Development, prosperity, urbanization, high incomes and still higher ambitions are leading the best brains into a state of mental breakdown, spurring crimes most unthinkable. What started as some rare exceptions is fast becoming almost the norm. Under strain are all bonds of love: parent-child; husband-wife; friendships.
The hardest hit is the institution of marriage. From wife burning to killing her in the most chilling manner is occurring rather regularly. An engineer of several years’ exposure to life in the western world, marries his flame, an equally qualified woman, only to buy sometime later a cutting machine to cut her into about 78 pieces, neatly wraps them in plastic bags and leisurely disposes off one by one. A doctor tortures his highly qualified wife, puts her in a mental hospital, murders her, stuffs her in a suit case, drives some 1000 km and dumps the bag in some desolate place. A child is kidnapped for ransom from an MNC employed CEO father. A businessman is kidnapped for millions of ransom. A driver runs over a policeman in rage for having been flagged down. A university teacher is accused of sexual harassment of his student, who traditionally is supposed to be like his daughter. A tribal woman in a low paid government employment is sexually exploited by the minister and other politicians and simply disappears. A student walking to her college is shot dead in broad daylight. Another suffers severe burns as another boy throws acid on her face. Someone simply slashes the face of a girl in a public transport. Elderly persons are murdered for property by sons or daughters or sons-in-law or daughters-in-law, servants or service providers. A wife makes a brother to abandon his emotionally & financially dependent sisters to die of starvation & neglect, under threat of divorce or domestic violence. A son is forced to leave his aged widowed mother at some unknown railway station, where she can’t even communicate properly for not knowing the local language, to suffer a destitute’ s life. A nagging wife deprives her husband of conjugal rights, converting normal life into a hell of regular violent quarrels ending up in divorce or provoking sudden fits of uncontrolled rage leading to murder. Divorce papers are prepared along with marriage documents. In a nutshell, it is a total loss of trust. Nobody trusts anybody else-in personal or public life or business. Tradition has taken a solid beating indeed!
That it will happen in India, jolts people. It jolts them more to see that the situation has come to this pass so soon. Funnily, it is not poverty or backwardness or lack of education. Just the contrary, it is the gift of prosperity, education, modernity, high incomes, high mobility from place to place in this global village, The upper strata of society shocks the lower strata by such newly emerging patterns of behaviour among the higher class people. They are supposed to be modern people, but their social behaviour is medieval. Modernity is not speaking a few foreign languages or urban dwellings or driving swanky cars etc. Modernity is a state of mind, a cultural achievement, a different world altogether. The trouble starts when tradition is revisited suddenly after having been discarded all those years in life sustaining matters like marriage. Two “modern” individuals, seeking “traditional” marriage, and expecting a heavenly life are only treading into an untried territory of total ignorance. Nobody knows what it is like: it is neither like the traditional one with which at least people are aware, nor the modern one which is yet to be internalized. Expecting traditional responses from each other creates conflicts, which gravitate modern redresses like legal action, which completely ruins the life of two persons, who are ignorant about marriage, its demands, patterns of shock absorbing family & social support systems, knowledge or skills to steer the ship of life successfully. Consequently, individually each of them starts getting disoriented, resorts to language unsuitable for a successful marriage, destroying marriage and giving a bad name to the institution of marriage. Tradition had worked out norms of mutual behaviour of the couples towards their spouse, on solid scientific basis, after well researched studies. Modern societies have tried all possible forms of man-woman relationships and has not yet been able to prescribe one happy form of marriage. Children growing up in an environment of daily wars of bitter words grow with many prejudices about marriage. In fact, their views about parents, society and other filial or social bonds get affected. The family disintegration is responsible for social disintegration. The result is new wave of crimes of a different kind-urban crimes. If the individual loses self-control, no law enforcing agency can do anything about it. The punitive laws can only fill beyond capacity the jails, but can never reform either the individual or the society. There is no tradition to fall back upon, to determine what is right and what is wrong, the maryada or the norms.Modernity has failed to develop any such norms, excepting a plethora of punitive laws which are so confusing that even the verdict of a High Court in a murder case is comfortably changed to life imprisonment by the Supreme Court. The High Court sure erred and the Supreme Court knows better! But how many can afford to approach the Supreme Court. Tradition never calls for such absurd prescriptions or their interpretations. The strength of tradition lies in it being so simple that even the most ordinary folks know what is right and what is wrong, what to do and what not to do. It is like everyone who can drive knows driving even without knowing how a car runs!
Social scientists have maintained enigmatic silence on the complexity of the problem for far too long. They must step in now to lay down certain norms of social behaviour. Tradition will need redefining . It helps maintain law & order, peace & stability, happiness of family & social relations. The standards of politicians continuously criticizing each other promotes disharmony in personal and social life. It converts innocence into crookedness and makes scoundrels of perfect gentlemen. Relationships are for ever, in pleasure or pain, in prosperity or adversity, in ups and downs!
I would say: value tradition, value modernity.