Monday, July 23, 2012

Scientific Temper

Mohammed, a lanky little 11 year old in my school, has been granted permission to use the elevator for this entire month. Also, one of the peons carries his bag up to his classroom. Very considerate of the school to give this kind of treatment to child who is fasting, I was impressed.
But on second thoughts, why should that 11 year old be fasting in the first place? Once at school, with the amount of physical and mental activity a child has on his plate, it becomes extremely essential that he eats every two hours. I think it’s no one but the parents who are to be blamed for this kind of inhuman action of starving a little boy the entire day. Isn’t food always listed as the first basic necessity for any human?
With Paryusan just around the corner, I am already dreading meeting parents who will flaunt about their 2 and 3 year old kids doing “atthai” (8 consecutive days of fasting wherein you are allowed to drink only boiled water and not even that after sunset). Is it so difficult to understand that the child is doing this only because some “Maharaj Saheb” somewhere has narrated him some lovely stories about how doing “Atthai” helped someone attain “Moksh” (another vague but beautiful picture created by the same Maharaj Saheb)? But more importantly, the child has learnt through observation and experience that observing this fast attracts a lot of attention and admiration from family and family friends (Remember we are still at “you are a good boy/girl stage at this age?). Also, he will be showered with gifts on the ninth day. Where are the religious values in all of this?
Christianity has the concept of baptism. It allows every individual born in a Christian family to decide for himself whether or not he would like to make it his own faith. But parents indulge in child baptism, taking away this right from the child and defeating the entire purpose.
"To develop scientific temper" is one of the fundamental duties of the Indian citizens, according to the Constitution of India. As transfer of ideas is a part of upbringing, religious ideas are bound to be passed from one generation to the other. But I personally believe that government should intervene to keep a check that minors do not fall prey to irrational (or even harmful) rituals. Where on one hand, every citizen of India is free to choose his religion, on the other hand, it is important that the individual reaches an age where he can make this choice.