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Mum’s the word

Datuk Dr G.K. Ananda Kumarasiri’s concern about the care of mothers has prompted him to write a book on it.

MOTHERCARE – there’s no such word – but Datuk Dr G.K. Ananda Kumarasiri coined it to illustrate a concept that he feels deeply about. His Mothercare and Parenting: Key to Social Structuring, is a hefty 506-page hardcover book, complete with illustrations and diagrams to help readers understand his philosophy.

Although Kumarasiri makes references to Buddhist teachings, he is quick to point out that spirituality (a strong foundation of the principles expounded in the book) can be derived from any religion or culture.

This former diplomat of 30 years (his posts included being High Commissioner to Nigeria and Asean director-general) took five years to complete the book. Kumarasiri has also written an extensive number of books under the Living Buddhism series.

Datuk Dr G.K. Ananda Kumarasiri: ‘Asian culture sees all mothers as sacred but we seem to be losing that respect.’
His Professional Diplomacy and Foreign Affairs Management: The Malaysian Experience, was self-published (as are his other books) in 1992 while he was still in service. It’s probably the first and only case study of diplomacy practised in Malaysia. Kumarasiri, 65, says that the rise of social ills and crime plaguing our society prompted him to write the book.

“Governments have failed to put into place a comprehensive policy or strategy to stem the tide, instead depending on ad hoc measures that have proven inadequate. We need to identify the cause and I believe the untrained and uncultured mind is to blame. Education is what separates us from animals. Unfortunately, our current education system only emphasises rote learning,” he adds.

“If we have not been trained as a child it will be hard to expect teachers to do anything. Teaching moral education in schools is too late. One has to go through an unlearning process first to get rid of all that negative input from the past. Parents also have to lead by example. If they expect their children not to drink or smoke, then they should not do so themselves.”

He notes that governments are not motivated to look at long-term strategies, as politicians are more worried about immediate results to impress their voters. Changes that will benefit the next generation and after their political life is over don’t figure in their plans.

For Kumarasiri, the process of learning (emotional, psychological and spiritual) should start at the foetal stage. He describes the mind of the foetus as tabula rosa – a blank slate which one can fill with positive data. The formative infant years are also very important. But he notes the reverse can hold true, as was Adolf Hitler’s devious plan to form a master race.

“Recently, (Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri) Najib (Tun Razak) was reported to have said that mothers should talk to their unborn child during pregnancy. You also have to provide a positive nurturing environment for both the foetus and the expectant mother. The concern so far has been physical growth, while the emotional, psychological and spiritual development have been neglected.”

Which brings us back to Kumarasiri’s definition of “mothercare”, which includes care and support (emotionally, psychologically and spiritually) not just for the expectant mother but throughout the woman’s entire maternal journey, from her husband and immediate family.

A key part of Mothercare is his view on discrimination of women.

“We are all born of women. That should rightfully stop one from discriminating against them. Asian culture sees all mothers as sacred but we seem to be losing that respect. In many ways, we still look down on women. Men continue to exploit them,” says Kumarasiri.

He hopes to inculcate two principles in parenting – unconditional love and filial piety. Kumarasiri stresses that both of these have to be shown and taught to a child.

The author readily concedes that he has made mistakes as a parent, too, out of ignorance, and has learnt through trial and error.

Kumarasiri is happy that his daughter (he has three children) has had the benefit of using the philosophy outlined in the book to raise her two children – “... my grandchildren are wonderful and a joy to behold.”

He feels gratified that the book, done in his own time and with his own resources, has received good response from various organisations around the world.


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