From exchanging recipes to photos of prospective brides, Muslim parents are adopting technology to connect with their kids abroad.
It’s 4:30 in the morning and 22-year-old Naeem is fast asleep in his apartment in London. Suddenly his computer springs to life. Buzzzz! goes his instant messenger... he scowls in his sleep. Buzzzz! Again...he covers his ears with a pillow. A third time... Buzzzz! “Ok, mom, ok! I’m up,” he says, and sits in front of the computer, typing in Ok I am awake for Sehri.
His mother, Munira Memon, a house wife in Mumbai, smiles with contentment. Her day as ‘virtual mom’ has begun. Both Munira Memon’s kids are studying abroad. And with a son in New York and a daughter in Chicago, you would think it’s tough for her to keep track of the children. Not a chance! From helping them giving recipes and teaching cooking online to solving their emotional problems, Munira is doing it all. “Study schedules abroad are as tough as they can get,” says Munira. “The kids are up early and sleep late. Classes, tutorials and assignments leave them with no time for much else. If I can help by cutting out the peripherals on the Internet, why not? After all, they are my kids,” she adds.
In fact, with the IT boom and continuous beeline to the US and other Western countries, the parents are slowly coming to grips with the ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’ and how to handle it. But what would you do with those new-borns and toddlers who are growing up here in India as their parents sweat it out in foreign lands, in search of a brighter tomorrow?
A great new way to connect with the kids, virtual parenting is really taking off as more and more Indian students hit foreign shores. “I have never felt closer to my kids,” says Zareena, another virtual mom. “I know exactly what their course work comprises and make concise notes for them to review before exams.” As a matter of fact, her kid’s friends also keep in touch with her seeking advice on how to handle pressure. Zareena’s daughter Afreen is doing post graduation in education from Florida State University. Every week, Zareena monitors her progress through her online university profile as well as assists Afreen to prepare for tutorials and presentations online.
On Saturday and Sunday, Zareena’s husband Javeed a copywriter with an advertising agency joins the virtual-parent bandwidth. “While I help my daughter prepare for her presentation, my wife is on the webcam, teaching her how to cook a new variety of dishes”, says Javeed.
Javeed and Zarina have established a family website on the Internet, where they post news and photographs. Care is taken not to disclose personal residence and other details. The website is also used to maintain a calendar that displays upcoming visits.
While speaking to Islamic Voice online, Afreen said that she feels that she is in Mumbai and with her parents. “My mother is so possessive about me. Inspite of being so far in Florida, she keeps track of every moment of mine. I do not mind it. I know it reflects her care, emotions and affection for me. It makes me feel on top of the world”, she said. Children feel they are not loved by a parent who does not see them regularly. Children interpret lack of contact as lack of love. So that children feel loved, it is very important for parents to work together to encourage a healthy relationship between children and their long distance parent.
Afzal Baig, is residing in London since the last five years. He completed post graduation in Management and is working with a multi-national there. The issue is his marriage. Afzal’s father Sadique Baig, insists that he comes back and gets married. But Afzal is more comfortable there. As a compromised formula, both have agreed to exchange the photos of the prospective bride over the net.
“Every alternate day I call him over the Internet using web camera and I try to convince him to select the prospective bride. Thanks to technology, I can pressurise my son to get married to an Indian girl as I do not favour a foreign bride. Once I spotted him on the web-camera and saw his women classmates in his apartment. I warned him not to bring any female friend to his apartment,” says Sadique.
“No doubt technology has bridged the distance. But it cannot be an alternative to the physical presence.... the physical separation hurts. Many miles means no way to hug, to brush back a forelock of hair, to drop in on football practice, or to watch a first book report being written. The parent separated from the child feels this pain and so does the child,” reports Dr. Isolina Ricci in her bestseller, Mom’s House Dad’s.