Hinduism is worth defending and preserving but anti-Hinduism is very real, but how much of it means anything to our children?
When I posted the first part of this essay on my Facebook wall a few days ago, I realized that it resonated with my friends deeply. Some of my friends responded with insightful, and often moving comments, on what is happening. I begin with a couple of very illumination observations.
This has been an issue bothering me for a while. Why are Hindu youth so easily subverted? They have no psychic defences against propaganda which teaches them to hate their culture and religion. Six months in a liberal course and most of them are corrupted in spirit almost beyond redemption. The conversion is instant and there is not even a semblance of resistance. ... I have no idea how to counter this infection. What is lacking? Why are we so complicit in suicide? When young Hindus tell me I saved them from being a Hindu-hating liberal, naturally I feel good but inwardly my heart sinks. It took a random person on the internet to align your values correctly? Your family and education failed you to that ghastly extent? Hindus have stopped teaching children Why it is a good thing to be Hindu? Why it is legitimate to have pride in being a Hindu? So when the opposite propaganda comes at them they have no defences at all.
I will say this - the thing that saved me from anti-Hindu colonisation by the media and by wokespeak was my reverence for my parents - their love and wisdom and care and patience with me. No matter how articulately I argued with them, they kept patiently pointing towards the truth while holding me in their hearts. No matter what, I could not bring myself to cross that line of love and reverence for them, and that ended up being my anchor. I owe everything to them. If I have clarity now, it was because they sang me awake from my righteous slumber.
From these two comments made by friends whose views I immensely respect, I believe we can tease out two things: one, the alarming - why are children raised with no defenses against propaganda at all? and two, the hopeful - we, those of us who are not bamboozled into silent acceptance of the hate that exists against us, are grateful - to our parents most of all.
The key question now is this: do we, those of us who are parents or adults now, have it in us to "sing the next generation awake from their righteous slumber"? Do we have the knowledge, skills, and love, most of all, to do it?
Interestingly, at least two of my friends made somewhat pessimistic observations independently of my post just a few days ago. Marut Mitra, who writes with passion and knowledge on traditional knowledge, parenting and the need for educational revolution, posted that one might as well give up on children born in the early 2000s and focus on those born in 2020! Someone quoted Sandeep Balakrishna a few days ago urging teenagers today to forget about talking to their parents – because they know so little about things "native" anyway - and reconnect strongly with grandparents.
I think there is urgency about where it’s all headed, and we are sensing it.
I think it's easy to think of intergenerational issues as some general concern across space and time…something on the lines of, ‘oh, it is okay if the kids rebel a bit. We did that too when we were young and maybe our parents too when they were young, after all every generation worries about the next,’ etc. But that is only partially true. The more obvious and harsh reality is that we have a very historically specific problem. The “rebellion” of say, the generation that grew up in the 1950s and hung out with some Devadasu-Chalam type characters a bit in college is very different from the ‘rebellion’ of those in college today. One was about personal habits, the other about coercing others in alignment with an imperialism disguised as underdog protest.
We must note that the present generation of parents in India is also the first generation of Indians to out-earn their parent. They are starting to face the results of their parenting now as their own kids go off to college. In the immigrant American Hindu community, it's more of the same - more and more cohorts of ‘FOB’ (Fresh off the Boat) parents teaching their kids to either abandon tradition seeing it as an impediment before material success - or making unrealistic and dogmatic demands of them to demonstrate both material success and showcase rootedness in Bharatiyata while in America.
But in both cases, the emphasis is on one thing only. It’s the Spelling Bee Champion – MNC CEO path to glory, with Hinduism hanging around at best as a personal stress buster on that path. I acknowledge that we do take our children to temples and weekend Bala Vihar/Bala Vikas classes in America, but these invariably get relegated, often by parents, as children reach college age, and only a small part of post-college American Hindu youth are seen anymore in temples, except perhaps in the case of one or two sects.
From all of these observations, it seems that we are slowly coming to recognise a couple of things: those of us who are of parenting ashrama stage, say in our 30s-50s, have not fully comprehended the nature of power as it affects our children today, and specifically the nature of the stories through which power operates.
Before I unpack this, I will just acknowledge that the earlier batch of parents - our parents - deserve a lot of praise for showing us a bit of truth, love, and Sanatana Dharma in form and spirit so that we now have the resources and rationale to put up a fight. Maybe the nature and tools of propaganda that our generation faced in the 1980s growing up was less pernicious, and maybe our parents were themselves a lot more rooted and clear, standing for some things even if they were pushing us superficially into engineering careers and such. To use a sociological notion, they 'reproduced' the resistance even if they were seemingly all conformist and nose to the ground. We woke up, sooner or later, to the big picture, and put it together from here and there, Gurus, Elders, earlier generations of writers and activists, and now the many social media warriors too.
But the big question for us - you, me, and concerned Hindu parents in our 30s-50s is this: we have an understanding now that Hinduism is worth defending and preserving and also that anti-Hinduism is very real, but how much of it means anything to our children? Are they going to relate to even a bit of our concern, or are they going to politely and silently stew in what they really view as your ‘Brahminical Islamophobic’ rants and hatred? How long before you are denounced by your own kids for your Internet Kshatriya heroics? Will you find that acceptable and say, ‘we have done our duty and brought them up and helped them get into Ivy Leagues and MNCs so now their karma is theirs and mine is mine’? Are you sure it will even be just as simple as that?
To be continued