“Give children the freedom to make their own decisions”

Dipta Joshi interviewed Sunaina & Rohit Gera, directors of the Pune-based Gera Developments Pvt. Ltd, who stress the importance of providing happy and inclusive home environments for growing children

An alumna of St. Stephen’s College, Delhi and the Marathwada Mitra Mandal’s College of Architecture, Pune, Sunaina Gera (SG) is CEO of architecture firm Gridlines and managing trustee of the Gera School, Panjim, Goa, which is all set to admit its first batch of students in June. Her husband Rohit Gera (RG) is managing director of Gera Developments Pvt. Ltd, a reputed real estate development company which has completed projects in Pune, Bangalore, Goa and California (USA). The Pune-based couple has a 23-year-old daughter Diya, who recently graduated from the London School of Economics.

What’s your parenting philosophy? 

SG: Our parenting philosophy is to give our daughter Diya the freedom to make her own decisions. During her school years, she chose to bury her head into books and wasn’t interested in sports. While we both believed she should take her foot off the pedal, we let her be because exam outcomes mattered to her. 

I believe the freedom to make her own choices has helped her develop into a self-confident and reassured adult. Moreover, we have always encouraged her to speak her mind freely and openly. Of course, there were times, especially during her teenage years when I was strict with her but at that point, Rohit was the more liberal parent. Perhaps, it was this combination which helped her make balanced decisions. 
How difficult was it to balance work and home when Diya was young?

SG: It was challenging but I managed to schedule my work around her activities — making sure I was home when she returned from school and scheduling meetings when she was busy at tuition, painting or tennis classes. For the past five years she has been studying in the UK and is currently working with Deloitte in London. We are empty nesters now! 

I believe parents should give priority to children even at the expense of their career goals. The full-time attention of mothers in the early years is very important and can make a big difference to a child’s future. However, I am not advocating that women should give up their careers. I suggest managing one’s time better. And this applies to both parents. 

Sunaina, what kind of education do you value and what motivated you to promote the Gera School? 

SG: The current rote-based education system prepares students for a job not for life. It doesn’t help to develop their personality and life skills. The purpose of education is to nurture and develop the ‘uniqueness’ of every child and prepare them for jobs of the future. Our exam-centric education system doesn’t allow the individuality of every child to develop organically. 

The idea of a new type of school is the outcome of my experiences as a parent. I observed that most schools follow an archaic system of education focused on rote learning and exams, and I wanted to play a role in changing this system. When we set about drawing up a blueprint for The Gera School, we resolved that it would put children at the centre of all teaching-learning and provide a holistic environment that encourages students to become self-directed, lifelong learners. Our mission is to nurture individuality of all our students, empowering them to maximise their potential to become 21st century global citizens.

Rohit, Gera Developments has a reputation for pioneering the concept of child-centric homes...

RG: The objective of child-centric homes is to provide parents full facilities for child nurturance and development within their housing societies. In today’s fast-paced world, working parents are stretched to balance work, home and child nurturance. In Gera Developments, we have focused on making our apartment complexes child-friendly by providing play areas and a host of extra-curricular and sports coaching facilities. For instance we have signed up with the country’s most respected sports education providers such as the Anil Kumble cricket, Viswanathan Anand chess, Shiamak Davar dance and Mahesh Bhupati tennis academies, Baichung Buthia Football Schools and Michael Phelps Swimming Academy to offer coaching in residential complexes constructed by us. The Dale Carnegie Institute also provides leadership, personality development and public speaking programmes to residents of Gera homes.  

Parenting has become more complex than ever before in urban India. How do you suggest parents cope with contemporary challenges?

SG: Certainly parenting has become more challenging and complex in the new millennium. Children are exposed to too much violence, drugs etc on social media. Today we worry about the impact of social media on children, tomorrow it could be something else — the influencers will change with time. As parents our job is to teach our children the right values, give them unconditional love, support and freedom to pursue their dreams. I believe children reared in warm and caring homes will always come back to their nest. 

What’s your final message to parents?

SG: My advice is to provide children unconditional love, teach them the right values, help them understand right from wrong and give them the freedom to make mistakes and build the confidence which will enable them to stand up again to confront life’s challenges. I believe transparent and frank conversations with children are the best way to deal with difficult parenting situations. 

RG: Parents must strive to provide children a happy and inclusive environment where they feel secure and loved. This is more important than the physical attributes of a home.