Something is terribly wrong with Indian society. And unless a brave effort is made to look into this, the country as a whole may one day pay dearly for it. Violence is in the air. We see it every day. It is immaterial who was right or wrong in the confrontation between the police and High Court lawyers in Chennai in the last week of February. Under no circumstances should violence have replaced civilised dialogue.
One increasingly notices acts of physical assaults, stone throwing, damage to both public and private vehicles when differences arise between two parties or ideologies. It is uncivilised behaviour, to say the least. But it has become standard practice. And falling public standards have given rise to a new set of private organisations like the Ram Sena bent on laying down their own standards, adding chaos to confusion. What is right and what is wrong? Should society leave it to mad men like Pramod Muthalik to decide? The truth seems to be that the concept of Human Rights is being grossly misused. Old values are daily challenged. Families have all but given up on their children. And the latter are setting up their own values telling their elders: ?Papa, do not preach?. Teenagers insist on their ?right? to visit pubs. On their ?right? to imbibe alcohol. On their ?right? to keep late hours. And they are taking their cue from such disreputable ?modernists? like Renuka Chowdhury and Arundhati Roy.
After the Mangalore pub incident Renuka has been reported as calling for a ?pub bharo aandolan? and after Muthalik'sthreat to prevent observance of Valentine Day, Arundhati Roy is reported as saying that she supports “every kind of love, heterosexual, trans-gender, marital and extra-marital”. Very demeaning and very destructive. If one puts forth the point that values must be respected, comes the riposte: ?What values are you talking about? Have you been to Konarak or Khajuraho? Have you read the Kama Sutra? ?If one speaks of dharma, the riposte again is: ?What is your concept of dharma, Do you want to encourage the practice of child marriage? Suttee? Polygamy? Wife-beating??
So, in recent years society has been trying to re-write its own understanding of what is permissible and what constitutes dharma. Time was, especially in Gujarat, when the concept of contract marriages seemed to be gaining ground and widely practiced. No study is available on what happened to the unnumbered contract marriages that took place, and whether contracts were broken and the parties went their ways or whether marriages lasted. But with even properly married couples agreeing on ?ek aur do? children, the very concept of a family has been under strain. Children grow up and go their way, leaving their parents forlorn.
Family ties are loosening. With both husband wife working, very often normal household functions like cooking are increasingly getting to be out of fashion, with the element of personal service getting low priority. The wife no longer is a home-maker. She is a partner in what turned out to be a joint economic venture sans feeling, sans love. It is a credit-card life. The wife no longer has to feel dependent on the husband. The aim is for a woman to be ?equal? to man, whatever that means.
Divorces are becoming increasingly common, with no stigma attached to it. According to available information, in the United States, over 50 per cent of the first marriages, 67 per cent of the second marriages and 74 per cent of third marriages end up in divorce, and almost half the families are headed by a single parent. India seems to be on its way to adopt the American model.
Often rich parents send their children to boarding schools, away from home and the loss they suffer in lack of parental concern is compensated with liberal cash allowance. Children thus grow without knowing the value of money and without savouring the fruits of parental affection. Father-son or mother-daughter relations get more to be cash-based rather than affection-based, with obvious consequences.
Who is to be blamed if children distance themselves from their parents as they grow up from childhood to adolescence to manhood? Instead of finding happiness in an home-related atmosphere, grown up boys and girls these days find joy in visiting pubs and having dates. Elders are estranged and in their old age are unrepentantly despatched to Old Age Homes which are proliferating these days, there to wait for their inevitable end. Are these the values we have to accept?
It is this changing pattern of social and domestic life that has created demons like the Muthaliks who see red when they watch young people “many even teenagers” in pubs or in parks, necking and petting and take to violence, which, in turn, bring out the worst from the likes of Arundhati Roy.
In plain words we have no outstanding leaders to lay down norms of social behaviour. No gurus, no saints and savants, no men and women of standing to command respect and attention. Individualism is all. According to a well-known commentator, S.Gurumurthy, “the rise of unfettered individualism and undefined feminism have led to the erosion of families and a rise in divorces, single-parent families, unwed mothers, lesbians, gays and almost the collapse of traditional households?. The question may be asked: Are we generalising? In multi-caste, multi-religious, multi-cultured land like India, would it be correct to say that values have disappeared totally or even substantially? The answer is obvious: What we see, even at the micro-level, is indicative of things to come.
If early steps are not taken to halt the deterioration of cultural values we might be reduced to a degenerate nation that has lost its way. And to think of India which once produced great philosophers and savants like Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi, not to speak of a Mahatma Gandhi, a Rabindranath Tagore and a Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan! Do we have to produce Muthaliks to correct the social course we are taking? Aren'tthere caste leaders, community spokesmen et al to set society in the ?right? path? Can't communities on their own lays down rules and regulations of social behaviour among themselves? Do we need Muthaliks and their goons to lay down norms? What have we come to? These are not issues to be dealt with by Parliament or legislatures, let alone by self-appointed gangs like the Ram Sena. There is no way that we can standardise behavioural patterns. These are best left to individuals parents, teachers, community leaders, even the media which has a great role to play, but which it is not playing. All that one can, in the circumstances, say is: Wake up, India! You have a role to play in the world.