Surrendering & Salvaging
Before you begin: The following story is meant only to elucidate a point being made in this post; any events detailed therein do NOT correspond to real events. No content here is meant to misinform or mislead the reader.
There was once a woman, a poor woman, whose husband had left her when their first child was born, and she was forced to give up the child for adoption as she had no means of supporting it after a few years and no intention of condemning the child to a fate similar to hers. The child, now adopted by an affluent family, grows up to become a healthy young man. Then, his birth-mother, now left begging by the sidewalks of the large city, spots him on the road one afternoon and begins to follow him, asking him for alms. He does not know who the old woman is, never having been old enough to be expected to remember anything at all before his new home. The woman, suddenly overcome with a surge of pleasure at having seen her son again, tells him the truth. He does not believe her, but has his doubts allayed by his adopted parents once he gets home. The next time he sets out, he wishes not to meet the old woman again because she forsook him when she should have not – at the same time forgetting that he wouldn’t have been who he was if not for the surrender.
There is a strong analogy between this story and our daily lives. The old woman, impoverished and bereaved of any means to support herself in a fast-changing world with her antediluvian tools, is the culture we often find lacking in so many people when we talk of the decadence in India: the westernization brought on by globalization and liberalization of economies to survive in a world where the rules are set only by Big Brother.
The young child given up for adoption so early in life are the youngsters born today, living today, the very same people that our previous generations tout as the face of the future. Our culture as such is imposed on us by our parents and those who nurture us, teach us and care for us as we grow up; it may not seem necessary since it is definitely not innate, but the need to belong is, and so we seek to be native and “one” with some group of people. It is strongly tied in with our identity. However, when the culture seems lacking in some prime aspect that WE need to survive today, albeit succeed, it not only surrenders us to another culture but we also proactively seek out an alternative – if a restaurant I enter does not have the soup I eagerly seek, the manager will have no reason to force me to stay, and I will have no reason to remain, either. Neither is to blame but there is a resulting dissonance.
The affluent family is the second culture – the one that is equipped with those rights and liberties to exempt ourselves from unreasonable duties, duties that could hamper us, hinder us, in our quest for success in a world that no longer moves by the hours but the fractions of a second. It has to be conceded that there are many unreasonable expectations made of a youngster that do not so much as acknowledge the nature of the changing times, leaving one to decide whether one is prepared to lead a penitentiary life or, on quite the other hand, break free of the shackles and emerge free. Penance is a sin against practicality and freedom is a sin against faith. Which road is a child to take but the one that is available immediately, the one that provides the next morsel of food? If survival necessitates a change of sides, then so be it.
The old woman did not want to condemn, the young man did not want to come to naught, the affluent family did nothing to be held culpable for, but there innumerable grudges, favors waiting to be returned and a gratitude expression system that seems to be going haywire. Where are we in all of this? Rather, how are we in all of this?
If and when you want to endorse a revolution in your country, your state, your city or your village, then ask yourself this: how is it fair to expect all those born on this land to embrace their natively endowed gifts when the gifts themselves, inadvertently, forsake their receiver in the long run?
What is to be righted is the culture itself – even though it may not have wronged at all in expecting obedience in an age such as this, it must change in order to survive, or it must make peace with its senility and forgive defectors. A non-resident Indian (NRI) cannot be expected to listen to your calls; he will ask you how you expect him to be a hero when the rewards of heroism were dwarfed completely by the penalties for foolishness. That is, undeniably, an unfair expectation I myself have had innumerable times.