Sarto Almeida, now 94 yrs, was recently felicitated for his contribution to architectural regionalism in Goa/India and many senior architects shared insights on the values with which he practiced and imparted to the younger generation. This is important to bring to light today as in our changing world our values in professional practice and personal lives are at an all-time low. Everything is driven by money and clout. I want this, so you must give me this. Here is the money. But is this right? Is this good for you? And why is this happening? Perhaps it is a fact that we no longer practice these good values in our own homes, schools, offices, etc. Perhaps it is the fast pace at which we are living, we want and get everything there is at the press of a button. If we are hungry, 2 minute noodles to the rescue or simply order a pizza. No long hours at the fire preparing a meal. And just like a pizza life is beginning to become less nutritious, less wholesome, less with soul. Let me illustrate.
An old college friend was recently in an accident on the highway at the recently installed traffic signal at Verna, where her car was apparently bumped from behind by another car. My friend had recently bought a brand new car and was extremely upset and angry that the car behind had callously ‘banged’ her bumper. What ensued was a demand for compensation, the alleged offender, a lady driver, refusing to pay saying it was not her fault, the police coming on location corroborating with my friend to corner the ‘offender’ to make a compromise and pay at the behest of cancelling the license and impounding the vehicle! To cut a long story short, the alleged offender refused and relied on the fact that she did not carelessly hit the bumper ahead but applied the brakes when she suddenly noticed the brake lights of the car ahead go on. She asked the police to follow the standard procedure and ended up paying a fine of Rs 600 for the alleged offence. No license cancelled, no vehicle impounded! Now as an observer to the whole scene, my friend’s car was not the only one damaged, the other car too had a hit from behind. So the cops on location simply checked only her car and used their discretion to assume that the first car hit from behind was the victim.
In the absence of not knowing the law, the police and my friend would have gotten away with cornering the alleged offender to cough up the damage which according to their assessment was Rs 60k! Having said this, all vehicles are covered and insured in such an incident so why this oft supported practice? No license can be cancelled on the spur of the moment and no police man can make a statement like that. I admired the way in which the alleged offender handled this, being a woman, cornered down by a fleet of policemen with unethical means coerced by my friend. So here we see a case where an unethical practice is accepted by society as a norm and a wrong made into a right. How can we change this? So the first approach is to be forgiving! We ourselves have been pardoned and forgiven when we have carelessly crossed the road, or when there has been a minor bumper to bumper impact, or even a major one. It is ok to forgive human error. Accidents are caused because of human error not because someone wants to hurt another. The second of course is to be aware about these practices and a clear understanding about the law and one’s duties and responsibilities as a license holder. So remember when you witness an accident of any kind, safety comes first if anyone is hurt and human life is more important than the vehicle. Don’t jump to conclusions that this is the moment to get the other person to compensate for a material loss that is already covered under insurance. At another level, let us be responsible as a community or a large group. Let us not support any unethical practice or moral wrong just because we have a collective voice or because everyone does it. More than a decade ago, a dear friend was to be a father and as we waited outside the labour room, he took me aside and said very anxiously ‘What do I do? I’m scared, will I be a good father? I have some flaws, what if my child witnesses these flaws? Can I change something to be better in the eyes of my child?’ Of course we can make a difference. Just like we all need role models as we grow up, we too want to be role models especially when we bear children. Our grandparents and parents did the same. So what if we are flawed. That is in the past. We have to change ourselves to be better in the eyes of our children and that is such a small sacrifice in comparison to the positives which will influence them to be better just like we did. It is imperative that we draw good examples, good traits from the people around us and not focus on the flaws. So improve on the flaws, make the negative into a positive. Be an example, show how.
I really loved what Adolf Castellino had to say at a talk addressing parents last week at the Little Penguins School. We need to raise resilient children, where they understand that independence and freedom come with a certain responsibility. He called for effective parenting in a defective world and emphasized how we had to be very careful on choosing an authoritative (not authoritarian) model compared to an oft practiced permissive one. A truly democratic way of imparting values. Where we as parents say, I care and I’ll give you the freedoms your earn, but for safety related issues, you do as I say. As against a disastrous, I’ll leave it to you to do the right thing! He reiterated that we are not raising children but raising an adult and for that we need to break free of the over-parenting trap! My favourite takeaway was this where he coerces parents to tell their teenage children, ‘Dear Son/Daughter, I understand your need for privacy and independence but I will periodically check your phone, facebook, twitter and email accounts so that I know you are safe.
We are all born to be good but different circumstances make us err and we make mistakes, we fail. But each of us has the chance and opportunity to be better and good. To be great role models for our children. Go on, pick yourself up, carpe diem or seize the day!
(Tallulah D’Silva is a practicing architect in Goa).