On select occasions on days set apart for celebrating various themes, we hear public speakers recalling expressions such as (a) Home is the first school of the child, (b) Mother is the child’s first teacher and so on. The structure of the home in the bygone days, given the combo of inmates belonging to three generations, if not four, presents an image that can send shivers up the spine of wage-earners of our times. The shrinking of that structure to its current make-up, with parents and one or two children reminds one of the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. The grandparents are nowhere to be found around the homes, dominated by them decades earlier. At best, they have been hoisted on the wall of the living room as photographs, fading over time and even covered with dust and cobwebs with spiders caressing the images. Mysuru of yesteryears serves as an unmistakable example of the family structure of the past bubbling with siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents and may be, other dependent relations, a collection of people that could very well resemble a classroom, a crucible for moulding children to grow as adults of impeccable social behaviour.
Dailies are sullied with regular reports of clashes among members of society, blowing up to mob fury, the flare up being sparked by heated exchange of words on trivial matters in the streets, with Mysuru being no exception. Keeping cool and avoiding fisticuffs are mistaken as one’s weakness, with ego ruling the roost on such occasions.
Given the pressures of urban life and stresses bugging rural families, many age-old customs, starting with greeting elders in the family with unalloyed respect and humility, reciting simple prayerful verses, going through morning ablutions, helping parents in the upkeep of home environs, welcoming visitors, punctual in doing daily chores and so on are no longer part of daily life. These customs, with their inbuilt effect of being emotionally guarded in times of disturbance and distress in the family did have their extended feature outside the homes. False prestige, distrust of others, self-interest, possessiveness, jealously, hatred and easily yielding to anger were all part of daily exposure to the growing children. The currently all-too-familiar nuclear family, unlike the now-gone large joint family and also families living in clusters (vataara), have precious little scope for moulding the child for ideal social behaviour.
Hopping on to the school scene from the home, the focus being passing exams with high marks, talking of social behaviour is the pastime of the naive. In short, the nation’s mass is engulfed in social misbehaviour, barring exceptions.