Sheltering and the effect it has

Siddharth Gautam Buddha’s story is very well known, but let me retell it for you. An astrologer told his parents that he would either grow up to become a Chakravarti or will renounce the world to become a saint. Scared at the prospect of losing his heir to ‘sanyaas’, the king decided to never show him any of the sadness in the world. The king thought that once cosseted in the comforts of the palace, the prince will become used to the good life and would never want to quit it. A normal experience of life was so to say banned for him. Siddharth grew up in perfect luxury and to ensure that he was totally shackled by the bonds of the ‘saansarik sukh’, he was even married off to a beautiful princess. But one day a charioteer made a mistake and took the prince slightly out of the palace bounds. The sights of misery that Siddharth saw put him off the life of luxury forever and finally he renounced the world and became Gautam Buddha.

I always have wondered had the king let Siddharth grow normally, maybe those sights of misery wouldn’t have affected him so much. As much as Gautam Buddha’s life is a lesson in enlightenment, it is also a lesson to society I believe of what fearful control mechanisms do to people. Take sex education for example. If we go by the theory that exposure to sex education makes children more experimental and pushes them to indulge more in amorous activities, then by that standard India’s more repressed states should have less of sexual crimes. But is that the truth?

I cannot say much about other states, but two examples come to my mind. Tamil Nadu and Delhi. These are two states where in most cases men and women don’t interact normally with each other. Boys and girls are taught at an early age to intensely dislike and distrust the other sex. So there is no communication and most of the children grow up looking at the other sex like they are some aliens, part fascination, part hatred. High school classrooms are full of sexist jokes and weird stereotypes about male and female behaviour. But the curiosity is always there and it takes the form of eveteasing, groping and rape.

My friend who studied in a pretty good school in TN used to say that they would make fun of any guy who was just friends with girls. Afterall, the guy had to be a sissy if he could only talk and not get any action out of her. And any girl who even deigned to talk to a guy had to be of a loose character. (I would not say this is completely true about every school in TN). My best friend and her boyfriend in Delhi have been dating for 8 years now. They are school sweethearts and no they haven’t yet done it. Jeeju’s friends tell him that she is definitely going to ditch him after all she hasn’t surrendered herself yet and not just that, they advice that the only way to keep her from breaking his heart is by making her physically his. Jeeju says, “main jaanta hoon un logon ne kabhi ladki nahin dekhi, kabhi jaana nahin ki sahi maynon mein relationship kya hota hai, kabhi mauka hi nahin mila na, isiliye aisa sochte hain.” How true.

But it is not just sex education, there are many choices in people’s lives that are forced upon them because of a fear psychosis. Parents of girls restrict them from doing lots of things thinking that if given freedom the girl will develop a mind of her own and might disgrace them. In this fear, they push her to such an extent, that in the end, more often than not, she unknowingly does the very thing they were afraid of. Some guys are brought up in a strict atmosphere because the parents believe otherwise the boy will take to vices. Mostly these are the very guys who tend to take up vices at the first taste of freedom in a college hostel or out of town job. People from smaller towns talk all the time about that boy or girl who went to ‘shehar’ and changed so much, mostly for the worse(according to them, may not be true actually). Why do they change? Because they were constrained for so long, that at the first chance they will defy everything their past life stood for. Rebels and for that matter even psychopaths are never born. They generally are the ones who were pushed into some sort of a corner, a corner that was either suffocatingly comfortable or scorchingly uncomfortable. The result is always the opposite of what is desired.

If only we learnt how to be more open and accepting!

Mayfly or butterfly?

Ive built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate…

She went about her daily work, crossing her arms at her abdomen, closing herself off. The phone rang and it was him. He was sweet and fun. But why was he calling everyday. She had to tell him off. She couldn’t afford all this. The last burn was bad enough so she told him that daily calls made her uncomfortable. Can I call you once in two days then he quipped. Smiling reluctantly she let it go at that.

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.

Work was her salvation. She buried herself in pursuit of excellence. After all no one could ever ever take that away from her. That would remain with her. It was tangible. It wasn’t like people and emotions. But these days she found herself wondering about him. She wondered if she could take a chance once and see where it takes her. What if she did enjoy the ride? Then again what if she got hurt? No, no, let her stay the way she was.

Dont talk of love,
But Ive heard the words before;
Its sleeping in my memory.
I wont disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.

She was humming Simon and Garfunkel again. Story of her life. She had forced herself in a confinement, feeling nothing. It was all closed up yes, but it was safe. And some of the people who led her to this shell did it because they want to protect her isn’t it? She owed it to them, so she should respect their wishes and stay on in the cocoon. But his voice kept calling her. And despite everything she was going to meet him today. She told herself it was just curiosity.

The meeting went well. She didn’t remember the last time she had laughed and teased so much. She felt young again, really her age, not like the wisened self she usually maintained. She met him again and again. Don’t talk of love….

But she couldn’t help it. He was slowly easing her out of the cocoon. She had managed to crawl out of it like a caterpillar. It didn’t hurt. But what if it hurt later? What about those protectors of hers? Was she betraying them? She didn’t know. But somehow getting out didn’t feel wrong. Fly my baby, he said. Don’t cross your arms against the world. Open up and let me in. I want to be within that circle of your arms too. Yes, she wanted that too.

She didn’t know how her protectors would feel. She tried telling them she wanted to try flying. But they didn’t seem to understand. What if you end up as a May fly and not a butterfly they said. She feared that too. What if she hurt him with her frenzied flight or by retreating? She didn’t know the answer to that too. All she knew was that she wanted to try flying. Maybe she would be a May fly but atleast she would know what it is to fly. She wouldn’t die wondering how it would be. Even if for a brief bit, she would feel the wind beneath her wings and he would help her find whatever piece of sky was meant for her. Together they would find love and hope, even if it wasn’t meant forever. They would atleast have had it truly for once. For that one moment of true love, she will take the chance. Never mind how it ends. All that matters is the beauty of the journey isn’t it?