Friday, December 01, 2006

To inhabit, to cultivate, or to honor: The Family Breakfast

cul·ture [kuhl-cher] n.

A set of learned beliefs, values and behaviors the way of life shared by the members of a society.
From Latin: Colore: To inhabit, to cultivate, or to honor

con·ver· sa·tion Pronunciation Key[kon-ver-sey-shuh n] n.

1. Informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words; oral communication between persons; talk; colloquy.
2. Association or social intercourse; intimate acquaintance.

Breakfast conversations are one of the best ways in which families come together and strengthen a common culture. After years of "rushing off" to school and work – a behavior I learned as part of the package of being a Karachiite – I've now realized how important is to have a breakfast over paper, daily news, and an exchange of views. Culture, even in a family, is a process of diffusion – of sharing – of ideas, beliefs, and values traveling from one person to another.

The breakfast, with everyone at the table, is a barometer of change in the everyday values and learning of all family members. You learn what your brother or mother learnt yesterday, and how it has subtly changed them. You note how your father is concerned about the news last night. You learn your mother's view on the rising cost of a household budget. And you learn the price of potatoes and tomatoes, and gauge them against your future aspirations.

Unlike the lunch or the dinner, the breakfast is the time when you treat yesterday as yesterday and bygones as bygones because you have woken up to a brand new day. At lunch, you are in the think of things, you are in the present. Dinner is reflective upon the whole day, which is still today but has become a part of the past about which one cannot do anything but reflect on that day.

It's at the breakfast table that you set the rules for a new day with a group of people who not only likely share your belief, but also, within just a degree of separation, your genetic code. The bills. The space. The inter-dependence.

Everyday is a new day in the lives of humans: new circumstances, new challenges, new opportunities. The past goes in the codes of memory. The present is lived. The future is anticipated. At breakfast time, you archive the past. You begin the present. You look forward to the future, and announce your course. You share it through a conversation. You create a culture. The family gauges where it stands today, in relation to its members.

The morning is also an excellent time to educate the freshly awakened minds. Hunched over the paper, discussing views, critiquing the headlines, reading aloud the absurd and the shocking, letting in the sound of the morning news, passing a comment at the strength of the tea and the taste of the bread - the conversation naturally steers to food, to health effects, oh!-the-hair-loss, the remedies, the drawbacks of each remedy – blaming it on the winter or the sun. Having a sudden thought about the car, the repair, the rising cost of petrol and everything, the concerned frown rising at all foreheads – the gentle reminder to watch the expenditure. The sudden hop to a future plan, asking each other what's going on with our work… learning and educating, and re-forming the genetic code.

I have started holding more conversations on the breakfast now, free as I am from the routine of school and college, and office work. It's perhaps one of the most rewarding things I have done lately. I used to be given the breakfast as a school-going child in haste – and now I set the course of the breakfast, choose a variety based on our new learning of food and health, and direct, in a larger part, the course of the day. How truly wonderful and important these tiny experiences and everyday routines are!

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