Wednesday, July 24, 2013


And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportion’d thought his act.        64
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment        68
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledg’d comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel; but being in,
Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice;        72
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgement.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,        76
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are most select and generous in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,        80
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.        84
Farewell; my blessing season this in thee!

Polonius' advice to his son forms part of the tragedy of "Hamlet", one of the greatest plays from the immortal Shakespeare. Shakespeare is an avid reader of human psychology, more so the human weaknesses. And his writings applied then, apply now and will apply for the thousands of years to come.

In my previous blog I dealt with the chinks that develop in Indian traditional families with the uncompromising attitude of elders. Here we are to see how children too play a cankerous role to propel the internecine squabbles in families and act as catalysts to the existing ones.

That Indians, by culture and nature give prominence to family to individual growth is an accepted fact. Hence, the attachment of children to parents and vice versa is a fait accompli. The advice of Shakespeare through the character of Polonius is apt to discuss the role of children in the society and family.

Elders in India have a vice like grip on the lives their grown up children . They wish the children to act or behave as per their wish. It might be an advice or a diktat. Children have a responsibility to separate milk from water and act like Swans.

By the time a son understands what his father or mother said, he will have a son to question his thoughts (sic.). Sons and daughter have a responsibility to respect views of the elders, at the same time not falling into the trap of sentimentalism to the extent of not having their own views. We can analyze this with what Shakespeare said centuries back.

"Do not give vent your thoughts overtly, nor put into action your covert thoughts. Circumspection is needed about voicing your thoughts and acting on them. This applies universally. Make friends after trying their adaptability to your tastes and purse. Make such, your bosom friends, but never entertain lavishly on any new found friend. Never pick up quarrel but once you are in it, never back out. Famous Telugu poet Vemana  wrote this part Centuries prior to Shakespeare thus:

పట్టుపట్టరాదు పట్టివిడువరాదు
పట్టెనేని బిగియ పట్టవలయు
పట్టువిడుటకన్నా పడిచచ్చుటేమేలు
విశ్వదాభిరామ వినుర వేమ! 
Take never a stance that's  too rigid,
Stand once taken never turn livid,
Once held tight never lose your hold,
Better be wasted than loosen your attitude.

Take each man's criticism in the right spirit but decide for yourself whether his censure is right or wrong. Hear each; never preach. Never spend beyond your means nor look too luxurious in your habits. Never borrow nor lend, as when you lend you might lose money as well as friendship. If you borrow beyond means it ruins you. Finally, if you are true to yourself, you will be true to all. This dictum follows Nature's course as night is followed by day."

Many traditional families are in tatters due to the uncompromising attitude of either the elders or the children. To advise a son to be thrifty is not wrong but to meddle in their affairs is beyond the domain of elders. Likewise, children too should understand the raison de'etre behind the advice and manage their affairs within means. Parents in India look to children for support during old age, as in a country as over populated as India, it is not possible for Seniors to get social security. Children should understand this and that a day will be evening for them too before they go into the night. As age grows, elders behave like children sans everything and this is the time children should respond to their needs as they do with toddlers.

తల్లితండ్రులందు దయలేని పుత్రుండు
పుట్టనేమి? వాడు గిట్టనేమి?
పుట్టలోని చెదలు పుట్టదా గిట్టదా
విశ్వదాభిరామ వినుర వేమ! 15

An unsympathetic son,

A nest-full of vermin,

What if they are born,

For parents aren't they barren?

This is how Vemana described an unkind son towards parents. Instances are not lacking where parents who spent all their life's earnings on children begging for alms while children enjoy not only their blood but also the riches acquired through sacrifice of their blood. 

The number of years a human lives on earth is predestined and no one should curse the other for living so many years. I have seen a son grieving their father is living even after he attained superannuation. "When shall I enjoy my life?", he asks. This question is likely to be repeated few years hence. 

It is time we redefine our cultural values in relation to family relations and both elders and children adapt to the changing societal equation, the globalization of thoughts and economy, the trials and tribulations of the day to day life and other aspects, leaving aside sentiments that despoil our family peace. 

When the Ocean of Milk was churned by the angels and demons, both Nectar and poison oozed out. How we enjoy the Nectar and how we swallow the poison is left to our conscience without hurting ourselves when we churn the Ocean called family, with both the angels and demons in our inner thoughts fighting with each other always.