Book review by Bhaskar Parichha
Title: Raising a Humanist, Conscious Parenting in an Increasingly Fragmented World
Authors: Manisha Pathak-Shelat & Kiran Vinod Bhatia
Publisher: SAGE Publications India/SELECT, 2021
Unusual times warrant unusual responsibility. And, when the responsibility is manifest in parenting, it becomes even more important. Raising a Humanist: Conscious Parenting in an Increasingly Fragmented World by Manisha Pathak-Shelat and Kiran Vinod Bhatia is, as the title suggests, meant for the troubled times in which we live.
On the face, this book is not a typical work on parenting, rather it goes far beyond the remit. Written by two media professionals, it is a sort of prescription for modern day parents.
Says the blurb: “The world is immensely divided and broken. We have lost the art of having conversations with those who are different from us. While we cannot change the world, we can take small remedial steps starting with our homes and communities.”
Manisha Pathak-Shelat is a Professor at Centre for Development Management and Communication, MICA (Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India) and Kiran Vinod Bhatia is a doctoral candidate in the School of Journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Coming as it is from two media professionals, the book results from their engagement with parents, teachers and the youth. Being communication scholars, the authors mull over their work, contributing meaningfully and substantially towards a better world. And, they have succeeded in this effort to a large extent.
Using critical questions, rational tips and exciting anecdotes, they touch upon the abysmal number of discordant issues of our society and provide fascinating ways to use art, technology and media. The idea is to provide the progenies with a nurturing community. The conversation is appealing and enriching because the writers have a vast experience in the area.
With a Foreword by Lina Ashar, Educationist and Entrepreneur, the book has in all nine chapters and the approach of the subject is avant-garde. It provides a much-needed investigation of how adults can guide children to become kind, liberal and critically thoughtful humans in an ever-changing technological world.
The authors write in the preface: “Critical thinking, empathy and the readiness to engage with different viewpoints have to be a gradual and lifelong process — beginning with ourselves, including our children and extending it to our larger social circles.”
That the authors have taken up a subject as vast as ‘parenting’ is itself challenging. How to raise a child in this polarized and conflicted world is every conscious parent’s concern and the book offers the solution with insight and wisdom. It is multidisciplinary in its sweep and yet not wandering off from the root issue. The mainstay of the book is its account of everyday experiences.
Raising a Humanist results from over three years and interactions with more than 120 parents. It aims to help parents deflate stereotypes, prejudices, mental conditioning about gender, caste, religion and class.
That politically complex and technologically upsetting times warrant responsible parenthood needs no reiteration. If children from a young age are conditioned into stereotypical and biased ways of thinking, parents are largely to blame. The book not only raises the right questions but also offers solutions by providing a deeper understanding of popular culture and the role of the media in gender, religious, caste and class portrayals. This scholarly book tells us how to unlearn and re-learn as parents.
Raising children in a scrappy world who can walk through life with self-confidence and empathy is challenging. This book solves that challenge. ‘Raising a Humanist’ mainstreams the power of initiating hard conversations and discussions, guided by a strong yet sensitive rationale at its core. The lucid case studies and the real-life examples are educational and motivating. The book not only sketches the social divide but also remediates it by addressing its concerns. The book talks of the nuances of religion and prejudice in the most succinct manner.
It is a must-read, especially for parents, educators and concerned citizens who are ambitious for a radical vision of the world that will leave our children free from anxiety and misgiving. This book is a refreshing departure from the tiresome ‘how to’ books imposed on caregivers, as you see guilt and fear taking a rightful back seat to more nuanced, critical and creative conversations that generate excitement for how we would like to see the world turn for the better.
For delving deep into some of the most challenging questions of our times in a rigorously and thoughtfully way, it is an essential reading for anyone interested in parenting. Bold and provocative, this influential book is a decent companion in raising a humanist in the child.
Bhaskar Parichha is a journalist and author of No Strings Attached: Writings on Odisha and Biju Patnaik – A Political Biography. He lives in Bhubaneswar and writes bilingually. Besides writing for newspapers, he also reviews books on various media platforms.
Click here to read the interview of the authors.
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