I cannot believe that I’ve actually turned sixty. Oh yes since the calendar says so I decided that it was time to look back and see how I have evolved as a person. If, over the years, I’ve managed to learn from mistakes and change any misconceptions that I might have held then it is certainly worth the streaks of grey hair on my head!
Let me first think of the misunderstandings about mankind that I once had and now stand corrected.
Having been treated to a generous dose of mythology by my mother I always had an idea of what angels and demons stood for. Ravan was a demon king and so were many others. Angels were good and kind hearted. I readily believed that any one who consumed alcohol or spoke in a loud voice was bad. Having heard of Prahalad I decided that those who did not believe in Hari (Vishnu) were bound to rot in hell. Good and bad were compartmentalized with no grey in between.
Ramayan and Mahabharat are all time favorites of mine. I was in terror of Ravan as a child. With time I realized that he was not that bad a person. He abducted Sita and wanted to marry her and that was wrong. However, he did not force himself on her but rather hoped and waited for a change of heart. Ram on the other hand stood tall for his monogamous relationship with Sita at a time when it was common for kings to marry more than one woman. He was a just king and obedient son. However, he too failed to place absolute trust in his wife’s chastity and sent her on exile when she was pregnant. I have the highest regard for the epic and the message that it conveys. No one is perfect – the best among us have their faults and even the seemingly wicked people have a good side to his/her nature. If only their good qualities are encouraged and their talents appreciated the world may be a better place to live in.
I had been under the impression that those that did not believe in Hari or Lord Vishnu would head for hell on hearing of the story of Bhakta Prahalad. Then I heard of Bhakta Markandeya who believed in Lord Shiva and was granted the boon of immortality. I promptly decided that all gods worshipped by Hindus would perhaps grant entry into heaven but it all changed when I went to study in a boarding school which had a good number of Anglo- Indians and Indian Christian students. They confused me by saying that Christ alone would grant salvation and my polytheist religion stood no chance at all. At one point I even felt bad that either way my Christian friends and I would have to part ways and that was when I suggested that any one who believed in God would perhaps be allowed entry into heaven whatever be the religion they practiced and my friends nodded half heartedly.
With time I have realized that those among us who claim to be atheists and agnostics are actually much more sensitive human beings than those who claim to have religious affiliations. With the human race messing around with nature and creating an ecological imbalance I feel that nature worshippers have actually played an important role in conservation of available resources, be it medicinally valuable plants or water sources. Tribal communities are indeed lucky to have lived in close association with nature and Humanism is the only religion that ever needs to be practiced.
Having heard stories of dowry menace and dowry deaths, I felt annoyed that the practice should have been endorsed by the Indian society. With time I realized that the fault lies not in arrangement of giving one’s daughter a capital to fall back on at the time of financial setback but rather in society’s interpretation that it is a bargaining tool and uses it for its own convenience. Yes, the boy’s family bargains for a better dowry in cash and kind as if it is theirs by right and the girl’s family uses it to flaunt their purchasing power. The very purpose for which dowry or ‘streedhan’ was initially given has been long forgotten.
I used to think that a parent is actually entitled to decide about the course a child’s life ought to take. I now feel that while a parent’s input is important its importance is quite short lived. The brat and the bean have minds of their own and are judging you for the person you are. So instead of expecting them to be on their best behavior watch out for your own. A seemingly innocent remark can catch you unawares and make you feel petty. I am not talking of your adolescent son or daughter who will not even bother to point out but of 5 and 7 year old children.
And finally the misconception that those who consume drug or alcohol in excess were bad-
I have had the opportunity of interacting with at least two men with an addiction for the bottle and I have found them to be excellent human beings. They are much more versatile, kind hearted and generous than the average person. They are talented and artistic even without formal training and any behavioral problem they may have is due to their addiction. Addiction in any form is bad but alcoholics stand out because they are unable to think or act coherently. They need to be helped to get rid of the addiction and not criticized. I know that it is easier said than done and their families go through a lot of mental and physical torture. I only mean to say that while the addiction is bad the addict is not.
I think I did a good thing to put all this on pen and paper. I have learnt a lot but there is still a long way to go with four grandchildren waiting to tutor me.