“The milk is going to boil,” shouted Rama from the kitchen.
Nobody seemed to bother. She sighed. She seemed to be the only one interested in the festivities. Her husband and son were lost in their own worlds. Neeraj was busy playing Farmville and Shankar had his nose buried in a book.
Shankar protested loudly as the book was snatched from his hand and Neeraj joined the chorus as he himself was snatched from his laptop. Soon all three were in the kitchen shouting Pongal-o-Pongal as the milk boiled over.
“Why do we have to enact all this drama every year, Ma? It all feels so silly”
“Well boss, there ain’t no such thing as free lunches. If you want to eat all the good stuff today, you need to sing for your food.”
Rama frowned, “Is this the kind of things you say to a kid? No wonder he is already turning a cynic like you.”
Then turning to Neeraj, she explained, “Today is the harvest festival. It is the day when we thank God for giving rains for the crops due to which we have enough food for the rest of the year. Our celebration of the milk boiling over is a representation of the bounty of food God has given us filling our vessels to the brim and spilling over.”
“But mom, we are not farmers. Why are we celebrating?”
“Look who is speaking, dude! Every time I see, you are on Farmville and you are saying you are not a farmer!”
Rama ignored him. “We no longer live in village and do farming ourselves. But our ancestors were farmers. I remember as a child every summer holidays we used to go to our grandfather’s village. The fresh air, the paddy fields, the cows and calves – it all used to be so wonderful. “
Her expression became distant and dreamy as her thoughts wandered to the days of her childhood.
“Not my ancestors. My grandfather was a postmaster and my great grandfather was a criminal lawyer. As far as I can trace my ancestors, none were farmers. We were all more the intellectual type, you know. But you seem to have taken after your mother's folks, eh?”
Then he added hastily as he saw Rama’s lips forming into a pout, “Yeah but your mom is right, Farm life has its own charm. As a kid, I used to be fond of Enid Blyton’s farm series. She makes it all sound so fascinating that there were times when even I found myself longing for a country life. You must read them sometime. Enid Blyton books are a much more wholesome read compared to all these hunger games, thirst games and other stuff you kids read these days.“
“True,” Rama added. “I shudder when I read some of the children’s books these days. They are full of blood and gore and the characters in them seem more like psychopaths than kids. No wonder we hear of so many cases these days of shoot outs at schools.”
Shankar’s face became serious and thoughtful, “The reason for the current social upheaval runs deeper than that. You would be surprised to know that all this has links again to your agriculture.”
He waited for a response from her and seeing none he picked up the book he had been reading and displayed the cover page to his wife and son. The title read, ‘Future Shock by Alvin Toffler’.
Then with an air of a professor he continued. “That is exactly what this book is about. It says most of our current traditions, value systems and cultural norms were based on the needs of an agricultural age. The family system, the gender roles etc. were result of the need to sustain stable rural communities. But now more and more people are moving away from rural life and most of the old values are no longer relevant. But people are finding it difficult to let go and adapt to a new culture that is emerging. That is causing lot of emotional disturbance leading to suicides, violence and depression.”
Neeraj had a blank expression on his face. All this was going right over his head. Rama got up and proceeded to the kitchen.
“Once you start lecturing you will go on and on. You both have nothing to do the whole day. So you can keep talking till the cows go home. But I still have a lot of work to do. If I sit talking to you, soon we will all be hungry and there will be nothing to eat.”
Peace prevailed for next hour or so as everyone went back to what they were doing: Rama, to her cooking, Neeraj to his game and Shankar to his book. Soon it was time for lunch.
Click here for Part 2