I saw a reflection of my anger in my son: Nandita Das on parental anger

Das says when her son turned seven, he made her realise how anger escalates. And that it can come crashing down if hugs are exchanged.

Actor-director Nandita Das begins this year-old TEDx talk with two things that she says, have become omnipresent in today’s times: anger and violence. The latter, especially, has permeated all spheres of the society, she remarks. “Violence is something that all of you care about. It is something that I have deeply thought about for many years now. Especially in a world where violence is growing at a very rapid pace,” she says.

She then talks about how in her films Firaaq and Manto, violence was a recurring theme, and it was not a conscious decision but an instinctive one, adding that as a viewer, she never liked watching anything violent.

But, what has anger got to do with violence?

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“I am seeing that connection more and more, as I think about violence,” she says, explaining how she grew up in a family where she was given the liberty to speak her mind. “And because of that, I thought anger was not such a bad thing. You get angry when you see injustice, you get angry when you think you are right,” she says. Das never saw anger as a good thing, but she never saw it as a bad thing either.

“It was only in the last six years that a shift happened; and I owe it to my child. When my son was about two or three, and he’d do something that I thought wasn’t right, I would get angry. And I thought, it is important to tell children what is not right. And, I slowly started seeing a reflection of my anger in him. And that was alarming, because children are like little copy-cats, they emulate you,” she continues.

Das says she realised she had passed on to him the same connection between being righteous and being angry. How her son thought he could get angry when he thought he was being wronged. “And I could not even counter that, because in a way, I was a bad precedent for that. I had created that connection in his small mind. He clearly understood that anger was not a bad thing, and was a manifestation of being right. And that, to me, was a very dangerous phenomenon.”

Das says they started addressing it when he was about four. It was only when he had turned seven that he made her realise that he understood how anger works, and how it escalates, by means of a fist tower. And that anger can come crashing down if hugs are exchanged.

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“I was in awe. He taught me that simple lesson… And I have been trying to be as mindful as I can in my other relationships and my other works.”

“Anger is a slippery road to violence. I know we cannot control all the violence in the world. We are made to feel small… But every drop counts. Each one of us, we can take it upon ourselves, to create those inner revolutions within ourselves,” she concludes.

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