By Suma Varughese October 2012 Enjoying oneself and having fun is not anti-spiritual, says Suma Varughese The Sathe family was planning its Diwali holiday, a practice it had been following for the longest time. Every Diwali, it had decided to forsake the noise and pollution of the metro and head out to some quiet corner of the country and bring in Diwali in its own way. This time, the family was planning to go to Coorg, which none of them had ever visited. Dad’s friend, Nitin Covoor, had a small but beautiful coffee plantation and had offered to host them all. They would have the house fully to themselves as Nitin lived in Bangalore. It was going to be a luxurious holiday because the house was well-kept, and there were enough domestic staff to take care of their needs. “A break from cooking,” gloated Mom, as she helped everyone to second helpings of tehri, a North Indian pulao a friend had taught her, served with a tangy green chutney, crunchy papads and delicious potato and paneer cutlets. “You deserve it,” smiled Dad, who was looking forward eagerly to spending time in nature. “Let’s have as much fun as possible,’ said Avijit, busily planning the games they could play. “We must have lots of picnics and nature walks, Dad,” said Nisha, a nature buff herself. “There is a wildlife sanctuary close by that we must explore,” said Alka with shining eyes. Even Aji and Ajoba were excited. “How pleasant it will be to sit in the garden and listen to the song of birds and drink in the beauty of the place,” mused Ajoba. Aji was looking forward to meeting local villagers and listening to folk songs and tales, for which she had a passion. In fact she and Mom were coming out with a compilation of folk tales and a CD of traditional lullabies. Suddenly, Nisha looked up, a puzzled expression on her face. “Dad, is it sinful to have fun?” she asked. “Not at all,” said Dad decidedly. “What has put the idea in your head?” “Well, I was speaking with a friend of mine who said her parents never allowed her to watch movies or TV because they were sinful.” “My friend Kavita says her parents refuse to eat out because their religion forbids them to eat from outside the community,” chipped in Alka. “And you know, in St Anne’s, our convent school, it was always considered vaguely sinful to look pretty or to dress up,” added Nisha. “Come on, Dad, even you keep talking about transcending desires all the time,” said Avijit. “Kids, let us first address the concept of fun. There is nothing wrong with having fun. In fact, there is everything right about enjoying yourself and having a good time. When we are happy and enjoying ourselves and making others happy, I am confident it makes God happy. After all, we are His children and a parent loves to see his kids enjoying themselves. I can’t tell you how much joy it gives your mother and me to see you kids being happy and having fun with your friends.” Ajoba added, “The sight of little children playing innocently and unselfconsciously is such a source of joy even for us. How can it not be for our Maker?” “Or the sight of little puppies tumbling over each other in play, or little kittens playing with each other,” said Mom, feelingly.“To play is one of the most basic human instincts and we are extremely foolish not to give expression to it,” said Dad. “No matter how old animals are, they never lose their instinct to play.” “I will put a rider to this though,’ added Ajoba, ‘and say that one needs to define fun. Playing loud music late at night may be fun for you but not for those whose sleep you rob. Motor cycle races at night might seem great fun to those who participate in them, but they endanger the lives of the participants as well as others. Smoking, drinking, promiscuity can all seem fun but there is a huge price to pay. So the kind of fun we are talking about is fun that does not damage anyone and that only spreads joy!” “The other danger is that we might get addicted to our idea of fun, whether it is playing cricket, or cards,” said Dad, “and then it soon ceases to be fun!” “Where do movies and TV come into this?” wondered Nisha. “There can be no doubt that there are all kinds of movies and TV programmes and many of them convey the most pernicious of messages, but there are also absolutely beautiful films and shows that can inspire and delight and it would be a tragedy to miss out on them,” said Mom. “I think what is called for is a sense of discrimination,” said Dad. “Instead of banning TV or cinema, parents can teach children the right values and enable them to choose with care.” “I agree,” said Ajoba, “Banning and any kind of religious withholds do not work. They only suppress and push the need to indulge further down where they may fester and turn into an obsession.” “I agree. One needs to outgrow them instead,” said Dad. “Watch enough films and there comes the day when you are not drawn to them any more. Or eating non vegetarian food. Instead of suppressing the need for it, we simply consume then without guilt and with awareness until the need for it leaves our systems.When we can do this we have truly outgrown or transcended our desires. They will never come back to trouble us again. That is what I mean when I talk about transcending desires.” “My yoga teacher used to call it outgrowing your vasanas,” said Mom. Dad laughed, “Mom used to have quite a vasana for gold, but fortunately she is through with that phase now!” “Thanks to that we have enough gold put by for both the girls’ marriages,” retorted Mom spiritedly. “True,” mollified Dad. “So you get the picture, I hope. Good clean fun is to be fully enjoyed as that is when we are most childlike and innocent. But we need to define our sense of fun to make sure it does not have any adverse effects and if we do find ourselves too attached to them, then we free ourselves through awareness.” “Wow, that was some discussion on fun,” said Avijit. “How about a game of chess to put the principle into practice, Dad?” “You are on,” said Dad, rising from the table with a laugh.
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