(from book “Hindi Patti- Patan Ki Partal” – publisher, Medha Books)
I am reminded of a popular nursery rhymes:
“Johny, Johny ! Yes, Papa,
Eating sugar ? No, Papa,
Telling lies ? No, Papa,
Open your mouth, Ha, Ha, Ha.. !”
I do not know whether Johny was telling lies to his Papa. I also do not know whether his Papa caught Johny eating sugar when he opened his mouth. If that is so, then the final laughter of Johny is not only mischievous but also disdainful. But the question is, who taught Johny the art of telling lies ?
“I am in which class Mom?” My attention was instantly drawn towards a 9-10 year old boy who had posed this question to his mother. The venue was a public swimming pool where a swimming competition for young children was to take place. Parents had brought their wards to the venue. The tension was writ large more on the faces of the parents than on those of the children. Since the children are divided into various age groups, their age, date of birth or the class they are studying in acquired a special significance. For example, as per the age of the child, he should be under a particular age group while as per the class in which he was studying, he should be in a different age group. The parents were carefully scrutinizing the other children in the completion and making their own calculations as to which group would suit their wards the best. In fact, before leaving home, the wards had been tutored on what to say about their age, class etc. By doing so, the child was being taught the easy and unfair way towards achieving his immediate goal and the ultimate casualty was the sportsman spirit. In the process of putting their over-aged child in a younger age group, the child may be emerging victorious in the small competitions, but when it comes to international sporting events, we all know where our country stands. Sowing the seeds of lies and falsehood into our minds starts from the very childhood. False date of birth doctored with a specific objective in view is a glaring example of this. Recording a wrong date of birth by illiterate people is pardonable, but what about those who determine the date of birth of their child even before his/her birth, keeping in view the immediate aim of coinciding favourably with school admission sessions and the ultimate aim of securing a government job? After independence, the dates of birth of several children belonging to educated families are not even remotely close to their actual dates of birth. Because of the partition of country, original documents reportedly got misplaced and new documents were manufactured with the desired date of birth. Thus, they get to work for an additional couple of years in government service. The beneficiaries accept this fact behind closed door, but they do not realize the extent of damage this falsehood causes to our minds and our psyche. When the employees themselves carry falsehood from their very birth, the organization also becomes a living symbol of this falsehood. There are instances when government employees approaching superannuation suddenly produce some manufactured document with the help of some religious/legal expert, showing that they are actually a couple of years younger. Some even produce affidavits to the effect that their illiterate parents had recorded a wrong date of birth while admitting them to school and that they should not suffer because of their parents’ faults. Litigation on the subject of date of birth is a common feature in all organizations.
The situation is diametrically opposite when it comes to some other kinds of professionals like vehicle drivers and menial job seekers. Driven by poverty and domestic compulsions, minors produce false documents to prove that they have attained 18 years of age so that they can obtain a driving license in search of a livelihood. The irony is that in such a situation, an under-age driver drives an over-age bureaucrat to office, both knowing the secret of each other.
In retrospect, what we find is that our lives are so embroiled in the garbage of truth/lies, restriction/secrecy, denial/indulgence that the possibility of positive activity gets destroyed. A society built on the foundation of falsehood cannot give birth to anything positive. Seen from the point of view of Freud, the hidden devil in our souls compels us to view everyone else with suspicion and apprehension. We believe that the other person is also surviving on the basis of a false date of birth. Can such people who are living a life of falsehood effect any positive change either in their own lives or in society as a whole? When will the time come when Papa can teach Johny not to eat sugar so that he does not have to make him open his mouth in order to discover the truth?
(Translation from Hindi by Sh. A.K.Sen )