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Volume XLIV, No.50

Bhishma Loses Out to Our Modern VIPs

by T.J.S. George

Tuesday 24 April 2007

So there are death sentences and death sentences. When terrorist Mohammed Afzal was ordered to be hanged, communal emotions led to a clash of fundamentalisms. When college girl Priyadarshini’s killer was given the same order, human emotions led to a collective sigh of approval.
And why not? A qualified lawyer with a wife and daughter brutally assaulting his college-mate, raping her, then strangling her to death is a horror unimaginable to normal humans.

But there is another issue involved here—the issue of parental attitude. Santosh Singh’s father was a high-ranking police officer in Delhi when his trial first came up. The judge said he knew that Singh had committed the crime, but acquitted him for want of evidence. In Jessica Lall’s murder, the prime accused, Manu Sharma, was the son of a former Haryana Minister. Witnesses turned hostile one by one and Sharma was acquitted by the trial court.

Santosh Singh’s father greeted his son’s death with the declaration, “We’ll go in appeal.” Spoken like a dutiful father. But where was the dutiful father when his son was behaving dangerously enough for the police to caution him? Should fathers indulge their sons and, when crimes are committed, protect them?

That question arose in Bangalore also recently, though with a touch of the comical. When a fashion impressario’s son got into a midnight pub fracas and was taken to the police station, the boy’s mother rushed to the station and kicked the ranking officer there until he fell to the ground. When the Chief Minister’s son got into a 4 a.m. brawl with a bunch of hotel boys, hilariously different accounts of the story were provided by hangers-on and sycophants. The latest is that the publicity will help launch the son into politics.

This is a boy who has been found driving around in a Carrera, a Lexus, a BMW, a Harley-Davidson Fatboy and other rare toys. (Fortunately not at the same time!) Forget who imported these and how much they cost. How come a teenager is lavished with such luxuries, especially in a family sworn to fight for poor farmers? Isn’t it an Indian civili-sational norm that parents set standards for their children and bring them up with care and attention?
Those standards were set 5000 years ago when the upbringing of three brothers was commended to the people.

Dhritarashtra, Pandu, Vidura—
The three were brought up as sons of Bhishma.
They became well-educated, cultured, devotional,
Respectful towards vows and fasts
And of good physique, earnest in work,
And they became valiant youths.

Making an allowance for the passage of the millennia, the vast majority of Indian homes still hold those values dear. But spectacular violations occur in the upper echelons of society, especially among those with the political power or the money to bend the law.
They follow norms that are described, not in the Mahabharata, but in wellknown Kannada folk songs. One popularised by Gururaj Hoskoti sings of a mother’s praise for her son:

Instead of bearing ten children,
I gave birth to one, like a pearl;
At 6 he hit his guru for trying to discipline him;
At 9 he pushed a friend into the well;
At 14 he robbed a neighbour of her jewellery;
At 22 he went to jail for murder;
At 42 my pearl became Mukhya Mantri.

(Courtesy : The New Sunday Express)

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