ONDU BEKU... ERADU SAAKU. ONE IS NEEDED... TWO ARE ENOUGH













“If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.”
(From the song ‘The Times They Are A – Changing’
by Bob Dylan)


There is a small temple in the housing colony where I live. The same Pujari (priest) has been taking care of it for many years. Two years ago, his young son was employed by the security agency as one of our security guards. The young man was fair and had a good physique… He told us that he was trying join as a jawan in the Indian Army. So, after serving as a security guard in our complex for some months, one day, he quit his job.

A couple of days ago, when I met the Pujari, I enquired about his son. “Has he joined the Army?” I asked.

“Not yet, sirji,” the Pujari told, “He is still trying.”

“Is he your only child?” I asked.

“I got six, sirji,” the Pujari told proudly, “three girls, three boys!”

“Baapre!”

I think, this Pujari, who hails from one of the remote villages in UP, is in his mid fifties, which means, he belongs to my generation (Well, I am 59). Our generation has settled for mostly two… Guys like me are content with one… Some have gone for three. But, four, five, six are really uncommon for my generation…

Yes, I am not talking about America. And, I really did not know about the villages in our own country… I am ignorant, I admit.

In India, the generation next to mine -  which is frantically and eternally trying to ‘settle down’ professionally, and, which has no qualms about live-in relationships, adoption and Test-tube babies… and, which has to spend crores on making a decent house, and lakhs and lakhs (even crores) to give the so-called education - yes, this generation (from the cities in particular) is perfectly fine without the extra baggage called ‘children’!

So, our Pujari’s six will surely make them dizzy, if not crazy!

“The times… They are a-changing!” True.

Having ten, eleven or twelve children was common during my grandparents’ time. They were utterly poor… There were no hospitals or nursing homes for conducting deliveries… Miscarriages were common… Little babies dying when just born, too, was common. In a Catholic household like ours, out of the 8, 9 or 10, who survived, at least one, two or three would be sent to become priests in seminaries or nuns in convents.

When it came to my father’s generation, having four-five children became an accepted norm. Most of my classmates and playmates had four-five siblings. My dad was blessed with five boys… Well, none of us were sent to seminaries (being unfit!)

When our turn came, three of my brothers settled for two each… One of my brothers and I settled for only one…

My dad was a die-hard Indira Gandhi Bhakt. But, by the time her Government’s compulsory sterilization came, my dad had already produced his five Padavas! So, it was left for his sons to take Mrs. Gandhi’s slogan very seriously (Before getting compulsorily sterilized!): ‘Ondu beku… Eradu saaku’. 

Translated from the Kannada, this colorful slogan meant: ‘One is needed… Two are enough’!

I wonder about the new slogan for my son’s generation!

Well, “The times… They are a-changing”, you see!

This morning, in our PD sessions, I had asked the teenagers to talk on the topic ‘Growing up as a single child or growing up with siblings – my preference.”

Most of them had siblings… They spoke about the laughter and tears involved with growing ups fighting, sharing, tearing, complaining, envying, loving, sulking and making it up… Even the ones who did not have siblings, invariably, spoke in favour of growing up with siblings… 

A young boy, who was terribly shy and scared, confessed about his loneliness at home… “I played alone with my toys,” he shared, “Maybe that’s the reason why I don’t mix up with others easily, today.” 

Another 17-year-old girl, who has a two-and-a-half year old younger brother, shared her own joy and frustrations growing up with a brother who is ‘still a baby when I am in college!” “You have to take care of him,” my parents often tell me and I become angry with them. For this Diwali, my parents bought a new top for me, and he spoiled it even before I could wear it once… When I screamed at him, I got punished by my mother… ‘He is so small’... I got wild and asked my mom, “Why did you wait for fifteen years to give a small brother for me?”

Yes, this young girl swears that she would never ever exchange her situation with that of her counter parts who has no siblings… “I love my l’le brother… and, I love sharing the space with him.”

Many of us tend to say, “Today’s generation has become selfish… self-centered… etc...”  I think that’s unfair to say so. For, we need to come reborn in their generation as their piers to understand what it is like…

The young boy who shared about his loneliness and the young girl, who shared about her frustrations, this morning, have inspired me to write about this subject…


“The times… They are a-changing”…  That’s all I can say.





GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Lighthouse Autism Center/Internet
Video: YouTube



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