“Do as I say. Don’t do as I do.”
This mantra has been very effectively used since time immemorial by self-serving generations of so called spiritual and political “leaders”. One set of rules applies for everyone, while the doyens remain above all dicta. Religion and Patriotism are two areas where this might be most apparent.
We see leaders of the “free world” who shy away from draft duty and use their clout to keep their progeny safe from harm’s way, while extolling the virtue of martyrdom. Various self-proclaimed gurus spring up everywhere to show the public the divine path to salvation and eternal pleasure beyond, in the hereafter. They however do not stop to sip and sup earthly pleasures in the here and now.
It is through sheer chance of birth that each of us ends up as citizen of a nation state, or grows up inculcating the family’s religious beliefs. Once indoctrinated into “my faith” we are ready to not just defend it with our own life but occasionally in extreme cases, might even be persuaded to go beyond limits of reason. “Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do or die” wrote Tennyson – a handy motto – that armed forces around the globe drill into their recruits. While these lines from The Charge of The Light Brigade are immortalized, I bet no one remembers the poor souls or the cause they gave up their lives for!
History tends to repeat itself. As the legendary baseball star Yogi Berra aptly proclaimed, “It’s like deja-vu all over again!”
I am reminded of an afternoon spent with a fellow-volunteer at a non-profit organization. I could see she was upset. Upon inquiring I was told that she wanted a baby-shower, but her mother and mother-in-law had taken over all decision making, insisting that everything be done in traditional Catholic fashion. She was raised a Catholic and said that although a regular Church-goer, she was feeling overwhelmed and upset at not being allowed to plan her own event. In trying to resolve her dilemma we ended up considering the following scenarios:
- When she was 5 years old, she had loved a pink lace frock that her mother gifted her. I inquired whether she wore a similar dress when she celebrated her 10th birthday? Did she switch to a mini-skirt or jeans, when she was 16? Did her dress preferences change when she was 20, or does she accede to what her mother wants her to wear today?
- If her mother told that only steamed broccoli would be served for dinner every Sunday, would she agree to eat the meal just because it was mandated that’s how their family had supped on Sunday for generations? Or, that only salt but no pepper could be used to season the meat because that was the family tradition? Had she allowed her dietary tastes to change over time and adapted her food habits accordingly?
- She admitted to enjoying different genres of music, movies, different cuisines, diverse friends and apparel etc. She used her judgment and free will to choose all these aspects of her daily life using the smorgasbord that life offers all of us. What then, stopped her from extending that right to decide for herself what kind of baby shower she wanted?
She hugged me as we concluded our chat and then smiling conspiratorially, confided, “Someone like you would never be invited into our family home!”
In India, we celebrated holi (the festival of colors) with sheer abandon. The prudish and the prurient would come together on this day, to sing and dance in a true celebration of life in all its glory.
Color and choice is what we need in life, else it would be bland and insipid. Let us not turn into historians to dissect when and why “they” went against “us”. Instead, imagine a world without borders, as John Lennon mused and then let us get down to celebrating Holi and Nowrouz and life itself!