This is “normal”…

Little Shravan was very happy gorging a modak… boy, he loved sweets… being the so perceived cultured and knowledgeable “kaka” of his, he asked me why he got the modak today… to which I simply replied, that since he attended a puja of ganpati, he got it as a prasad… and being the inquisitive chap he is, he asked me why is there always this puja of ganpati before everything good in their home… which made me tell him the story of how there was this competition between ganpati and his older brother kartikeyan to circle around the world seven times… and how ganpati won it by simply circling his parents Shiv and Parvati seven times… for they were to him his world… and pleased by this argument how shiv bhagwan granted ganpati the honor of being worshiped first… and the moment I finished that part… Shravan started shouting “cheating cheating… cheating cheating!!!”… He was like the world is not what Ganpati said… the world is really what Karthikeyan went to en-circle…

This innocent words of a 4-year-old boy which seem to have been spoken without understanding the gist of the story… seem to make so much sense to a lot of people & relate to their mindset and vision of our world today…

I grew up in a very cultured (or conservative if you may so call it) Gujarati family… where in my times (and times are different now), forget trying drugs but even tasting alcohol or a cigarette labels a person of going “Outline”… forget having an affair but even having a girlfriend means being considered the womanizer of the century… my family does knows what exists outside… it just does not accept it in its moral code of values… my dad pretty well knows that there is a liquor shop just outside our society doing a roaring business… my mom buys peppermints for children from the same paan wala who sells packets and packets of cigarettes in front of her… they both know that Sharma uncle’s son has a girlfriend with whom he is seen so often in the society… BUT… it is not a part of their world… their world is defined by the values and morals that their parents imbibed in them… their lifestyle is what they found reasonable to follow considering their peer group… and anything that was construed to be bad (even if known to exist outside) was considered as an exception and desisted as against their normal life…

This concept of multiple worlds, with your separate own world… this idea of what is good and bad…  and how bad is supposed to be considered as an exception and not accepted as normal… was what got ingrained in me from my early life… and I guess that is what Ganpati really meant when he said to Shiv and Parvati that you are the center of my world… not only from a perspective of defining the goals and duties of his life… but also, the way he would live it… the culture, the values, the vision, the judgments, etc…

This, however, does not mean non-acceptance of the outside world… which some extremists of various religions manifest… it simply means not considering the things which are bad as per one’s belief and culture system to be normal and accepted in their world… even with the full knowledge and acknowledgment of its existence outside…

I was watching Dev D with my wife and at the end of it, we were disgusted by the manifestation of human character (both male and female) in the movie… and what led to a bigger shock was the fact that we found many people around finding the portrayal normal!!! That today the pervasiveness of extra-marital affairs, one night stands, pre-marriage sex, alcohol abuse, drug use, etc are accepted easily by the society… that today my colleagues consider a 50 to 60% post marriage affair as a part of their normal world… it is a silent slap on the doctrine that Ganpati tried to preach… or maybe I am not part of that “normal” anymore… I am the exception… this is the new world, new morals… the new normal…

But then is it really? A lot of what is being accepted now days is still being done in privacy… Why hide if it’s normal? Still like to believe that I have some morals in common with the majority!

But the impact of such a “yeh sab normal hai” and “you can’t do anything about it” attitude… this lack of disgust against something which is against one’s value system is in a sense accepting defeat and betraying one’s culture upfront… it weakens one’s resolve to do something about this bad things…

Pappu had failed in his CA final exams… this was the first time in his life he had failed in any exam in his lifetime… his parents had always believed in pappu and made him believe that if his efforts were commensurate, given his capabilities, he would not fail… and the failure in an exam shocked him… even though he knew that 98% of people had failed the exam… that it was normal to fail in a CA exam for a big universe of the CA world… yet it was this non-acceptance of failure as normal in his world drove him with such a  burning desire that he passed in the very next attempt… Pappu pass ho gaya!!!

Think what will happen when the whole young generation of today starts abandoning their values to some extent (loosening their cultural hold) by accepting the bad things as normal… how will the culture change… how will the moral fabric of India world survive… we are potentially staring at an extinction of the Indian belief system in the near future… because “this is normal”!!!

I am not preaching extremism… I am not advocating my opposition to change and modern values… I am just aghast at things being accepted as “normal” without any effort of analyzing whether its good or bad and without any effort to retain what is understood to be good…

Anyways… back to Shravan… I had to tell him that ganpati did not cheat… he only defined what the world meant… but before I could preach my sermon… his dad came over, post the puja of shiv… and shravan took his father’s blessings, took the blessings of the god and looked at his mom for approval for having one more sweet… guess I did not have to give my sermon after all!!!

– Written on 6 April 2010

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