Who gave you your thoughts?

Uma’s post on her early influences, Solilo’s post on religious tolerance and some discussion on this blog made me wonder what makes us think the way we do…

A friend in class IV told me she always murmured the words of the aarti during the assembly, instead of ‘Our father who art in heaven’ in our Christian school. I had gone home and told my mother proudly, that I was going to do the same. She told me it did not matter what words or language we used, so long as we prayed from our heart.

Our Moral Science teacher talked to us about praying before we went to bed. Every night, we had to tell God what we did all day, if we did something we shouldn’t have, it was time to promise to ourselves, we won’t repeat it. This prayer time was a time to make promises to God.

She talked to us about ‘conscience’ or a little voice inside us which always tells us if we are wrong. And those who listen to that voice, she said, will never do any wrong.

She talked about compassion. She talked about how, like a loving parent, God was always there for us, his children. (She called God ‘Him’ always ;))

Were these Christians beliefs? She did not say which God. And under the Amar Chitra Katha influence I used to pray to every God I could remember, for several years, and any new name learnt was promptly added to the list.

We also had a Sanskrit teacher who didn’t approve of us giggling, and said those who laugh too much today were going to cry later. But we loved his stories.  We argued when he said every family must have a son to carry forward the family name.

One of his biggest influences was the story of Dhruva – he said the North Star was named after him. I wanted to know how standing on one leg for months could get someone to meet God. He explained that basically ‘tapasya’ meant Will Power and Discipline, that both could get us anything we wanted. I still believe that. As a kid I followed his advice and practiced building a strong Will Power very seriously by giving up Orange Bar ice cream. 😉

Once a friend told me there was a ghost on a tree near our place. I was terrified until my mother said the way Bhootkaal meant, ‘past tense’, bhoot meant past. She must have sounded like she meant it, till today ghosts don’t scare me.

My mom says her dad taught her to be careful of humans instead of fearing ghosts. When she said she was going to tie a rakhi and make a class mate her brother, he told her class mates could only be friends, only her brother could be her brother.

But all early influences are not permanent. Some make us rebel. My mother strongly believed in marrying within the community. She thought we sisters should dote upon our only brother. Our Sanskrit teacher’s talk about religion often veered towards gender bias. My grandfather thought girls should not care for their looks.

So perhaps we just pick some and leave some? I wonder how much can we be influenced. Are these early influences permanent? I guess some people change more easily than others do…


61 thoughts on “Who gave you your thoughts?

  1. IHM, I agree early influences shape our thoughts, but as we grow up, we learn to exercise the space between our ears. I think it is part of the “rebellion” adolescence brings in. And the slow building of reliance on one’s own judgment. Of course we pick and choose. We are evolutionally wired to follow authority as children, as we grow older we learn to discern.

    I agree Allytude!!


  2. There is no single person to get full credit. My dad was an example of calmness and content where as my mom was very hard working and ambitious. Several people in school influenced me in different ways. There are few friends who stand out most. Then there are some strangers who moved me strongly. I can write a whole post on it 🙂

    I agree with Allytude that as we grow up, we learn to have our own judgment. I have lately been identifying more transformations in me and more changes in my beliefs 🙂

    Yes I agree with you Lakshmi! Do write a post about this! I would love to read it!


  3. My husband, grew up in a family where religion is very important. He and his siblings would not eat or drink anything until they have read one para from Ramayan every morning. This also meant sometimes not eating until 2 or 3 pm because of busy schedules and not getting a chance to read Ramayan. This was influence from parents. And then he got married to me, a person who feels in touch with God all the time, who didn’t need Ramayan or any other scripture to salute to the almighty. I never asked him to stop his practice but I guess I influenced him. When his parents visited us for the first time in US, they were very very upset that we don’t have a mandir in our house. Of all the people their Son and they said instead of forgetting his culture, he should have changed mine. 🙂
    This can be whole other debate but I guess one can be influenced at any age.Sometimes influence works on us without us knowing at all!!


  4. I am easily influenced, despite the fact that I seem so strong-headed. As a child, I was greatly influenced by my family and still am 🙂 My sisters, my grandmother, my parents, my uncle… I had so many influences within the family that I rarely got influenced by people outside of it, except for a few teachers.


  5. Our early days do have a great impact on us . But as we move on in life various people, incidents and places come along and leave their mark as well. It’s a constant process, there is only addition and no substraction. It’s like knowledge (good or bad) and get’s stored in our CPU and at the end of the day it’s upto us, what we do with it – use it, misuse it or just store it if it’s irrelevant 🙂


  6. I can’t remember where I read it. But the essence of it goes like this. When we are children our parents are the mirror through which we look at the world that is yet beyond our reach. As we get older, we realize that this reflection, sometimes does not tell the complete truth, and we look for better reflections to define our world. We become truly grown when we start to differentiate reflections from reality and dare to stare at reality , without the aid of any reflections


  7. I think they’re permanent only if we allow them to be. Know what I mean?

    If we’ve seen the other side of the coin and don’t like it, thus rejecting it, that means we fall back on the early influence…except, this time it becomes our own experience.

    We live, we learn and we evolve. I’ve seen my rabidly homophobic mom now actually come to terms with the fact that this does exist and people can’t help who they love or are attracted to. Does it mean she’ll be marching in the next Pride parade? Does it mean she’ll be able to easily accept a family member declaring that s/he’s gay? No, but it shows that even at this age, she is still open to change her way of thinking.

    That is the key, I guess. Being open to change. Being open-minded.

    Yes M4… and hats off to your mom!


  8. fascinating topic, ihm. now that i think of it, i seem to have been influenced most by what my father considers ‘results’ of his primary beliefs, while rejecting the primary beliefs themselves.

    i find meenakshi’s comment above very interesting, though i don’t seem capable of finding any reality behind the mirrors- they *all seem to be mirrors, lol.


  9. IHM what we are taught in our growing up days stays with us . but as we grow older we tend to adapt ourselves to changing needs. when young the influnce of parents and teachers is the decisive factor as we dont apply our mind. what ever they have told us is the gospel truth. but slowly we start analysing and make our our inferences but back in our mind always remains what we have been taught in the early days
    my children went to a convent school. luckily for them and us also the teachers there never forced christinaity on them. although they did adopt some of their beliefs or practices like praying before meals, thanking God before sleep. but they were never forced to attend the mass or go to church.
    rather they had moral scinece/religion as subject.
    religion is in our mind ‘ i will share one habit of mine. i have decided that daily i will go to a religious place just to pray. now being a jain people expect me to go to a jain temple but for me any religious place of any religion will do. if i am crossing a church and i go to pray there that means my daily vow is fullfilled. similarly if i visit Haji Ali ki dargah that is a religious place for me
    i dont want to sound preachy or big but as far as I am concerned all religious places are the same and may parents and now my inlaws are responsbile for cementing this belief.

    and i miss those days of eating orange bar icecreams. now if i tell any one that i want to eat this my family will laugh at me . arre mumma there are so many better, rich expensive icecreams avilable . they just dont realise what fun it is to eat that orange piece of ice and colour our lips orange. 😉


  10. Amar Chitra Katha – wow!!! I miss them…

    Early influences are important and as we grow older we decide which ones are relevant to us personally and which ones are not…I also believe that we are influenced by people we live and interact with on a daily basis…As a result, our beliefs change over time because our situation changes over time…


  11. My mother’s most famous saying was “don’t talk so much, the face loses its innocence” 😀 though I agreed with her at that time but it never stopped me from me being a chatter box!!

    Though I believe that we are reflections of what our parents are but with time our beliefs also change, though we grow up with a set of thoughts it surely gets influenced with time nd need!!!


  12. Very lovely post ..I think small things , small incident and few words from people who matter all leave an impact in the ways we never realize until we think about them conciously like you do. My hindi teacher used to say , first man make the habits and then habits make the man. We used to laugh at this that time esp since it was told every single day. But then I remembered it today after reading your post and somehow it would have impacted me , somewhere. My father never used to hit(=slap) us , except when we lied, even the smallest lies were punished. I grew up to hate lying and I still hate it.

    I am the same when it comes to lies…


  13. I think that some things from our childhood remain with us and some change as we start to question things that we had followed blindly, and seek answers! Yet, being human and full of folly, we continue to instinctively do things like, touch and kiss someone that we accidentally have touched with our feet,etc! Those things just don’t shake off so easily!

    I remember reading Amar Chitra Katha’s and they were a huge influence when it came to matters of respecting elders etc, so were the songs of forbearance and trust etc,at my catholic school! last but not the least mum’s teachings of our religion! However, as my mum was very basic and simplistic in her teaching, the books Dad bought for me helped shape my faith as I grew to understand at greater depth!


  14. Even though most of the cases, parents, teachers, friends and incidents shape your thoughts and personality, but I get confused at times, when I find some of the principles which I have, but was never taught by anyone. So, i really wonder then where from they became part of my personality, some of these I might have picked up when i was teen and some when I was in my twenties. Therefore, is it true that sometimes may be unconsciously you pick up things and if that is the case, then it is dangerous also because i might have picked something wrong, too.So how does the parents ensure/help me to filter?

    And i want to ask the parents here how do you find whether you children are picking up things beyond your knowledge, if it is abt smoking/drinking at underage you might identify, but say principles, thoughts which might not be good, how do you handle them? When i think abt these, i just really salute my parents, parenting is a hell lot of a tak!!

    Mustaf if parents and children spend time together, just having fun, (not just HW help etc) then parents can easily see the direction their children’s thoughts are going to …


  15. Hey IHM !!! I saw the post, but couldnt comment yday. Not feeling too gud.

    I love your Moral science teacher – maybe becos I sound like her. These are all those things which I tell my girls – plus what I add is, tell your gratitude to God, every night. So, in our prayer, at night, we tell 3 things for which we are thankful to God. So, it cannot be classified as Christian beliefs. I dont think so.

    And I too believe that classmates and ppl whom you come to know in life, can only be friends – they cannot become your brother.

    Gud explanation about ghosts !!!! Like it.

    I feel some early influences are permanent – may be those which you never questioned – may be those in which you totally believed in.

    Ums if not permanent then atleast very difficult to erase or change…


  16. I believe that first 5 years of the life are most important because a child’s mind then is like sponge. They can absorb anything so it is important for us to teach them major issues of the world in lighter vein be it religion or gender equality. I don’t want my daughter to grow up thinking that her job is to cook, clean and feed men. But she should know that doing small chores is not bad. Same is applicable to boys. Kids should grow up being responsible not with set notions. Same with religion. She shouldn’t think that just because she is born into a religion, she should stay away from all others. It is also important to celebrate festivals of the host country. I know of people who tell their kids that Christmas is not their’s. Festivals for me are a reason to enjoy and celebrate.

    All said and done, even when we do our best, children as they grow get influenced by various factors. Their friends, colleagues other external factors. Surroundings often change people. But yes! if we bring up children with confidence then at least we can hope that they will be able to face hardships better.


  17. BTW I LOVE ghosts. 😆 I mean I am not scared of them. I watch the scariest movies when I am alone and screammmm.

    It is evil humans/batterers/abusers/rapists…that scare me.

    Absolutely Solilo, same here!


  18. I think we’re more/easily influenced as kids rather than as adults (on a majority at least). as kids, we tend to follow the masses, peers, parents, words of people who are close to us, media so on. as adults we tend to question, seek logic, learn to accept another’s view and some of what we’ve learned or were taught tends to evolved and carved into something we can comprehend with and understand. Then there are some influences which have been grounded as our belief system and over time this believe can get reinforced by certain actions and hence no amount of reasoning changes that conviction.

    I feel this too… perhaps that is how some of us grow up tolerant, and some totally intolerant…

    I remember my mom giving me the same reasoning about ghost. she said something like the ghost are all air and cannot harm you unless you yourself create fear to harm yourself. what you must be careful of is man. i was so lost then, but it makes a lot more sense now 🙂

    That’s what my mom said, and her dad to her….


  19. very nice post which is thought provoking too…
    we get influenced by so many things as you and other friends discussed……. some people , some incidents and almost everything which surrounds us…
    we develop a certain value system of our own which is a culmination of all those influences , but i think it is a growing up process and should be flexible …as some influences are very good , like we start respecting other religions and truthfulness etc. , but at the same time some fears and insecurities which get embedded in our mind due to some unpleasant influence should be able to be washed away with a ‘new influence’…..i mean to say that we learn every day and the bad influences should fade with passing time…….( as you said some people change faster than the others)
    but unfortunately some bad incidents in life are so haunting that the influence is hard to erase………these are actually the deciding factors in a personality …….
    ( though it is my personal view n many people may not agree with it)
    i hope i am expressing myself clearly…..the good influences are surely the ones which shape our character and personality , but the limiting factors come from the negative influences …like if i have been abused as a child ( the abuse may be intense and emotional, not necessarily a sexual abuse)…it is most likely that i start hating all those parents who do not respect their children….and may be behave a bit weird with those parents………

    the question which arises to my mind is….how all those good values which we get permanently from our moral science teacher or others ( i have many people in my life who have influenced me very positively n it will take a lot of time to list them) will help us to come out of those haunting influences……….
    in my experience time has been the only teacher (regarding the fears n insecurities) though i would like to hear views from people regarding this…
    i could never forget or forgive some people in my life ( i am 39 yrs of age) but time has taught me that all the people have their own limitations and we should adapt n be in peace………
    i want to write a post about it now….:) 🙂

    Do that Sangeeta Khanna, I would love to read it… I agree about being able to forgive and move on, and also how influences are permanent.


  20. Pingback: Reflections… » I learnt from…?

  21. Parents will definitely influence and also sibilings and friends and some close relatives. Do teachers have that much influence? Not in my case. The historical period in which you grew up and the socio political situation around you are also important. During my teens going to a temple was not at all fashionable among boys and those who go used to do it in a discreet manner. Now after 25 to 30 years no one is discreet in going to temples. I was very much influenced by Books and cinema.


  22. Early influences and how they affect us later varies from individual to individual is what I believe. Some succumb, some rebel, some follow, some merely pick and choose and grow with the times….
    I have grown up in a totally repressed environment. Girls were not supposed to do this, do that, you know, the works. Our culture/ religion/ family etc etc is the best and all the rest of the blah blahs. And yet, compared to those who have grown up in more liberal households, I find I have a totally open outlook and more acceptance of change and to my surprise I find that even the next generation is not as open to change or as accommodating.
    My own experience makes me believe there is something more than the mere influence of our initial experiences that shapes us into what we are. Really, if you were to ask me who gave me my thoughts I’d be nonplussed. I really don’t know! 🙂

    I too feel this Shail… there is some bit of us that is just the way we are born, this perhaps decides what we accept or don’t accept, or what influences us…


    • Exactly, even the same I also echoed in my comments that certain qualities I have which I have never been taught and I really don’t know where from I inherited those? Was i born with those? May be I picked it up from somewhere but rather unconciously/subconciously?


  23. as kids we can be influenced a lot. we absorb whatever we are taught. but as we grown older and develop a mind of our own, we dump some of the things we learnt(if we arent convinced about its value or the rationale behind it) and pick up new things that appeal to us. but i guess there are somethings that we cant shake off no matter how rational and sensible we become.

    btw, i used to LOVE orange bar..it was cool and made my tongue orange.. very exciting for a year old!choco bar was another favourite.

    LOL I don’t like orage bar now, but as a kid it was a favorite icecream 🙂 Mandy I am the only one I know who does not like Chocolate icecream 😉


      • yes MM! thats what im saying! orange bar was such an integral part of our childhood! hard to to think of bacchpan without orangebar. i think i argued quite a bit with my parents for my share. i would invariably give me a sore throat so they wouldnt want me to eat it & i couldnt seem to resist it.


    • oh my god. u dont like chocolate icecream!? i may have to stop liking u, IHM!!!! no wait, let me enroll u in the Chocolate School and get you to beging liking,no, loving chocolate. psst- here’z a secret, as a kid i hate chocolate. i like it in ice cream but if u ever gave me a 5 star or anyother chocolate, i wud refuse to touch it. god knows wat happened at 20. i changed from a chocolate hater to a chocolate lover.


  24. IHM, i feel we certainly evolve…
    and there’s a selection of certain ideaogy and some others are dropped… as we grow..

    i remember a friend who never made the sign of cross in the school assembly as it was against her religion… but this same friend and me, years later went to church for 9 novenas together.

    as kids we pick up so many many theories and beliefs!!!! i was always told that i cannot equal the responsibilities that a boy wud have fulfilled towards my parents, had they had one…
    and i had a lot of fun proving all those beliefs wrong!

    my school principal during an assembly when i was in 5th std said something that i picked up and have lived to believe till today, and live by it too –
    ” if u live such that u don’t knowingly bring harm to any living being, and u do not wish ill, that’s all the good u need to do. there’s no bigger good deed that keeping urself in check to not harm anyone around u”

    how true! and simple to do! no change n prayers n sacrifice… just don;t do it if u think it might hurt anyone…that’s all

    I love this Crafty!!! I agree, ‘that’s all’!!!!!

    love for animals.. i was born with it IHM. not acquired… i just was born to love them all….i just know it!!!!!
    😀 😀 😀

    I love you for this Crafty Shines!!! I have been insensitive as a kid, encouraging my dog chasing a cat, just didn’t realise how helpless, adorable and affectionate, trusting and misunderstood cats are!


  25. You are right, we retain some and give some up. Some things that we believed when we were children are not so relevant in our adult lives. Nice Moral science teacher.


  26. I like your moral science teacher and your mom too. My grand mother taught me to thank god for whatever way he had helped me during the whole day and protect me from evils at night(before going to bed). Again in the morning I was asked to plead for his help on that day. Even now, without my knowledge, I do this (in Tulu, my language) within myself. We talk in Tamil at home, the whole day! Her other influences: If you hurt somebody knowingly, others will hurt you. Always think in their shoes, before finding fault with others…etc.etc.

    I don’t have my mother’s influence because during most part of my childhood, I was with my grandmother. She expired when I was in 10th Std. But my chikkamma says that some of my recipes exactly taste like hers!
    Childhood influence?

    Very interesting post, IHM!


  27. I believe in ‘Recall’ – its almost like branding. What we hear most is what we remember most. And then there is trust. So when we are kids, the people whom we trust more are our parents. And when they say something – its bible for us. Not to mention what happens when they repeat it every other moment.

    I have always FEARED to do something which my parents have told me not to do during my childhood days. Not that I knew nothing would happen. But some unknown fear and sense of guilt. I have always shivered and messed up when I had to tell a lie. Similarly when you grow up listening to a particular thing from the people you trust most, it becomes your way of living – yes it is extremely influential!

    Welcome to this blog Suji 🙂 I agree with you, I still feel guilty if I don’t wake up early… and lying is still taken very seriously at my place 🙂


  28. What we keep and what we don’t depends upon how we reacted to those thoughts as children, I guess. Our personality need and other factors around us..

    Besides, many things that your mom told you were also things that my mother told me 🙂 You took me back to my school days !!


  29. IHM: Very relevant post. I guess a lot of things influence our thoughts as we grow up. But as Solilo poin ted out, children are like sponges till the age 5. They absorb a lot from everything they hear and see. I remmeber when I was growing up and I used to be scared to go out in the dark and once my Mom told me that you are never alone in the dark. Just look up and you can see the moon travelling with you. Even till today, when I am even a bit scared out in the dark, I look up in the sky to see if moon is with me or not.


  30. Religious thoughts? Well I never had a moral science teacher or discussion about religion or God at home. I would say my elder sister was an influence but mostly I made my own thoughts from books, media and my own observations.


  31. Most of my thoughts, I guess, were instilled by my brother! He must have got it from our parents though. No one was bothered to inject morals into me 😀 😀 or it should be becuz they got fed up trying to 😀 😀 😀

    They got fed up trying.


  32. My greatest influences were my parents and later on during teens, my friends! I have been lucky to have grounded, sensible friends 🙂 And now my opinions are by what I see and read. I love reading blogs cos I get to see 2 sides of the same argument and then based on my own experiences I identify with points from both and make my own opinion!


  33. I believe early influences are difficult though not impossible to shake off. In psychology there is a term called learned adaptability, i.e. you learn to behave in such and such manner because of the circumstances around you. But when the circumstances change some people bend like the weed on the shore and get back after the storm has passed while some like the tree break into pieces. It is all about reversing your learned adaptability when the circumstance proves that conditioning to be unsuitable. As to who gave me my thoughts – my parents, some convent education, some books, some experiences, some blogs and sometimes even random things like back of the truck one liners 😛 The process is on and the list keeps growing 🙂


  34. Nice post, IHM. I feel that a child’s mind is like a blank sheet of paper. With the passage of time it gets different impressions on it. Some of them stay permanetly and some just fade away. What i feel is that what touches one’s heart remains there permanently. May be good or bad. Pleasant or despicable.


  35. i guess a lot of our early childhood days and the influences we had then… influence our thots in the later years… altho we may modify them to our heart’s content as and when we choose to…

    a sensible and secular approach makes a child have a balanced view to the concept of religion. a strict and moralistic upbringing makes a child stick to one religion (provided he is taught to do so) and believe in God blindly. sometimes it also backfires when the child doesnt find the results he/she expects.


  36. Hey IHM, I have been away from the ineternet for a while and hence the delayed response. This post has really set me thinking. Early influences do definitely shape a person`s beliefs or value system. I know that from my own experience. My religious beliefs or lack of it, is completely so because of my dad. And that`s just one example. This is an intriguing subject really. Maybe I`ll do a post on this.

    I look forward to reading it Piper 🙂


  37. i was mostly influenced by my parents – more by my dad who has a philosophical bent of mind and coupla teachers! and now M sometimes!

    and yes over a period of time you work out what works best for you and mix and match the various influences nowing what has no place in your life! 🙂


    I agree Abha!! we do mix and match our various influences!


  38. Lovely post. I guess what we become mostly has something to do with, who we idolise while growing up and THAT is inculcated by our elders in the family, or the teachers, or our friends, movies, books, media… Anything and everything we get in touch with.

    What we decide to keep or not finally boils down to our own interpretation of the whole situation and how liberal, broad minded or forgiving we generally are in our thoughts and values

    I agree Nova!!


  39. Pingback: Teaching school children that geting married without a bad name is a dream of every young girl. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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