Apr 042021
Review: Raising a Humanist
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Title: Raising a Humanist

Authors: Manisha Pathak-Shelat and Kiran Vinod Bhatia

Type: Paperback

Published by: Sage Publishing

Pages: 240

Age group: For Parents!

I know this is not a children’s book but I thought of sharing because it addresses many of our concerns regarding parenting. I finally finished reading Raising a Humanist authored by a senior colleague in media education, Manisha Pathak-Shelat and my former student Kiran Bhatia over a week that has seen many of my extended family members and friends wracked by Covid19.

The book has helped me cope through emotional upheaval this week and I am grateful to them for writing it. My three-year-old delightfully calls it “Manisha Aunty’s and Kiran’s purple book” and admiringly points to the pictures of the two authors on the back cover. They are also the only colour photographs in the whole book and hence grab the toddler’s attention when he is not clamouring for mine.

One of the things that happen to you after becoming a mother is that you read all kinds of literature and watch numerous videos about parenting and how to raise kids. Often the how-to guides help but seldom delve deeper into the why, when, what, where and who. That’s where Raising a Humanist comes in. It describes the problems that parents encounter in an increasingly polarized and globalised world and then suggests solutions to the same without being preachy. The authors describe a child’s world view, how it is shaped by family, school and media.

They talk about our echo chambers that operate around gender, religion, caste and class. As you traverse through the pages, you start questioning your own philosophies and traditions, about how you and your family define and discriminate against the other gender, caste, creed, colour and religion.

How many times have you consciously or sub-consciously shut your child out when you didn’t want to answer their questions? How many times have you chosen to ignore the fact that you’ve woken up early to make breakfast and tiffin for your family before dashing off to office while your spouse has spent his morning working out and reading a newspaper? How many times have you asked the maid to bring your child a glass of water or a spoon or search for something your child has misplaced instead of asking your child to do the same?

How many times have you complained about reservations and then don’t want your child to play with others of economically and socially backward classes? How many times have you simply handed your mobile phone to your child so you could binge-watch your favourite show on an OTT platform? How many times have you taken your child out for dinner or ordered food just because you didn’t want to cook?

Raising a Humanist is a well-researched book packed with case studies, quotes, black and white illustrations, questions and exercises that makes you introspect about your identity, core beliefs and your idea of humanism and more importantly, if you’re willing to change them. It’s not just for parents, guardians, teachers or caregivers to know, but for every member of society, because whether you choose or not, you do come in contact with children and influence their lives directly or indirectly.

The language is non-academic to allow for a lay reader to understand, though you might want to take breaks in your reading to ponder. While the book is primarily directed towards Indian parents, its wisdom can be shared across generations, borders, cultures, societies and languages.

The authors write,

“We must hold onto the last ounce of compassion and understanding in us as we create bridges and undo boundaries. We will encounter fear, threats, backlash and ridicule in our journey towards creating inclusive societies, but we can promise one thing. In the end, the struggle won’t be for nothing.”

That’s a good reason to read this one.

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