Goodbye, Justice Seth

Within a week I’ve felt the loss of two people I loved and admired in very different ways. Vinod Khanna. And Justice Leila Seth. I found it hard to post immediately after each loss because it hit really hard.
I interviewed Justice Seth shortly after Jyoti Singh died, while she was on the Justice Verma committee. After we spoke about the rape and the law for the story, we also chatted about much else that didn’t make it to my piece.
One of the things she said about parenting, is something that ever after, guided me. She spoke about how her son Vikram spent 7 years typing away in a little room above the garage, writing his first book. (Reminder of what goes into a great book for those who think anyone can write one!) And how neighbours and well-wishers wondered rudely and aloud, how they could ‘allow’ their son to fritter his life away so. And would he ever make a decent living as a writer? Tsk tsk. What a waste of a child, coming from two such successful parents.
Her point? That we need to stop projecting our fears on to our kids, along with our aspirations. Even the most evolved parents say very proudly – I told my child, be a sweeper if you want, but be the best bloody sweeper. Err – why? Why best? What is the best?
The one that earns the most? Why not the happiest? (This was in context to her son’s sexuality.)
She went on to say that we also worry needlessly about our children needing to be successful in conventional terms, to maintain the lifestyle we’ve raised them in. We assume that it is a guarantor of happiness to earn more than your parents, and marry traditionally, into the safety of your own community. That it is our own fears that we need to let go of, and trust them if they choose to be unsuccessful but happy sweepers.
As long as you ensure that you equip them to accept the consequences of their choices, whatever those might be. They might never own a four wheeler or a flat in the suburbs (conventional markers of success), but if they’re happy on a cycle meant for two with a partner of their choice, then it’s your own fear and ego that you need to deal with. Not theirs.
I also got her to sign a copy of her book Β We, the Children of India, for the kids (you can check out the review on our ever dependable Saffron Tree). If you don’t already own one for your babies, this is a good reminder to pick it up. RIP Justice Leila Seth. A few hours with you shaped me in so many ways. I don’t know if they will make more like you.


3 thoughts on “Goodbye, Justice Seth

  1. Looks like you are back… 2 back to back posts in just a weeks time… 😊😎
    Its wonderful to read your posts. Feels like having a wonderful conversation with old friend.. please keep writing. But dont want to pressurise you…

  2. The whole “be the best sweeper…” thing annoys me no end. When middle class parents say this, they’re pretty sure their kids are not actually going to be sweepers. Implicit in this is the expectation that those performing menial jobs should take pride in their work etc. But they’re so badly paid and most didn’t choose that job, so why should they really?

    I doubt when they say be the best sweeper, they mean highly paid. They mean do the work to the best of your ability. That saying says more about middle-class entitlement than anything else.

  3. Thank you for writing about Justice Leila Seth. I bought her autobiography, On Balance, immediately after your post and began reading it. It is a deeply moving memoir. There are many parts that touched me deeply and I was able to learn so many practical things. It is a fascinating, unputdownable book. Thank you! PS: This is my first comment after 11 years of following your blog πŸ™‚ Glad you have done this for so long.

And in your opinion....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s