He was intently focusing on destroying the alien. Suddenly a spoon with some dark shiny substance appeared between him and the screen and distracted him for a few seconds. But that was all the aliens needed to break through his defenses. His last ship was gone. “Game Over,” the screen flashed. He turned angrily towards his mother.
“I don’t want to have this. You only eat it.”
She ruffled his hair, gently. “It is only a game. Have your Chyawanprash and start a new game.”
He shook his head. “Do you know who much effort it takes to build a score of 100000? Another 5 minutes and I would have beaten my previous highest score. Now I have to start all over again from 0.”
“Ok. I am sorry. But now please have your Chyawanprash and milk and come to sleep.”
He was about to remonstrate when he noticed a glint in his mother’s eyes. He knew it would be fatal to push her any further. He quietly took the spoon and the milk. He noticed she was not saying anything. He wondered if she was not angry with him for throwing tantrums. He gingerly tried to make conversation.
“Why do you give me Chyawanprash every night, mom?”
The answer came from the bedroom, “because she is an alien spy!”
Her nostrils flared up and her anger found a new target, “You are just impossible. Everything is a joke for you, isn’t it? No wonder your son is growing up like this.”
Then she turned to Neeraj, “It will help boost your immunity and keep you safe from disease causing germs.”
He turned to her and remarked,” So that is the answer.”
She looked at him quizzically, “Answer to what?”
“Our science teacher has asked us to write an essay on how to builder a stronger, healthier and more immune India? So the answer is to give Chyawanprash to all the Indians.”
Then he scratched his head. “But the teacher has asked to write essays of at least 1000 words.”
She smiled at him. “Wish all problems in life had such simple solutions.” Her anger seemed to have evaporated.
Shankar also got up and came out, “See Neeraj – an essay is not about jumping to a solution. It should have a structure. You should define the problem, identify the causes and then present a solution that will address the causes.”
She glared at him, “You again starting with your MBA Gyan? Spare him.”
He pretended to ignore her. “So tell me: what is the problem here?”
Neeraj stared at him blankly. ”The teacher?”
They both burst out laughing. “That is of course true. But I am talking about the problem the essay is trying to address.”
“Building a stronger, healthier and more Immune India?”
“Yes, that is correct. But still it does not sound like a problem. How would you put it as problem?”
“Our country is not strong, healthy and immune.”
“Right! Now let us move on to the next step. What are the causes for this problem?”
“Disease causing germs?”
“Right! They make you unhealthy and weak. But if your immune system is strong, can disease germs attack you?”
He shook his head.
“So what makes the immune system weak?”
Again Neeraj looked lost. However his mother was all charged up.
“All this modern lifestyle is what makes our immune system weak. Our previous generation was much healthier. This is what comes of giving up our time tested traditions and blindly running after Western consumerist culture.”
Shankar shrugged, “Your mother has once again started her rant against loss of traditional values.”
“Yeah, and your dad loves anything Western.”
Neeraj looked helplessly as he saw the usual squabble between his mom and dad starting. He decided to quickly step in. “What about my school essay?”
That brought them both back to focus. Shankar spoke up, “I like to needle your mom at times. But she is right. Life style is one of the major causes for weakening of immune system. Healthy eating habits, adequate physical exercise and systematic sleeping habits help strengthen the immune system. Traditions in general tend to reinforce these aspects.”
He looked towards Rama for approval. She pretended to ignore him. He continued.
“It is not just about India. Most cultures have evolved similar traditions. That is what has strengthened these cultures and enabled them to survive through so many years. Theory of evolution you know – survival of the fittest. Cultures that reinforce strengthening behaviors survive. Cultures that promote weakening behaviors go extinct. For instance Bolivia, a South America has such a strong cultural bias towards traditional foods that they rejected McDonalds outright. They made losses year after year and had to close shop and leave”
“But what is wrong with McDonalds, Pa? They give out those nice toys and all. All my friends’ parents take them there every weekend. Only you have never taken me.” He started at his parents accusingly.
“And do you see how your friend Suraj keeps falling sick every month and what is the name of that other friend? Yes – Mahesh! How obese he is at this age itself! Do you also want to become like that?” Rama chipped in.
Both Neeraj and Shankar knew it was prudent to step aside when Rama was on the warpath. So Shankar decided to change the topic and Neeraj did not try to press the topic.
“I think we did discuss a few points: healthy food, regular exercise and systematic eating and sleeping habits are some of the things that can boost immunity. At a national level, there should be campaign to encourage this kind of behavior. Parents and schools should also try to enforce this behavior. Maybe you can take these pointers and start writing your composition. We will see what you have written and discuss tomorrow. Now let us go to sleep. It is already way past bed time.”
This post is for a contest sponsored by Dabur Chyavanprash.