By Mihir Joshi
We’re living in a world where women are facing a lot of issues. And most of them have to do with men not knowing how to behave or intentionally abusing the power they have in their home or workplaces. I was asked by someone a few days ago, “You have a young boy who is growing up in this world. How do you intend to raise him so that he turns out good?”
So here’s what I’ve seen. The main problem with men right now is that sometimes they don’t know that they’re doing something wrong but very often they know that they’re doing something wrong and are okay with doing it because they live in a society where people have been covering up the things powerful people do. I recently saw the Harvey Weinstein documentary and I was appalled by the things he was able to do and for the amount of time he was able to keep doing them. This happens because the people around him, who must have known how he was, decided to stay quiet or bury the things that came up about him.
I don’t want to get into the #MeToo movement in a big way but I do want to talk about what I intend to share with my son Neil over the next decade or two and I’m hoping that the things he learns from me and from his mother will help him be a good man.
So the first thing is, I’ll teach him to always be respectful and kind. Doesn’t matter if you’re talking to a boy or a girl. To someone younger than you or older than you. I’ve always found that if you’re good to someone, they will be good to you. And honestly, sometimes even if that isn’t reciprocated, that doesn’t mean you should be bad to people.
I’ll tell him, son, always do the right thing. How will you know what that is? If you want to do something and in your mind, you think that it will get you in trouble, or that it is something you wouldn’t be happy with later…don’t do it. Sometimes, most times, it is easy to do the wrong thing. Choose the tougher path. You’ll find that at the end of the day, even if it was a little harder, that’s the path that will give you peace of mind and let you sleep easy.
I’ll tell him, son, your mumma and me are your friends. You can always talk to us. About anything, absolutely anything. And I will ensure that he knows that and believes that always.
I’ll ensure that his choice in four things in his teenage years is impeccable. I honestly believe that these four things shape the person you become when teenage ends and adulthood begins.
You may think I’m nuts, but honestly, the music you hear shapes the person you become. I keep thinking that when I was a kid, had I found a band that was depressing and extremely negative I would have turned into such a different person. Not just depressing music but music that has shown that it is okay to be crass with women. If that is the music he discovers, he could turn into the kind of person who would find it okay to behave that way with women in his life.
When you’re a kid, you need to be guided towards good music that will uplift you. I will pay attention to what he hears and ensure that he grows up on great music. He’s just about six months old and he’s already hearing great music from artists and legends like Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Dean Martin, Elvis, The Beatles and so many more. I can’t wait to spend a lot more time listening to some great music with him.
The movies you watch when you’re a kid affects you deeply at times. I will ensure that he gets to watch good stuff. As a teenager I remember being addicted to TCM (Turner Classic Movies). I wish we still got that channel. There was something truly special about those movies. Beautiful stories, great acting, unbelievable songs and a time when men were gentlemen and women were ladies. Yes there were some fairly misogynistic movies too but there were also a TON of great movies with truly strong women characters and some phenomenal women. I was a massive fan of Katherine Hepburn, Esther Williams, Audrey Hepburn, and so many other brilliant women stars of the golden age of movies. I learnt a lot about treating women like a gentleman just by seeing those movies. And women, when I say that I would like Neil to treat you like you were ladies, I don’t mean that you’re lesser in any way or that you’re not strong enough or independent enough. If you saw the movies I’m talking about, these women in the 50s and the 60s were “bad***es” but that didn’t mean you couldn’t be nice to them. Like I said right at the top, be good to people (women and men) and they’ll be nice to you too. I’d expect him to be a gentleman with men.
When I use the word gentleman, I just mean a decent human being.
Both Neha and I are already getting him in the habit of reading. I know, I know, he can’t read right now but that doesn’t stop us from reading to him. I read every day. I can’t sleep without reading a book. Even if I’m dead tired, I have to read at least a few pages before I go to bed. I want to get him in the habit of reading right away and trust me when I say this, if you read a lot of good books, it opens up your mind like nothing else. It broadens your imagination, improves your vocabulary and if you find the right books during those troubling teenage years, it helps you out in a big way. When I was a teenager, I found Superman comics…and for me, I found the lessons I learnt in those comics books became the foundation of my philosophy of life.
I mean, what does Superman essentially stand for? What lies at the absolute core of that character? He stands for being a good human being. While he’s the most power superhero in the DC universe at the very core of it all, his is a very human story.
And what made him that way? Good parenting from his Earth parents!
And finally, good company. I cannot stress on this enough. The company he keeps, the people around him – friends and family – will truly shape him. Friends are incredibly important, and I’ll teach him to surround himself with good people, both girls and boys. And I’ll pay as much attention as I can to the friends he cultivates.
Folks, let us recognise toxic behaviour even in your family members. When you think about it, you’ll realise that so many things you’ve grown up listening to or seeing, even within your own family are honestly so messed up. The generation before ours was extremely different. Men were supposed to go to work and bring home the bacon and women were supposed to, well…do pretty much everything else.
I say that is bull****! And if you think I’m not walking the walk, ask my wife. Sure, I’m still an idiot and there’s a lot I can learn but I don’t expect her to do everything. I can cook (quite well, if I may say so myself), I make sure I do a ton of chores around the house, I take care of Neil (everything from diapers to play time to getting him to sleep at times in my carrier) and I go out and work too. And I do NOT think I’m doing anything special. I feel it is messed up that this wasn’t and, even today, isn’t the norm!
So yes, he will be seeing me standing side by side beside his mother, as her best friend and partner all her life and I’m hoping he’ll realise that that is how it should be. Kids learn by what they see and not by what they’re told to do.
If he learns how to be a good man at home, I am fairly certain that he will continue to do the same in his work place. I can’t control what he’ll do when he leaves the nest and finds his own way in the world. All I can hope for is that in his formative years, he’ll see the genuine love, respect and adoration I have for his mother and will hopefully bring the same to the women in his life.
(The writer is a singer-his debut album Mumbai Blues won the GIMA Award for Best Rock Album in 2015-hosts his own talk show-The MJ Show and does live Hindi commentary for WWE. Follow him on twitter @mihirjoshimusic. Views are personal.)