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"India is a land of rich and varied culture. The people of our country speak different languages, eat different food, follow different customs. Yet we are the same because we are all Indian. Therefore we can say India has unity in diversity." - Social Science Textbook, Std 4.
The chapter in my son's textbook went on to speak about our rich cultural heritage that have been passed down to us by our ancestors - monuments, customs and traditions, festivals, music, classical and folk dances, languages, literature paintings, etc...and how we must preserve them safely for the future generations to enjoy.
After an hourlong discussion on our heritage, and luckily post his bedtime, I turned on the television for my much needed relaxation and connect with the outside world. Sadly it was the news channel that caught my attention, with its debates and ongoing coverage of the 'Beef Ban' which led to the mob lynching to death a man rumoured to have been having beef. This was followed by the story of unruly and uncivilized fans disrupting a T-20 cricket match in Cuttack by throwing bottles onto the field just because Team India was losing. Ironically, in each case the news reporter and panelists seemed to end the report with the words, "but what can be done about it? This is India! This is how things are."
And it made me wonder, as all remnants of national pride that I had felt from reading my son's textbook dissipated making way for shame, sorrow and frustration,
Is this India?!!
Is this the land I want my children growing up in? The values and traditions and heritage that we want to leave for our future generations?
This isn't the India I grew up in! It's not even the India that I brought my children into. Even ten years ago, when my son was born, things didn't seem as barbaric. We hadn't yet completely lost sight of goodness, or right and wrong. A decade ago we seemed to be moving forward in the right direction. Had we even stagnated it would be acceptable, or at least preferable. Today with corruption and barbarism at an all time high we have regressed way beyond the Indus Valley Civilisation even, into the dark age of the Indian Rakshasas and cavemen. What will the future generations be learning about in their history textbooks? Surely, incidents such as these and the great Congress-B.J.P war will not make it there. Post the British rule, do we, as a country, have nothing to show for our culture or history??
I spend my days talking to my children about a lot of things. Like every other mother, I teach them new things, every chance I get. But it isn't by accident that so far they have been completely ignorant about the differences in the religions of India.
I remember studying the same chapter when I was younger and to highlight the different customs, languages, food and festivals of India my mother would simply give me an example of my school friends or neighbours. Having been to all their houses, mostly joint families then, I would immediately understand the differences in the people from different states.
My Parsi friend loved her meat, her mother visited the Fire Temple and spoke an endearingly funny accented Hindi....I would make excuses to visit my Gujarati friends for their sweet dal and rather 'French' approach to their language where her grandmother simply assumed that everyone on the planet spoke Gujarati and if they didn't they should learn.
Today when I try to explain the same differences to my children (as prescribed by their school curriculum) by way of example, they look even more confused than before because they could see none!
Most of their friends belong to nuclear families. In fact in today's society, if there is a minority community it would be the families where both parents belong to the same caste. A majority of their friends are products of two different communities and all religious festivals are equally celebrated in every home, including ours, where Christmas celebrations with its gifts, Santa, and putting up the tree, generates more excitement than the celebration of Diwali because even they know that bursting crackers leads to pollution. Today all mothers and grandmothers in different homes are similarly dressed, every home has adopted the food from every national and international state to the extent that their Muslim friend's mother makes better Sindhi Kadhi than the one made in our home!
As far as my children know there is no difference!
To help them understand their roots, and the dynamics of the many states of India with our rich heritage, it was very informative and interesting to study our history. But it is the state of current affairs that bothers me. Today, despite all the filth that children have access to on television, if I had to exercise the parental lock feature, I would first block all the news channels from their view. When my daughter who recently learnt to read, practices by reading books, hoardings, store names and anything she can get her hands on, I find myself snatching the newspapers from her because 'gang rape', 'pedophiles' 'murder' and 'suicide' are not the words I want added to her vocabulary yet and scarring her psyche forever at this vulnerable age.
Which leaves me yet again with the only question that I ask myself everyday, "Is this India?"
The future generation believes otherwise. Their slate is clean. Can their 'ancestors' please finally grow up and display some morals, civic sense and respect for all...just as our history books proclaim we used to? Can we try to leave behind a country that the future generations deserve, so the title of their history book doesn't read:
India - the Land of the Political and Religious Ruins!!