Taking clues from the title you may be expecting a serious article on "Hinduism", Ram Janma Bhoomi issue or BJP & the politics involved. If so, you are in for a surprise because I am about to tell you a funny story from my childhood which even today makes me laugh each time I think about it. On a serious note, the incident also highlights the impact of television media on children's perceptions. The thought of writing this article came to my mind, when I went to my Buaa ji's place this Diwali and saw my nephews watching Cartoon Network showing animated versions of Indian mythological stories (Chhota Bhim, Krishna etc.)
I distinctly remember that every Sunday, Ramayan used to be aired on Doordarshan around at 10:00 am. My family used to stay in a small town called "Kurara" that time and we used to stay in a small two room set on the roof of a "Daal mill". On Sunday all workers of the mill will come to our house to watch Ramayana. My mom will ensure that we had taken a bath before 10:00 am. 10-15 minutes before the Ramayana, everyone will do a small "Aarti" in front of the black and white Onida TV set and then everyone will say in unison, "Jai Shree Raam". (A tangential thought comes to my mind that if Ramayana was never screened on Doordarshan, would Ram Janma Bhoomi Aandolan of BJP have got the same support from Hindu section of the Indian society?)
When Ramayana used to be aired, it would seem as life in the town had come to a standstill. The streets would become empty. I remember my mother used to tell me mythological stories before sleep. We used to make bows and arrows of plywood, Bamboos and used them as toys. I would play character of Laxman, another friend of mine will become Ram. We would go and hunt Ravan and Rakshas Sena (Demon Army) then. I was in class 4th then.
Once day, my mom and dad had to go somewhere for some work. I and my sister were left at home. We were given one rupee each. But the doors of the mill were closed from all the sides and we were locked inside. We had two big roofs (each around 7200 square feet big in area) at our disposal to play whatever game we wanted. But I desperately wanted to eat a toffee called "Swaad", which was very popular back then. It did not use to be sweet but had a different taste which would make your eyes pop out of their sockets and corrode the upper surface of your palate.
What do I do? I was locked. So I decided to use my lateral thinking or creativity whatever you term it as and decided to jump from the roof. The height of the roof must have been around 40 feet. It may sound suicidal now but I had a logic supporting my idea of jumping from the roof!!! At one side on the ground, there were many heaps of river sand. I thought, it will serve as enough cushion for me. My sister, who is one year younger to me, started crying as soon she figured out what I was about to do. She tried to hold me back but I was physically stronger than her, therefore her attempts were unsuccessful. As I reached near the edge to jump, I became terrified looking at the distance of the ground and decided to discard the idea of jumping and rather wait for my parents to return. But then this friend who used to play "Raam" came there and asked what I was planning to do. After hearing my he said that, "you say 'Jai Shree Raam' loudly before you jump and nothing will happen to you". I told him that it is not going to be helpful. He tried to convince me that Lord Rama will definitely protect me and for a moment I also believed him. And then as an obedient brother "Laxman" to my brother "Raam" (in this case my friend), I jumped from the roof shouting "Jai Shree Raam" loudly. I still remember the moments when I was in the air. I remember to have thought about Newton and his apple of enlightenment. And I also remember the pain after I had reached the ground on my back. As it turned out since it had rained two days ago, the sand had become hard. This was something I had not considered. Still sand served as a minor cushion and I had only minor injuries. I was lying there still for 5-6 minutes and then tried to get myself up. My back was aching but temptation of buying a "Swaad" had not ended yet. I went to the nearest shopkeeper bought a "Swaad". My nose was bleeding and the shopkeeper asked me to lie down. By then my parents had returned and my sister had told them the full story. They came running to the shopkeeper's house and then took me to a doctor.
There were only minor injuries and next day I was able to go to school. But everyone at school had come to know about my adventure in advance and I had become a common subject to mockery. When in my class my teacher asked about the incident, I had to twist the description of the incident by mentioning that my sister had pushed me by mistake and therefore I fell from the roof.
But today when I think about this incident, I think that for a moment I believed what my friend said, that Lord Rama will definitely protect me. Even today when someone asks me even if I have ever told lies in my life, I always remember about what I told to my teacher about my sister pushing me off the edge of the roof. Even while I was filling forms for some MBA entrance interviews, I thought about this story multiple numbers of times. It may sound funny today but watching "Ramayana" on Doordarshan had impacted me a great deal.
This Diwali, when I saw my two year old nephew watching mythological series on Cartoon Network (CN) in animated form, with Lord Krishna flying and fighting Demons(As I heard from my cousin who told me that they are crazy about these episodes), I wondered how it would impact him. In Doordarshan days, these demons were shown mostly in human form, though very big in size with magical powers. But now Demons were mostly in anthropomorphic form with faces of wolves etc. Animation has opened multiple possibilities in portrayal of mythological stories. I am sure with kids getting more access to television than ever; a more pronounced imagery the impact will be even more on children. I am not suggesting that they will do anything as silly as I did. It is also necessary to mention that I was also impacted in a very positive manner by the mythological stories. They were my first reference to relationships in a family, moral code of the society, perfection of a human and even politics. I am sure these children will also be impacted positively by it. But it will be interesting to see, how it helps to shape their perception about various things in life because I am hundred percent sure about one thing that It will definitely have a role in it. On the finishing note, I wonder if today's children will be subject to an information overload by television and if their perceptions about things will be more flexible than ours.