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Formulaic Characters & Real People
|by G Swaminathan|
India, my own land, surprises me on many occasions. Our cultural custodians invariably make a comment that the present generation lacks the connection with culture because they are forced to live in nuclear families where they do not have the connection with the grandparents. It is because in good old days, the grand parents knew about the culture, literature, virtues, epics and what not and they used to inculcate good habits in the next gen.
Undoubtedly, to say parables from culture, discourse on literature or morals from epics the older generation had to have read them or acquainted with them considerably. But, now I find to my dismay that I am a senior citizen now and many of my friends and colleagues hardly have read or know the story of Ramayana or Mahabharata properly. Many of them hardly have any reading habits and what they know might be the knowledge of cricket and politics and, well, to some extent on the subject on which they have worked.
Most of them do drink and smoke. How one can think that these oldies can preach about culture or ethics to their grand children and not surprisingly being born and brought up in foreign countries?
The argument holds good not only for grand fathers but grandmothers also. Mothers are always considered expert cooks. But, all my cousins do not even call themselves mediocre chefs leave alone being experts.
In Tamil Nadu, the magazines and writers have created formulaic characters as in movies. The grandmas are always very bright, intelligent and practical. Mothers are full of love and affection. Fathers are dominant and authoritative. Sisters are coy and innocent to the extent of believing everything they see. Mothers-in-law are treacherous. (Are they not mothers too?). Ahem, the poor are always honest and virtuous and the rich and educated are dishonest and cunning. Therefore, we have car drivers who are extremely loyal, servant maids and household help sincere to the core. But, if you read newspapers most of the time, the elderly persons living alone are murdered by drivers and servant maids with the help of goons. My car driver whom I treated like a family member cheated me of Rs. 35000 and walked away throwing the blame on me. But, if you write a story on the driver being dishonest and servant maid mischievous the press will not publish it.
Same way, I cannot write as a mother who lacks culinary skills and a grandma who speaks nonsense. In fact, my grandma was a good, sober lady but an illiterate who did not know anything but cooking. My mom was a literate and who was fond of historical novels especially the celebrated ‘Ponniyin Selvan’. It was also true that she was a belligerent woman. Except one aunt who used to sing well and familiar with slokas, all my other uncles and aunts are just mundane lot who knew nothing other than their children.
My generation guys are still worse. I dread to meet some of my classmates or colleagues who cannot talk anything beyond dirty politics, colleagues, work and about their children. They know how to invest in properties and make money. They hardly have any other connections than these. I am at a loss to know what sort of culture and behavior or morals they can preach to their grand children during their frequent visits to USA or any other country.
We live in contradictions. We talk of utopian society. We flourish on hypocrisy. We celebrate pelf. We know nothing but pretend to know everything.
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