Government has taken up the issue and forced the Norwegian government to release the children from Protective Care. Their 27-year-old uncle would take custody of the children and the expenses for his trip to Oslo would be borne by the Indian government.
Each country has its own culture. Each country has its own theory and convictions regarding sex, children, marriage, habits, and behaviour. That which is approved in one part of the world may be strongly condemned in another region. Customs and traditions which seem offensive to one sect are appreciated highly by the other.
Shakespeare said that discretion is the better part of valor. Let us practise this ideal by honouring all cultures and values.