This age of anxiety…Where did we go wrong?

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This age of anxiety... Where did we go wrong?

India has always been known to be the cultural centre of the world. Rich in traditions and a history that dates back to thousands of years, India is a country which is as diverse as it is interesting and intriguing.

From my childhood, I have been brought up with a strong set of values. Everyone especially elders were to be respected. Speak the truth whatever the consequences. Help anyone and everyone if it is within your capacity without any ulterior motive. Never break relationships but only try to cement them if you possibly can. My father died over 50 years ago. My mother a young widow with 4 children ensured that we kept in touch with our paternal side of the family. She always ticked me off (even after I became a senior citizen) if I failed to call my paternal aunts and uncles on a regular basis. I am so grateful that she did, as otherwise, we would have missed out on all the love and affection showered on us by my dad’s side. Even today even after the departure of my mother over a year ago my siblings and I continue to enjoy a beautiful relationship with both sides of the family.

At school, our day started with a moral science class. There were lovely stories which had a moral at the end of it. Whenever we procured our school books every year, the first one I would read was this one. Apart from the guidance, we got at home even the school would emphasise on values. No particular religion was mentioned because at the end of the day all religions preach very much the same. My parents always told us that rituals were optional as long as we did not stray from the path of truthfulness and honesty .

I am certain that all my schoolmates and the college mates had pretty much the same upbringing that we had. Therefore we did not see any difference within the groups, be it caste, religion, status etc. I am no scholar of religious texts but it is the way one views the scriptures that are important. It should not be distorted or quoted out of context to suit the requirement of certain sections of society.

The world as we know it today is quite the opposite of what it was some 70 years ago

The world as we know it today is quite the opposite of what it was some 70 years ago. Our ancestors fought for India’s freedom. Many become penniless by contributing to the cause, many were jailed and so many others lost their lives in the process. The only thought in their mind and hearts was one of national fervour. A strong sense of oneness prevailed and that is why India was able to achieve its freedom following the policy of non-violence.

Today we cannot switch on the tv, read newspapers or openly discuss issues without a sense of trepidation. The former two update us every day (or keep repeating the same regularly) about the latest scams and religious differences. Hatred is fanned, politicians in all parties take advantage of certain developments to further their own agenda. Intake of drugs, excessive alcohol, and smoking seems to have become so commonplace. One instance many years ago which comes to my mind was that of college students pelting stones at a bus causing damage to government property. It happened just outside my office. When I questioned them, they said some political leader of theirs had died (mind you, it was of natural causes). I was so angry and asked them if destroying the bus would bring their leader back. I also told them that it was the taxpayer’s money that was used to buy these vehicles. I warned them of an increase in taxes by the time they start working to compensate for the losses incurred by the government on account of their mindless acts. Many of them walked away sheepishly!

So where did we go wrong? Is the older generation to blame or the ones that came after?

The joint family system had everyone living under the same roof, learning to adjust with each other, celebrating all festivals with family and friends whether it was Diwali, Eid or Christmas. Today most of us live in nuclear families, in different towns or separate households. Cutaway from family ties and meeting only on certain occasions, bonding and social obligations are on the decrease.

This age of anxiety... Where did we go wrong?

Earlier, outings were reserved for birthdays or anniversaries. Today’s kids crave for excitement every minute of the day otherwise they get “ bored”. In homes where both parents are working, they generally end up giving in to their demands. Is it out of guilt that they are not available for their children 24/7? Parents should understand that it is okay for children to get bored. They will have to learn to deal with it. Encourage them to read books, debate, develop hobbies, play board and outdoor games. Get them gadgets that will make them think, wonder at and learn. Discourage those violent and senseless games they play on their phones or iPads. But the use of these gadgets could be permissible under supervision for a short duration of time but it should not govern their lives completely.

Schools should encourage children to be original in their work and not just learn by rote to pass the exams. Children should be taught civility and tolerance. Emphasise that no meaningful work is below our dignity. They should be taught the value of money. We see parents spending a bomb on theme parties for their children’s birthdays. Mehendi and Sangeet functions at weddings are conducted with a lot of pomp and splendour. Does this extravagance really prove anything… it will be the talk of the town for a couple of days or till the next event! Does one really aspire for those two days of fame?

Why don’t we inculcate in our children the art of giving and the joy that comes with it? The smiles on the face of the receivers are the best return gift. I really admire parents who celebrate the birthdays of their children in orphanages or old age homes. Of young couples who make it clear that no gifts should be given at their weddings but guests welcome to donate ( even small amounts) to a charity named by the couple. Weddings conducted during COVID times have very clearly shown these occasions can be celebrated with less than 50 people. There is no necessity to call thousands, have a menu which has over 2-10 cuisines……. wastage at these weddings is mind-boggling.

I also feel that compulsory service to the nation is a must like they have in small countries like Singapore whether male or female and whatever their religion, caste or creed. This will bring in the much-needed discipline not only in an individual but in the entire country.

Flaunting of wealth is not a sign of elegance or culture but contributing to the betterment of society and community is. It is the former that creates greed and need to show off. This ends up in children craving for quick money, keeping up with their peers, wanting branded clothes, cars etc. Why don’t we teach them the art of contentment? Why don’t we ask them to look at the have nots and realise how fortunate they are?

This age of anxiety... Where did we go wrong?
Learn the art of contentment

Don’t get me wrong . I am not saying one should not enjoy themselves. You are young only once so yes it is time for some fun. But there should be a limit to the vulgar display of wealth. I am always thrilled when I see youngsters who have a passion to serve their fellow countrymen, especially in times of distress(such the flooding of Chennai, lockdown time, volunteering in old age homes, blind schools etc). This gives me hope that all is not lost. God bless them. I am not in touch with the current curriculum in schools so I cannot comment on the same. But I do sincerely hope they have programmes in place to educate the students which helps them evolve into good human beings with the right values and conviction. I trust that parents too will cooperate in correcting their children whenever required. If the right environment is created I am sure we will be able to prosper as a nation, be a world leader and an example for other countries to emulate. This is the only way to move forward!

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