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Daaji’s book ‘The Wisdom Bridge’ turns the spotlight on raising happy families

October 20, 2022

‘The Wisdom Bridge: Nine Principles to a Life that Echoes in the Hearts of Your Loved Ones’ (Penguin Random House India) by Kamlesh D. Patel, fondly known as Daaji, was officially released on October 17. 

The Wisdom Bridge is a deeply moving and inspirational book that offers nine principles to live a life that inspires and enriches the lives of children and build resilient bonds within one’s family. Based on the premise that “the intentions, thoughts and actions of the elders are caught by the hearts of the children and the elders have the responsibility to not only raise the children well, but nurture and guide them in a way that they can lead fulfilling lives”, it serves as the perfect guide to stress-free parenting and raising resilient children and happy families.

“My new book puts the spotlight on the importance of wisdom in our lives. In times of uncertainty and doubt, wisdom shows the way. It helps us focus on leading a life of inspiration, one filled with meaning and purpose,” says Kamlesh D. Patel, the fourth and current spiritual guide of the global Heartfulness movement. Also the author of the bestsellers ‘The Heartfulness Way’ (with Joshua Pollock) and ‘Designing Destiny’, he has spent the past four decades training people across the world in Heartfulness meditation. 

“The Wisdom Bridge by Daaji is a truly special book for families to read and cherish. I am proud and delighted that he has chosen Penguin Random House India as the home for this timeless and important book,” says Milee Ashwarya, publisher, Ebury Publishing and Vintage. 

The book has received some brilliant early reviews from Prof. Jack Miller, Padma Bhushan Pullela Gopichand, Harriet Shugarman, Grammy Winner Ricky Kej, Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia, Prof Clancy Martin and actors Kabir Bedi and Omi Vaidya. 

Book extract:

The Wisdom Bridge book extract Pg 54-59

In the American movie My Cousin Vinny, Vinny Gambini, played by the wise guy Joe Pesci, hasn’t slept in five days. He’s scheduled to appear in court to defend his nephew in a death trial. On that morning, his girlfriend Mona Lisa Vito, played by the effervescent Marisa Tomei, spews fire over Vinny’s broken promises, their marriage and her ticking biological clock. As she stomps her stiletto heels on the pine floorboards, shouting out ‘tik tok, tik tok,’ Vinny breaks out into a rant of how everything is going wrong in his life, and on top of it the added pressure of a ticking biological clock.

Although popular, the stereotype of portraying women as having limited shelf-life fertility is wrong.  Both men  and  women have fertility clocks that are ticking away.

Let’s start with the men first. In 2018, Dr Michael Eisenberg, Director of Male Reproductive Medicine at Stanford University, led a population study. He and his team analysed more than 40 million births in the United States between 2007 and 2016. The study found that advanced paternal age (forty-five years and older) affects the children and the mother. They noticed that advanced paternal age was associated with an increased risk of premature birth, low birth weight and low Apgar score, the five-point assessment of a baby’s health in the minutes after birth. The study also found that the odds of gestational diabetes in mothers were 34 per cent higher with the oldest partners (fifty-five years and older).

The study also showed that advanced paternal age put the children at an increased risk of conditions such as dwarfism, psychiatric disorders and autism. So, it’s no surprise that the American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends the following for sperm donors: ‘The donor should be of legal age but younger than forty years of age so that potential hazards related to aging are diminished.’ The data on advanced paternal age risk has been around for a while. Yet, awareness of the male biological clock and its impact on the mother and the child’s health is minimal even in developed countries.

Switching gears, women hit peak fertility in their early twenties. Once women reach thirty-five years, they are considered a high-risk pregnancy in many countries, including the United States. Osteoporosis, gestational diabetes and reduced skin elasticity are some risks associated with pregnancy in advanced maternal age. There are many screenings prescribed for a high-risk pregnancy including tests like Amniocentesis. Most of these tests are inconvenient and some are even painful. Not to mention the stress that comes with getting the tests done. For women, giving birth in their twenties is in tune with the fertility rhythm of their bodies. Another benefit of giving birth to the first child in her twenties is that it makes planning for a second one easier.

Over the years, I have met some couples, who tried to conceive when they were younger in their peak fertility years. But things didn’t work out for some reason, and they ended up having children later who are all in good health. I also know of couples who delayed having children. They had children later in life who are also doing well. So, planning a child is not about beating the statistical odds. It’s about avoiding taking chances with something so important. There is merit in cooperating with the natural rhythms of the body. As a couple you should sit down and talk through your plans for raising a family. One key consideration in your discussion should be your biological clock and making sure that you use the window wisely. I pray that your circumstances support you and your partner in making these decisions.

Offering reproductive advice is a charged topic. It touches women’s reproductive rights, social policy for childcare and religious beliefs, and no matter which line one treads someone will be unhappy. What I have written here, is what I told my children and loved ones. If my words caused you any hurt, I hope you can take it as advice from a well-wisher.

Energy, Fun and Finances

Besides biological rhythms, the other reason to have children sooner is the energy it takes to raise them. Children like to run around, play ball, ride bikes, paint pictures, have pillow fights and wage snowball wars. When parents are younger, their energy levels are higher. They can keep up with children’s demands and manage their careers, social life and everything else that needs attention. When physical energy is waning the body struggles to keep up.

The energy advantage becomes clearer later in life when children become teenagers. For example, a  mother  who  gives birth in the late thirties will have to deal with her own physiological and psychological changes related to menopause while supporting a teenager whose body is also changing. Both are on the edge, and it’s a recipe for emotional showdowns. The same goes for the father who may be dealing with his midlife crisis and now has to support a young person dealing with uncertainties that come with youth. It can be challenging.

Having children while parents are younger has some auxiliary benefits too. When you are younger it’s easier to find jobs. So, if you decide to move closer to family or take a break from work, it’s easier to get back in. When parents are younger it’s likely that grandparents too are younger. That makes it easier for grandparents to offer both practical help and monetary help if needed. Most couples understand these benefits, but there are situations that throttle your plans. One such situation is balancing career and family, and it’s most accentuated for mothers.

Career and Family: Supporting Mothers

Couples, in the present times, try to achieve some financial goals before having children. Women play a key role in achieving these goals. Considering how difficult it can be to raise a family on a single income, working women when faced with an option to choose between a career and starting a family, prefer to choose a career.6 Also, if the partner dies or is unable to work, it’s more difficult for a woman to re-enter the workforce after a break. Not to mention the disparity women face at the workplace.  In the US, for example, women earn 49 per cent of what men do, mothers earn less than fathers, and mothers earn less than women with no children.7

Over the years, I have met many working mothers and not one of them has told me that they were happy to go back to work immediately after having a child. A mother feels tormented stepping away from her newborn. Her guilt for missing out on her time with the child and being unable to give full attention to them runs deep. Unfortunately, most women don’t have a choice, and for single mothers, there’s no other option.

Having a day care at work could be great. But in most places good quality day care is expensive. I once heard of a day care at a tech company that had a two-year waiting list. And the cost? Fifty thousand dollars a year! Most mothers take a break when they get tired of ‘working-to-pay-for-day care. But the transition from a career to a full-time homemaker is not easy. Imagine having worked hard towards a professional career and then setting what you’ve accomplished aside, even if temporarily, for childcare, which can be exhausting and less immediately rewarding.

In days when society was agrarian, women were married- off while they were very young, and as a result, they lost their childhood. From there we seem to have swung to the other end of the spectrum where we are delaying marriage and having babies for as long as we can. Somewhere in between is the place where a family’s financial security and the desire to have children are not at odds with each other.

Having said that, there are no simple answers, and each family situation is different. If a couple can enlist the support of their parents or some close family members while planning a family, that would be helpful. It will give them an understanding of how others managed to raise a family. The family’s support, be it advice, helping when the baby comes or having someone to speak with, takes away some pressure from parenting. Also, when couples involve the elders in their life plans, it brings the families closer.

Published with due permissions from the author and the publisher, Penguin Random House India.

Also read: Three Ways to Mental Peace

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