I always felt that we should never forget our culture and tradition and most importantly our value system. Being a teacher in a school I used to try and inculcate these finer aspects of life to my students. They were all in 10th Standard and it is high time they start thinking in that direction. You can call me an abrasive proponent of the Indian way of living and i expect the same from my students too. To some extent I was successful in making tangible inroads into their westernized mentality and rebuild their already disheveled thoughts.
Well, I presume there is a lot of difference between being almost successful and being successful. There was one kid by the name Pawan in my class who demystified my relentless propaganda of "Indianising" the kids. I used to categorize him as a dilettante, not serious in anything that he does and living in a dream world of his own. But his strength was his creativity and the ability to think divergently. He was the only kid who used to speak against my perpetual entreaties to understand more about our culture, tradition and ethos and live a life peppered with our value system.
The kids used to call him "Michael Jackson" as he had a penchant to dance and imitate like him and sported a funny hairdo much to the chagrin of rusticates like me. His classmates loved him as he was different from the rest and possessed a fiercely independent attitude. But for me, he was the spoilsport and the only person who was tearing apart my dream. Many times I tried to counsel him and sell my "Model Individual" dream to him. But he shied off from my inquisitions with a nonchalant "Why should I change?" reply. I often used to wonder what was wrong with this kid. He was smart, good looking, matured and studious. Why can't he just behave like any other kid? These ruminations would just blandly ricochet off the four walls of the classroom and out into oblivion, without giving me an answer.
Two years before, I became the proud father of a baby boy. My whole life now revolves around him. I would sacrifice anything in this whole world to see his toothless grin. Sometimes when I am really upset with Pawan , I think of my baby and console myself saying that atleast I have someone of my own , whom I can bring up according to my wish. And he will grow up like an Indian boy and not like a foreign kid with exemplified westernized antics and histrionics. But whenever I used to look at my baby with these thoughts burgeoning in my mind, he used to look away from me, as if in silent dissonance with my feelings. It perturbed me and I used to anxiously ask myself "Will he grow up and be like Pawan?
The stage was set for the school annual day function. It was my dream to conceptualize a play to bring out the value system which the school upheld and also with an intention to help the kids in understanding our ethos in a better way. Ramayana was the chosen play and the rendition was to be in Sanskrit. Pawan, because of his stature and chiseled features, was unanimously chosen to play the role of Rama. I expected him to falter as he never showed any interest in learning Sanskrit. But to my utter consternation, Pawan stole the show away on that day with this lucid oratory and effortless acting skills. In fact he even helped in pacifying other kids who were jittery and nervous in anticipation of their first stage appearance.
Before the play began he did something which brought tears to my eyes. Pawan touched my feet and sought my blessings. Something changed in at that precise moment. I started seeing Pawan in a different perspective. The burlesque obnoxious kid whom I have relegated earlier had found a place in my heart.
In a euphoric state, I rushed to school the next day to see the changed Pawan. But, I was shocked to see that he has not changed at all. What I saw in front of me was the same old caricature suffused in Americanized impropriety. I did not find even an iota of transformation in him which I was expecting. On that day i felt defeated.
While I was returning home with a heavy heart, I saw a construction worker on the way wearing a T Shirt with the words "I Love NY" printed on it. The way he was walking reminded me of a WWF wrestler, challenging the onlookers to take him on. Though his body was emaciated, his face radiated effervescence. He stopped at the tea stall and had tea. Then he smoked a cigarette in a way which would have given the legendary Clint Eastwood a run for his money. The scene was so captivating that it enraptured my attention. I stopped my walk and started observing him from a distance. He had a unique style which in some way reminded me of Pawan. The guy then parted his dhothi to take out his wallet and lo and behold Khaki shorts! I wondered how khaki was matching with New York. But the man seemed to be quite happy with the way he was and that actually suppressed all his inequities.
In a pensive mood, I resumed my long walk back home. A little girl with a Barbie doll in her hand walked past me. On the way I saw a Mc Donalds eatery flooded with kids and their parents. I was informed by my friend that most of the kids are there for the toy which comes along with the Mc Donalds Happy Meal. I silently admired the surreptitious marketing skills of the people who conceptualized this novel idea.
Thoughts about Pawan soon impregnated my mind and occupied its voluminous space. Was Pawan for all the good things in life? Was he an Indian, just like me, in his heart of hearts? These questions perturbed me to the core.
But as I cogitated more, I understood that it was my perception which was wrong in the first place. I had the preconceived notion that there could be only one right and one wrong. Through my eyes what I perceived was always right. But then I started perceiving the world through the eyes Pawan and I found it to be equally beautiful. I then realized that the world that we see around is a reflection of us. We can make it colourful if we want to, or malign it with our darkest requiems. It is how we perceive the world that determines our well being. If we throw stones and dirt, we will be pelted with the same. But if we throw flowers, we will be showered with the same.
As I was ruminating in this new found happiness, a cool wind brushed past me and it started to rain. I fastened my pace and reached home just in time before the lashing rain deluged the streets. When I stepped in, there was a huge commotion going on. My wife was trying to feed the child but he was vehemently refusing it. She lost her cool and blurted out that she will beat him if he does not eat. The baby started crying and he looked at me for help. I told my wife to take it easy and checked with the child what was he not taking the food? I asked then what does he like? Flashing that innocent smile he looked into my eyes and said ..... "I want Kench fries and burger".
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