Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Trusting the human judgement

Let me digress a bit and tell you about another conversation I was having with the Belarusian on languages. We realized together that languages that failed to adapt to local dialects became extinct after a couple of generations - latin and sanskrit being cases in point. Both of these were divine languages, used by the most elite and protected by the "clergy" for centuries. What happened was that the common man lost interest and "those grapes" soon became sour and no one's talking them anymore. No new literature - nothing! But in contrast, take tamil. Somewhere down the lane, either the elite recognized the presence and ability of other dialects in literary works or local though-gramatically-not-perfect dialects formed their own interest groups and started co-existing with those who never forgot to dot their 'i'-s. The language was well within the reach of common man and he chose to excel in it and men like bharathi or even present day poets have written poems that keeps the language a thriving, flourishing entity. Of course, there are purists even now, petrified by change, who always complain that it's going to the dogs - but compared to a pristine language that's dead, fumed and stored in decaying leaves in a glass pane, a flourishing language adapting itself to changing generations suits me just fine. what i am driving at is at some point in time, some of the learned made a momentous decision to leave the future of the language in the hands of "human excellence and judgement". Rather than defining exactly how a language has to be spoken, they have broad guidelines where many versions can coexist. To believe that men are good enough to redefine it according to times but will still work towards excellence and keep the spirit alive is a huge and risky decision to make. But I have a feeling - in 9 out of 10 times - it works.

A religion evolves in the same way. They are a set of rules that define how life has to be lived. These are based on a foreseeable future. But religions, as ours, go beyond that to a point where several external influences come into play and religion should be interpreted as guidelines, internalized and used as a premise to make a decision rather than a "practical guide to cook pasta. step 1, step2 etc"- Centuries ago wise men of every caste made a decision to marry within their castes for several reasons - their occupation, their lifestyles, their place of stay, their entire way of life was dependant on caste and they, for example priests, were completely unaware about what happened, say, in a merchant's house and hence it didn't make any sense to marry in another caste. Soon, english arrived and so did their education - men moved, adapted their religion to their causes, sat together in class benches and solved trigonometry together, moved papers from one desk to another not wondering whether a part of their caste is travelling with those papers. But when it came down to rituals - reason were lost in the river. My parents wanted me to get married to a brahmin and so shall I - wonder why? ask my dad - and the buck shall pass on the rangachari XVIII who has no idea as to what's happening in XXI century.

So, is arranged marriage completely wrong? nope! Are they right? Nope again! A decision is as right as the premise on which it is made. Having been lucky in going to different places and talking to different people, I really believe that our culture is something truly amazing. Our beliefs, habits, family structure - loads of things that people abroad listen to with a wistful look on their faces. And I wouldn't any day want to see these disappear from our systems. As I see the roads henceforth, I don't see two - the rebel and the priest - but three sects. A sect beyond the tyranny of OR.
It's amazing how religion is transferred from one generation to another. they don't have a course on it in school, we don't spend our weekends at temples to be religious. Every generation takes the responsibility to teach its children the beliefs and faith they believe in. It's a huge responsibility, thoroughly abstract where seemingly inconsequential events have the deepest impact. One of these generations, probably each one of them, has to take it upon them to finally interpret religion in terms of the realities that exist now and make choices based on our faith and not on the fragile book of rules that generations before us have gifted us. Someone should just let go - let go and trust people in making their decisions. You are not going to sit with your daughter and talk of freewill, let her study miles apart, leave her to herself and finally come and tell her who she has to marry. You probably do better to spend an hour everyday telling her what you have dreamt for her life and tell her what you believe in. she probably would remember that better than spotting a thin thread running behind someone's back.
I am religious, my decisions are based on that and there ends the story. I don't decide for anyone - not even for my daughter. But I will take pleasure in telling her what a wonderful culture we have and how I would love her to spend her life. And then, I trust my daughter to make the right decision. Of course, she can go wrong - At the sametime, so can I!
I have a feeling I missed out on a lot of points that I had thought of when I started off. Shall probably come to this and update it with other little details I had missed. But for now shall end with this - there can never be any book, or 4 books for that matter, that can exactly tell a human being how he has to live his life. If they could do it, they are probably broad guidelines that stand the test of time and are bound to our interpretation (and not to any one guy's inspiration who finally goes to jail for murder). and our religions are just that - probably the ones who defined trusted us to make sense of it. It's probably high time we started.

2 Comments:

Blogger Aarti said...

Well said Rat! Religion is just a guideline for people to lead their lives, and not a weapon people can wield in order to defend, offend, prosecute and curtail!
As for arranged marriages, well, one man's medicine is another man's poison! Each to his own! Children and their decisions largely reflect the upbringing and values instilled in them by parents,and this trust the parents should have in their offspring. And if I make a mistake, I'd rather it be mine, than anyone else's!

9:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lit a fire, I burnt my finger...
Alas! I cry, no one to hear
I lit the whole world, I burn their lives...
Alas! They cry, no one to hear
Oh Thee, tell me who?
who is burning and who lit the fire?

5:39 AM  

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