I'm very happy that AK Ramanujan's essay on the Ramayana has been dropped from the history syllabus at Delhi University. The fellow was corrupting the minds of our impressionable youth, with all that talk of 300 versions of our national epic. Imagine the poor kids having to swot 300 versions - the strain it would put on their brains would be intolerable. Worse, the social fabric of this country would have unravelled and next thing you know, people may start questioning the very existence of the monkey army or the demon king's ten heads. It's a fate too horrible to contemplate.
But does our education minister know of equally appalling stuff lurking in our children's books? Is he aware of the rot in our kindergartens?
Consider, for example, the nursery rhyme about the three blind mice. It's a putrid tale that mocks three visually challenged rodents who take a shine to a murderous farmer's wife, who hacks off their tails gruesomely with a carving knife. Why? Cannot mice aspire to a farmer's wife? And if she doesn't like them, surely she should reason with them rather than maim them for life? This rhyme is obviously anti-non-violent and therefore anti-Indian, apart from hurting the feelings of mice. Instead, I suggest the following ditty:
Three visually challenged rodents/
See how they woo/
They all wooed the agriculturist's wife/
Who told them all to get a life/
Three visually challenged rodents.
I would also request the education minister to look at so-called fairy tales, which routinely send unacceptable messages to our kids. Take, for instance, the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Is she not aware that red is the colour of revolution and, worse still, of communism? The first thing to do, therefore, is to change the colour of her hood, preferably to a safe saffron.
In the story, Little Saffron Riding Hood's grandmother gets eaten by a wolf and she almost gets eaten herself before a woodcutter comes to her rescue. But why is Saffron Riding Hood shown to be so feeble? Isn't this the land of Rani Laxmibai? The story is anti-feminist. It's also anti-animal rights, for why is the wolf shown to be so bloodthirsty? Where is Maneka Gandhi when we need her?
I suggest the story should feature Little Saffron Riding Hood, her grandmother and the wolf all ganging up and eating the woodcutter instead. Being a mere male whose ancestors oppressed women and animals for centuries, and that too a male who cuts down helpless trees, he deserves to be killed and eaten.
There's also so much obscene stuff in children's books I have to hang my head in shame. Take Georgie Porgie, who kissed the girls and made them cry. In this day and age, this preference for heterosexual kissing is an insult to all those of a different sexual orientation. The rhyme should be amended to read:
Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie/
Hated girls who made him cry/
When the boys came out to play/
He kissed them all 'coz he was gay.
There's lots of other objectionable material. Why should Peter the pumpkin eater keep his wife in a pumpkin shell? It is derogatory to women as well as pumpkin-eaters. The display of blatant nudity in The Emperor's New Clothes is in very bad taste.
And finally, the education minister must answer why, when the princess kissed the Frog Prince, she did not check out his gotra first.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint. The views expressed by the author are personal.