Villainy of Innocence

Continued from “Pangs of Remorse”

“Wonder how social mores affect the course of life,” he had resumed his discourse at length; “Won’t the American way of life that lets the teens to be on their own, serve as an example?

While the economy is structured for their economic independence, the society is not shaped to cope up with their youthful distractions that hamper their academic progress. That’s why the U.S has been perennially short of professionals and so looks eastwards to make up for the shortfall; but what if Parkinson’s theory about the alternate ascendancy of the East and the West comes true? What charms the sheen-less new world could hold then to the youth of the old world for their immigration?

Maybe then as a Confucius and an Aryabhata gave way to a Socrates and a Plato in times of yore, the Newtons and the Edisons of our times might give way to some Mengs and Mathurs in the eras to come. But for that to happen, maybe it’s an idea that we have a five year teenage study break for the adolescents to grapple with their youth before they could pursue their studies without distraction, and I can tell you, then the toppers would not be the bookworms. But on the flip side, the U.S practice frees parents from the burden of their children’s upbringing allowing them in time to wine and dine; but the Asian penchant for supporting their progeny to the hilt puts paid to the recreational activities of the parents. A via media like requiring the children to work part-time to part-finance their higher studies may be an ideal model for the world at large but man either remains slavish to his habitual ways or disowns them altogether; seldom has he updated them in tune with the changing times.”

“Why didn’t the hippies of the last sixties give a jolt the cultures of the time?”

“Cultures my foot,” he scowled. “At their core all cultures are cultureless and our age-old one bears witness to it. If someone were to breathe his last at home, it’s deemed inauspicious to live in there, at least for a year; and what was the norm to avert such a thing from ever happening? The dying was laid by the roadside for him to seek his salvation unmindful of the humiliation, and if the sick were to show signs of recovery, they were taken in only to be dragged out at the slightest hint of a relapse. What can be worse for any to be abandoned by the very family by which he or she might have sworn all life; but the dying were unmindful of the ill-treatment for they were conditioned by the culture into believing it was better that way for their loved ones. Well, it’s the altered lifestyle that forced us to abandon that abominable practice but still wasn’t Goebbels justified in saying that he would reach for the gun whenever he heard the word culture.”

“Whatever, all tend to swear by their respective cultures.”

“The notion that culture was shaped by the wisdom of yore is rooted in the cerebral puniness of the day,” he said. “It’s this self-diminution of the men of our clan that proved to be a double jeopardy for the widows for so long; were a woman to lose her man, won’t she be needing succor from her kith and kin; but our custom used to quarantine her for full three days, and what’s worse, subjected her to many a humiliating ritual thereafter. Well, as I was away when my grandfathers died, I was not aware of what my grandmothers had endured, and so I had no idea of what was in the offing for my mother when my father died; and being unprepared, I failed to prevent all those travails forced upon her in the name of our tradition. Oh, how I wish I had put my foot down on all that humiliating crap, and why this gloating over cultures that are connotations of insensitivities.”

“That they’ve stopped tonsuring widows; won’t it show the change in attitudes?”

“That is owing to the vanity of the children, more so sons, than out of any concern for the woman,” he said. “Which son would like to flaunt his tonsured mother to his embarrassment; well only when it hurts men collectively that they turn against the self-embarrassing customs. But why anyone should bother about, say, the farce of a sakunam as it is inimical to only a few, who are supposed to bring bad omens. There was a guy in our village considered a bad sakunam by one and all, and setting out on an errand, all used to pray that the fellow shouldn’t cross their paths. If only they happened to come across him, its mission abandoned for the day that is not before venting their ire on the hapless chap with abuses galore. Where in all this was the thought of the hurt to his self-worth; the problem with the half-wits is that they validate from small samples; well, any writing on the absurdities in cultures would make a couple of volumes or more for each of them, and yet all lament about our cultural decline. Is there any custom that is even remotely rational in its conception; it’s the small minds that lay great store on these for they can’t think out of the box into which their upbringing pushes them.”

“But then counter-cultures fared no better and more over won’t a culture-less society bring in anarchy?”

“It’s a case of switching over from one defective gear to another,” he said. “Why life is bound to be imperfect in any conceivable social arrangement but the peril lies in abandoning what is natural to the upbringing. It’s sad to see urban parents putting the fear of a cat or a mouse into their kids’ impressionable heads in our land named after Bharat, who as toddler, touted to have tamed lions in their dens. But in our days there was no escaping from scorpions, so children were taught how to handle them; and caught by us unawares, even as they tried to escape, we used to shout kodi, kodi and wonder why they staid put at that. Well, the rest was child’s play with a chappal found nearby; but then, whoever escaped a scorpion sting or two in any village, one fell straight on my thigh from the high ceiling when I was fast asleep, and what a hell it was with my fingers swollen like cucumbers. But how many of them I had battered to death later I lost count, and there is no way I can comprehend if it was out of vengeance. Whatever, it’s also a common knowledge to the village kids that leeches were better dealt with by salt water; how we used to play with their lives with fistfuls of salt smuggled out of the kitchens; wonder why we didn’t suffer any qualms seeing them disintegrate to death. Maybe because we were hateful of them, or was it a case of villainy of innocence, I would never know, but my playful hurting of a green hopper was on a different footing altogether; while it was seized by pangs of death, I put some sugar on it like our elders did when we hurt ourselves. But then I was too tender to know about life and death and all that I was capable of experiencing were the emotions of pleasures and pains.”

“Wonder how cruelty and care form the obverse and the reverse of the human instinct.”

“That may remain in the realms of mystery but how are we to explain man’s propensity to self-destruct,” he said. “Really it’s not the hurt that others cause to us that counts, but our response to it that matters; if a positive outlook helps us gloss over the mishaps of life, the negative feelings harm our psyche to hurt our lives. We have had a botany lecturer for a neighbor, who nurtured a grand garden in his backyard, and as Chandu and I helped him tend his crotons, coleuses and others, he encouraged us to nurse our own little gardens. What a joy it was to have a garden of my own; so to say, every morning, still in half-sleep, I used to rush to the stretch of green in the side yard. Oh, how the sight of the blooming buds and the sprouting leaves used to thrill me; why, of all the joys of life, espying the garden that you nurse has no parallel to it. Maybe the nearest I can think of is the fun of flicking fruits and eating them sitting on the tree branches.”

“More so if you manage to do so from the neighbor’s groove.”

“That’s not true, for all kids love to flick a fruit or two but not every parent owns plantations, and so it’s a necessary evil for children to trespass on the sly,” he said before he picked up the threads of his tale. “But, for want of care, Chandu’s garden, spread over a larger area, didn’t measure up to mine in a tiny space, and I suspect that he turned green seeing my garden ever so green. That’s what might’ve driven him to ravage my prized plot when our family was away for a day; how shocking was that sight, like seeing my near and dear ones perish on the road, not once but twice. But unlike life and death that lie in the hands of fate, to relay the garden or not was in the realms of my choice, and I decided to forego the pleasure of gardening not wanting to undergo the possible trauma of Chandu’s future mischief. So I took to collecting the cinema handbills heralding the release of new movies, how the distributor used to shoo us away as we ran after the jatka for more of the same, and the way that hobby too ended would only illustrate how fate can deny one even the innocent pleasures of life. Before I tell you about it, I better talk about my parents, why for you to have a better feel of my fate, you need to have an idea about their life as well. Better I show you their photograph to let you correlate their persona with their philosophy.”

To be Continued


More by :  BS Murthy

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