Some Mythology, Some School Work and No Futurology!
Headline pretty much sums up my frustration with lot of parents – yes including my own household. Kids need to learn mythology. They need to know our culture. Culture of bygone days. Days so far away from today that our sanitized sensibilities cannot see the bad, cannot see the class layers, cannot see the caste layers and definitely cannot see the shoes wore in those days – seriously what kind of shoes people used to wear in those days? Let’s take Mahabharatha for example. Ask your kid this question? Have you thought about that? Leather or fabric? If fabric then how come they survived brutal North Indian winter? If leather then who made those shoes? And were they made from cow hide or buffalo hide? Disturbing questions right!
Point is why Indian parents are fascinated with mythology? Having seen lot of parenting in US, I can say that this almost checklist obsession with mythology is very unique with Indian parents. Go to any book shop it’s right there. Carefully edited, illustrated, packaged – in some cases with audio – mythology book sitting on bookshelf. Ready to be lifted by dewy-eyed parent. I mean you cannot go wrong in picking books on Bhima or Yudhishtar right? Grand parents will think we are teaching good values and our mythology. Never mind the difficult question of explaining to 5 year old – why are 5 brothers sharing one mummy? Hush hush… fast forward. You skip few pages and few questions. Sanctity of good old mythology restored and protected. We go to next book.
I am suggesting we go for some balance. How about adding little bit of mythology of tomorrow?
Where do you go to take your kid on a journey of tomorrow. World where kids will be bottling value system in their lunch box, maybe bartering good values as points. Points which they can use to buy thrill time in the yet-to-be discovered chill zone. Who knows what is there in the future. In our time we have a company where people happily feed pigs and that company is valued many times more than the companies making life saving drugs. Future conflicts, new forms of friendship, new landscape to imagine. Can we please get some books for that world. World which we will need to create without getting all doomday-ish on it. Where is Devdutt Pattanaik of science fiction? No disrespect to Mr Patnaik but he is sitting happy selling mythology. Formula to mythology is simple. Parents are stuck in funny rat race, lets drop Shiva and Krishna here and there, drop in few spiritual messages, crank up parent’s guilt factor. That’s enough to satisfy big publishing house marketing team. Which usually results in more mythology books and more paid lectures on role of mythology.
What about folks on other side of the time spectrum. I am sure there are good authors who are doing good sci-fi work. Imagining new world and new possibilities. I want to tell stories where Bangalore gets air lifted – complete landmass – and replaced with city of Karachi. Just to explain how bunch of kids did it because they wanted to teach their political masters a new lesson. Geo-political prank sort of thing. Literature where we are pushing new possibilities. I wish there were more authors writing about the world of tomorrow.
Mythology is a safe bet whereas writing about tomorrow is risky. Possibilities are at best only half right so it’s easy to pass value judgement on them. Woman dancing in front of king is culture, singer singing on radio is also OK, young kids on TV competing for top singer slot is grudgingly accepted but kids going direct on Youtube using iPad is a no no. Future is not to mess with it. Let someone else jump first.
Here is what I would request parents to do – look at your book shelf or toy store and ask this question. How much of this literature relates to past and how much is there as a cognitive food for the world of tomorrow. Maybe it’s time to shake up your bookshelf.