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The entire nation was one in applauding the genius of Sachin Tendulkar recently when he retired from professional cricket after playing his 200th Test match against West Indies in Mumbai on November 14, 2013. As in the case with the cricketing legend, a liberal and supportive environment at home can go a long way in helping our youth pursue their goals with passion and energy.

India has a strong family culture because an individual’s life in India centres around the family. Depending on the values it cherishes, our families can be a boon or a bane, a blessing or a curse. Indian families can cut both ways: they  can stifle an individual’s aspirations with a heavy hand- especially in the case of women-  or can provide wings to fly high as in the case of Sachin Tendulkar, Deepika Padukone or Sania Mirza.

As the nation celebrates the genius of the world’s greatest cricketer who’s won our hearts in such an extraordinary way, let’s look closely at the family’s role in nurturing, supporting and encouraging Sachin Tendulkar in the pursuit of his talent.

At the other end of the spectrum are the families run by iron-willed patriarchs who decide practically everything for their children: what they will study, what will they play (!); which professional courses they will or won’t pursue and whom they will marry, leaving no choice for the individual.

The Indian youth is criss-crossing the nation in the pursuit of education and employment in larger numbers than ever before. This is bound to result in inter-cultural and inter-religious relationships and yet, how many Indian families are  willing to bridge the caste and religious divide to endorse marriages resulting from such relationships?

In extreme cases, many families continue to be dictated by their community councils or Khap panchayats who won’t hesitate to order the “honour killings” of  young couples in love who may have eloped and married in violation of community norms.

Since other people’s grief is extremely captivating Indian television channels uniformly promote serials that project the worst family. TV serials are all about conflict where suppressing individual aspirations to fulfill the wishes of the elders, or preserve and promote the family’s honour and prestige is of paramount importance.

In a typical Indian setting it would have been impossible for a Sachin Tendulkar to marry a woman six years his senior! Look around and you’ll find so many Indian families rejecting the choice of a life-partner made by their grown-up children. The reasons could be varied: the horoscopes don’t match, the person belongs to a “lower” caste; the person is not “good looking”, has a dark complexion; is much too shorter/taller than her partner; does not belong to the same community or religion and so on…Innumerable relationships of young couples in love have been destroyed with fierce opposition from the family to such relationships.

Look at the liberal and supportive family environment in which Sachin Tendulkar was able pursue his talent in cricket and give it his fullest attention: His elder brother Ajit was the first to spot Sachin’s talent and was instrumental in mentoring him from a tender age when he introduced him to his coach Ramakant Achrekar. On Achrekar’s suggestion, Sachin’s father, Ramesh Tendulkar allowed the child to  change his school- from the Indian Education Society's New English School in Bandra (East) to Sharadashram Vidyamandir (English) High School at Dadar. Sachin then moved in to stay with his uncle and aunt who lived at Shivaji Park to participate in the coaching regularly.

Strongly mentored by his elder brother Ajit who has stood by Sachin like a rock throughout his illustrious career, Sachin has never wavered from his focus on cricket and never allowed himself to get swayed by the trappings of success, fame and money even as his entire family scrupulously avoided the limelight.

Tennis star Sania Mirza's father was the driving influence in her case, refusing to buckle to pressure from some sections among Muslims who objected to her short tennis attire as "un-Islamic".

Hockey star Dhanraj Pillay who  hailed from a poor family in Kirkee, Pune, received considerable support from his elder brother Ramesh and his mother till his talent was noticed by professional coaches and he entered mainstream hockey.

Take the case of badminton legend Prakash Padukone who did not stifle his 18-year-old daughter Deepika’s ardent desire to shift from Bangalore to Mumbai to pursue a career in modelling. As he revealed in a poignant, open letter to his daughter published early this year: Deepika, at eighteen, when you told us that you wanted to shift to Mumbai for a career in modelling, we felt you were too young and too inexperienced to be alone in a big city and in an industry we knew nothing about. In the end, we decided to let you follow your heart, thought  it would be cruel to not give our child the opportunity to go after a dream that she lived and breathed for. If you succeeded, it would make us proud, but even if you didn’t, you would not have any regrets that you did not try.”

How many parents are willing to let their children “follow their heart” and pursue their dreams and ambitions rather than impose their own expectations on them? There’s a superstar in every family wanting to follow his own star. Indian families can facilitate this journey for their children by adopting the liberal values that we so very much admire in Sachin Tendulkar’s family.

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