The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Jan 10, 2013


The boy's been much taken with Hindu mythology. Everyday he comes up with a new question. 'Why did Vishnu push Mahabali into the ground if Mahabali was a good king?' he asks. 'Was Jarasandha alive when he was born in two halves?' he wants to know. 'Who was Krishna's last wife?' he asks upon hearing of his 18,000 brides.

He has been devouring Amar Chitra Katha comics in his quest for complete knowledge of desi myth. Unlike his father who - from youth to this day - is singularly unimpressionable (some might say thick) - the boy is quick to notice and is keen in his sense of nuance. He observed, for example, that all the gods and heroes in the comics are fair, radiant, good-looking, while the asuras and villains are all dark, swarthy, moustachioed, pot-bellied and ugly.

A few weeks ago he said he wished he were a deva. He wanted to be a god of invisibility and speed, he said. He wanted to be white, he added.

I explained that skin colour was unimportant. 

'Why are the villains are all dark in the comic, then?" he said.

Those fools at Amar Chitra Katha have much to answer for. Edition after edition has appeared over the years, and the pillocks have not had the sense to change their colour biases.

'Because the cartoonists at Amar Chitra Katha are idiots who think that 'fair' is good and 'dark' is bad,' I said. 'You shouldn't believe everything you see.'

'Okay,' said the boy. 

Clearly, he was not entirely convinced.

Today I walked with him to school. On the way he asked about Ghatotkacha. I told him about Bhima and the rakshasi Hidimbi.

'Was she dark?' said the boy.

'Why?' said I.

'That is disgusting,' he said.

'Why?' said I.

'Because she might be drooling and all that. Yuck,' said the boy.

'Is she disgusting because she is dark?' I said.

'Yes,' said the boy.

'But we are dark - are you saying we are disgusting?' I said.

'No, acha,' said the boy. 'We are humans. Dark rakshasas are disgusting.'

If I weren't getting angrier and angrier, I might have appreciated his chutzpah here.

'So a fair rakshasa is not disgusting?' I said.

'No,' he said.

'Why do you think dark is ugly?' I said.

'It is complicated,' he said.

'No, it is not,' I said, positively livid by now. 

'It may not be complicated for you, acha,' said the boy, 'But it is complicated for me.'

I am sorry to say that I lost it at this point. I did not handle this well. I raved and I spluttered. I ranted and I choked.

A ten minute walk to school is hardly the occasion to be engaging in a delicate discussion of racism and biases and the like, and my explosion can't have served to convey any useful teaching moment at all.

The boy cringed at first, and then shouted, 'It is complicated, okay?'

Then he looked at my face and calmed down at once.

'Just tell me what happened to Ghatotkacha,' he said softly.

'What do you think happened?' I snapped. 'He was dark, ugly, fought in the war, and died.'

He looked a tad worried that I was still shaking with fury. Is sarcasm wasted on a seven year old? 

When we got to school, he said, 'Bye' and went in without a backward look.

[Happy new year, all.]


Space Bar said...

Oh no. ACKs really do have a lot to answer for...but maybe give him some of the Kerala hero stories? Can't remember which ones, offhand. They're dark and heroes.

Also maybe point out that all the fair people did a lot of horrible things - devas cheating the asuras out of amrit etc etc?

(And I'm sure it *is* complicated for him, because he's noticed it. We never did - just assumed we already *were* the fair deva types?)

Fëanor said...

SB: that's not a bad idea, re: Kerala heroes. But those are historical rather than mythological, so at the moment may not be of interest to the boy. I have pointed out the treachery of random gods to little avail - I suspect the boy's disdain is totally based on appearance rather than behaviour. As for it being complicated, I'm not really sure I agree - when I was his age and reading this stuff, I was living in Moscow, and skin colour was completely irrelevant for me. If my classmates did call me 'black', I'd protest, but only because I thought they were inaccurate, using the wrong colour. I'm brown, I'd say.

Abi said...

Welcome to the family of ruined-by-ACK fathers!

Whenever I read an ACK-induced sad story, I head for this. YMMV.

Maddy said...

perhaps you should give him a taste of these.. after you read them, of course.

Maddy said...
wrong second link

Feanor said...

Abi: thanks for that link!

Maddy: hmm, I might have to wait a year or three before I get into the nitty gritty of Rama coveting Surpanakha and passing her along like a kerchief to his brother, and all those side stories. Nice side stories, though!

amar said...

Why did Rama sneak behind a tree to shoot Vali? :)

not very helpful

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