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From Srirangam to Mumbai — a tale of three generations

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L. RANGARAJAN

Let us accept the youngsters for what they are and not what we want them to be. We are not what our forefathers were.

‘Kausalya Supraja Rama' . . . I woke up to the mellifluous voice from the legend ‘MS.' As I was preparing to get up, the stern voice “Hey, Raju, get up” shook me up. It was my mother from the kitchen. “It is already 5.30. Today is ‘akshya thithi.' Appa wants you to start “Vishnu sahasranamam” recital today. What kind of boys? So lazy.” She interspersed her commands as she proceeded with her sloka along with MS. Before she started her second round, I was already halfway to the river for a bath. As I ran through the green paddyfields, I was suddenly drawn to the melody from the field. Looking around, what I saw was an enactment of the beautiful verses from William Wordsworth:

Behold her single in the field,

Yon solitary island lass,

Reaping and singing by herself,

Stop here or gently pass.

The yellow rays of the morning sun reflecting through dew drops and the swirling river waters meandering through the bamboo grove were enchanting. I sat on the parapet wall of the river bank splashing the waters with my legs and watching the morning scenes — the elderly paying obeisance to the sun god, the bathing of the temple elephant, women circling around the banyan tree chanting slokas and simultaneously discussing the domestic problems — all kept me still for a moment.

As I reached back, my mother was on the doorsteps with her stern looks. “Why are you late? When are you going to correct yourself? Irresponsible,” she shouted. I quietly stood with folded hands before my father. “Did you finish your sandhya vandan? Then “sit down facing the east,” he said and started the mantra. The class thus started.

As I was through, my sister who was just 10 years old was readying for her morning music class in the next room. I lent my ears to the music master's “sa,pa,sa” to adjust his sruti.

“Today, we will start a new raga” said the master and thus proceeded sa,re,ga,pa da,sa, sa,da,pa,ga,re,sa. “What raga” queried the master. “Mohanam” this was my sister. The teacher then proceeded with a beautiful piece from Tyagaraja and brought before everyone's eyes the picture of the saint-composer passionately pleading before Lord Rama.

* * *

I was thus dwelling in the nostalgic memories of my younger days at Srirangam (a beautiful temple town encircled by two rivers) in Tamil Nadu, while sitting inside the 15th floor of my Mumbai apartment. I was suddenly brought to my senses by the yelling of my wife Mythili. “Hey Bharat, get up, it is 12 noon” — her final call for my son to get up, before employing other methods to dislodge him from sleep.

“Hello, why don't you wake him up? You are giving him too much leniency,” it was a missive to me.

“Don't you know he went to sleep at 1 a.m after watching late night programmes and listening to jarring music? Who is the fellow with mike and unkempt hair? At his age, I remember my brothers getting up early and learning music or slokas,” lamented my wife.

“Times have changed, leave him out. Let him decide what he wants. He is on vacation,” I intoned.

“What change? It is spoiling the children. I do not know why these children are after the ear-piercing music, fast food, torn jeans, — all evil effects of globalisation” she ranted.

As if nothing was happening around, my son quietly came up, sat on the sofa and hid himself behind the day's newspaper. There was a lull after the storm. TV was on and they all set their eyes on the Carnatic music competition for boys and girls. The chief guest was singing an alapana and seeking the name of the raga. While I was debating the raga, a voice from behind the newspaper came with ‘Bhairavi' and it was so. My wife, a music student herself, was surprised at the answer.

“Hey, you never learnt Carnatic music, how could you say?” my surprised wife.

“What is so great? ‘baggy's cannot understand Bhairavi rag, is it?”

“It is divine. You gadget guys cannot understand such divine music,” said my wife.

“Music is a simple listening pleasure. Why do you give a divine colour to it?” my son responded.

“You people — torn jeans, unkempt hair, broken English, fast food eaters and roaming gadget guys have no discipline in life. Gadgets limit your social interactions. Your way of life, oh! How we lived our younger days — learning slokas, and music, eating grandma-made home foods, stories from grandmothers, playing swings with cousins, dining together and strengthening our relationship. Oh! What a life! We never dared to sit before our elders. You guys now dispose of everybody with ‘hi, uncle, hi, aunty' where are you guys heading for?, my wife's lamented.

Now, my son took over:

“So nice, amma. You have deprived us of what you had? Do you know we also crave for such a life?”

“Are you aware that many of us suffer from the single child syndrome? Have you ever allowed me to stay with my cousins? You mothers never spare us even during vacations and force us to attend some classes.

“How many of you keep your parents with you to listen to grandma stories? Present day grandmas are also preoccupied with mega serials. They have no patience to caress us. I have seen many of my friends face empty house when they return from school. Food is kept on the dining table or in the fridge. In the empty flat on high rise buildings what else we can do than watching TV or computer games. We have no open space or playground. Many of us suffer from the empty nest syndrome.

“Do you allow us to play in school after classes? You want us to go to this or that class. You subject us to a slew of activities that does not lead to education or enjoyment. You never allow us to have our way. You want us to excel in everything. You parents bombard us with multiple inputs to transform us into super child role models.

“What, you talk of dining together with my cousins? We hardly dine with our fathers. Do parents sit with us and discuss our problems? Where is the time for you people? You come tired from work and retire to bed or enter into a nasty wordy duel. You elders have no patience and your adjustment problems are affecting us. Do you think that by just paying the school fees your job is over?

“What we need is more attention and care at the adolescent period. Fathers are unable to balance between their career and home and we miss the attention we essentially need. You parents try to replace compassion and communication with cash.”

“The fault lies just not in us. Times have changed. You have changed. You never live in the joint family system. You are not what your mother was. The economy has opened up. The world has become a global village. There is cultural mix-up. It has brought inevitable changes in everybody's life. Yes, we are gadget guys because ‘succeed at all cost' is the bane of modern living. But we get huge information exposure we need. We have adapted ourselves to changing times. We are at a crossroads. We are swimming against cross currents. We stay connected if you provide us the link to the past value systems.”

My son Bharat stopped. Truly, he spoke like a representative of his generation.

I was perplexed at his outburst which is a clear reflection of the minds of the present day youth. A shift in the value systems, rising affluence and soaring competition are some of the factors that have redefined their way of life.

Let them decide where they want to reach. Let us accept them for what they are and not what we want them to be. We are not what our forefathers were.

It is a myth to talk of a generation gap. Each generation traverses a new path to the demands of the changing times.

It will remain a challenge.

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