The 2008 Aarushi murder case is in the news once again. Aarushi’s parents are suspects in the case and her mother, Nupur Talwar has failed to get anticipatory bail from the court and finally gone to jail for the time being. The parents are very successful dentists of Delhi. The case is in the news not because of the parents so much as Aarushi, who was brutally murdered when she was not yet 14 years of age. It caused a nationwide consternation. Inspite of all modernity, post-modernity, post-postmodernity and excessive urbanisation, India that is Bharat reacted very strongly to the unnatural murder of Aarushi and the domestic servant Hemraj, especially under the protective care of the parents. As Nupur Talwar was sent to Dasna Jail in Ghaziabad district of UP, the TV news channels got an issue to discuss. Unfortunately, the panelists are discussing aspects of these new development out of context.
A question being debated excitedly is whether a mother can kill her own daughter. In the first place, TV channels and their panels of specialists have no business to pronounce Nupur Talwar guilty by framing the question in this manner. Only the final judgement in the case will determine as to who killed the girl and the servant. However, the other aspect opened by the debate relating to change in the pattern of parent-child relations is important. When the word mother is taken, a certain image is conjured up in the Indian mind. A mother in the traditional sense is a loving, caring, supporting person in complete charge of the well being of the child. She is the one who is at the call and service of her children all the time, is the person who gets up before the children and retires to bed only after they have gone to sleep, she feeds them the best food, is ever kind. This is not tradition alone: it is the Indian value system. As is the case with the girl child, who is supposed to be cared by the neighbourhood and society generally. The feeding and worship of the girl child during the Navaratra festivals is another such value system. These two norms of behaviour, two age old patterns of social and family conduct, are part of the Indian values. Aberrations and exceptions are nothing unusual to the Indian society.But what is valued, what is practiced by the respectable sections of the society, what is considered virtue, sets standards in life and qualifies to be called culture. This cultural space and the value system has come under so much stress that it is now crumbling under the weight of modernity and excessive urbanisation. Today’s woman is an individual in her own right, highly educated, working, mobile and even authoritative. She has no time to meet the requirement of the children as from a traditional mother. She tends to buy comfort for her child/children by employing servants. The tender age, the golden years of childhood, which used to grow with the mother under her loving care, get lost. No servant can provide the love as a mother is expected to do. And if the servant- male or female- tries to do that, it has other serious fall outs on the family and ultimately ruin the personal life of the spouse.It is the first sign of impending serious trouble like break in the family or murder or other serious crime.
In these modern, post modern, post-post modern times, attitudes have changed. Aims in life have changed. Wealth has replaced every other value in life. People can go to any extent to increase wealth. As a starting point both the husband and wife start working. They have no time to bring the bundle of joy to life. Child birth gets postponed. Many do not go beyond one child. Late marriage, work, single child, servants all take a toll on the time, health and emotional equilibrium of the woman. As we apply financial cuts on non-essential items to balance our personal budgets, the working couples start making cuts in devoting their time to various activities of life. Robbing the child of his/her time by the parents suffers the first cut and lays the foundation of early childhood rebellion. A child starts growing even in the womb of the mother, registers sensations, analyses signals and reacts. Scientific studies confirm that a child fully develops her brain by the age of 5. A developed mind is capable of assessing the situation and determine those favourable and unfavourable. A child resists the absence of the mother, protests and cries. But the mother ignors it. Rather she tends to punish her. The mother thinks she is teaching her child to learn to be self reliant as soon as possible, forgetting that she needs emotional support more than self reliance at that age. The child gets attached to whosoever provides that emotional support. Then the parents tend to wean her away due to class consideration. Once again an unnatural act: bonds, emotional bonds, are for ever. Modernity does not mean substituting what is essential.
Modernity itself has greatly suffered due to over-urbanisation. Housing, congestion, distances, transport, cost of living, stress, loneliness, anonymity have converged to rob urban populations of their share of happiness. The more successful they are, the more stressed they are. The richer they are they become poor in values. The well organised they become, the more arrogant they turn out to be. In a nutshell, the individual gets de-humanised. Under the influence of excessive urbanisation, a person becomes excessively greedy, arrogant, unlawful, abrasive and insensitive. Success in such a situation is another name for personal happiness.
The casualty is family life. The cost is paid by the child/children. When parenting gets reduced to financing a person, the returns become equally monetary in essence. The parent-child relationship gets breached. In majority of cases, it never gets replaced by another pattern or where it is done that way, it ends up being far short of the original. The child has a long list of complaints, grouses and sad experiences. Happiness being a natural goal in life, the child tries to get it from wherever it comes.Distance between the child-parent continue to grow. In case the parent try to be patriarchal or matriarchal, the problem gets further complicated.The mother or the father forget that the child also belongs to the same modern urban environment. The parents have lost the authority to commit physical or emotional violence to the child in such a scenario.If the parents find the behaviour of the child unacceptable, they can’t kill the child. Modernity severely restricts the rights of the mother, father, son, daughter, sister and brother. Forgetful of this, the modern urban parent resorts to the authoritative conduct of the traditional parent, resulting in barbarity against the child: mother murdering the girl for pre-marital or marital decisions of the young daughter or son or the father exercising such authority that he enjoys neither under the law nor the tradition.This see-saw between tradition and modernity is affecting an increasing number of families in India nowadays.
Applying moral standards to the child alone is hardly justified. Urban folks indulge in self pampering- no inhibitions, no taboos. Howsoever they might try to hide the reality from the child, she draws her own conclusions, which stand in stark contrast to the image the parent(s) project before the child. The child sees through the mask and takes her own decision. The debate on the TV posed a question whether a mother can kill a child? I would prefer to answer the question by asking a question:can a child kill her own mother? As the mother might find the child indulging in unacceptable behaviour, so can the child find her mother indulging in unacceptable behaviour. In modern times, neither the mother nor the child have any right to punish either. What was considered perverse 25 years ago is no more so. In such a scenario, counselling has replaced spanking or more serious punishment. Parents and children have to necessarily adept to the new situation. Tensions in parent -child & teacher-taught relations leading to crimes are now everyday news.There is no other alternative but to cope with the evolving change, even if it means loss of old values. This is the minimum price of modernity and urbanisation that India will have to pay.