An occasional column that will address issues considered taboo in society.

Nirupa still remembers the sting of the slap. The embarrassment and shame of being slapped in front of her siblings and family members was more painful than the red mark across her cheek. What was meant to be just an opinion was taking shape as an opportunity to humiliate her.

While watching a recent Tamil film together, where the hero and heroine were debating the merits of Love versus Arranged Marriage, Nirupa had made a passing remark, “I agree that love marriages are any day better.”

The next thing she knew was the sting of her father’s hand followed by a lecture heralding his beliefs and his view that she had no business to think of such things. For sixteen-year-old Nirupa, who loved to ponder, debate and discuss, this was an incident that made her feel totally confused and guilty.

Akash felt he could talk to his parents about anything. He knew his friends smoked, and while he was curious, he never felt tempted to join them.

He remembered coming home one day and sharing a funny story which involved cigarettes and friends with his mother.

The next thing he knew, his mother was checking his bag, his room and his uniform. She then gave him a lecture about the effects of cigarettes, called his father in the office and fixed an appointment for Akash to see his school counsellor.

Since then, Akash has stopped sharing information with his family and keeps the conversation to the mundane details of tests and exams. He misses the camaraderie he shared with them.

Prasad was deeply embarrassed. His father had caught him browsing through adult sites, and he was feeling ashamed. When his father called him to his study for a talk, Prasad was prepared for the worst.

He was surprised when his father explained that while it was natural to be curious, the sites gave a distorted view of the relationships between men and women. He told him that he was always available if Prasad needed to discuss his misgivings.

All these incidents reflect the varied responses of an older generation as they try to grapple with the new world they are living in.

As a young person today, you are living in an exciting world of opportunities .

The Internet revolution has taken the information highway and social interactions to a whole new level.

One could not imagine that you could Google any fact and have 2000 unseen “friends” at the same time!

In this explosion of accelerated change, it is natural for people to feel alienated and confused.

As a person from the older generation, how does one communicate about things which challenge belief systems or discuss topics considered taboo?

As a young person how do you negotiate the varying mixed messages you receive on a daily basis. Your parents seem to be saying no all the time.

The world outside says yes.

Bridge the gap

There are no custom-made solutions. There are a few principles that might help in bridging this communication gap.

Listen Listening without judgement makes the person comfortable to share their concerns.

You need not agree with them, but this gives a space within which a dialogue can happen. Acknowledge that the other person's view might be coloured by prejudice or bias.

With the help of a family member, Nirupa managed to talk to her father. Both listened to each other and saw the situation differently. Her father realised that Nirupa was growing up and apologised for his hasty reaction

Show interest While opinions might vary, assure the other person you really have their interest at heart. It is okay to admit that you are equally confused by the issue at hand and that you would like work on shared solutions.

A sense of humour Sometimes humour can be a great medium to diffuse tension. Recently, Akash in the story, above drew a cartoon of their confrontation and instantly, his mother was laughing at her own anxieties and the absurdity of the situation.

Life does not conform to prescribed formulae. While this is frustrating, it is also beautiful. Just think about it, you have your whole life ahead of you to experience, learn and distil your own brand of wisdom!

The road ahead will be filled with diverse paths, voices and opinions. Embrace those differences and lead a life which is rich and fulfilling.

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It’s not fairJuly 21, 2013