The society and humankind has been painstakingly trained, through centuries, to be fascinated by black and white. This is irrespective of the fact that if human soul was to be assigned a color, it most definitely would have to be grey, neither black nor white. So deeply have we been prejudiced that black is associated with darkness, negativity and all things bad whereas white has been placed on the other end of the spectrum, signifying all that is good. Just in order to break this stereotypical association, even if only for the space of this article, whenever I talk about the negative extreme I would associate it with white and the positive extreme with black. However, the purpose of my writing here is not to talk about black and white but about the grey that lies in between and actually defines life, truth, reality, humankind and all existence.
In the Hindu religion, Rama and Krishna are considered as manifestations of God in the human form. Even the most devout of followers of Lord Rama are not able to convincingly defend the actions of the Lord in dismissing his pregnant wife into exile, on grounds of suspicion on her character by a few residents of Ayodhya, for having been abducted by King Raavan of Lanka and having to stay in Lanka for a year. So much so, that sage Tulsidas who has composed Ramcharitamanas, his version of the Ramayana, has chosen to completely ignore this episode in the life of his most revered and loved Lord, for he could not associate this with the Lord.
Coming to Lord Krishna, his philosophy of life, his teachings and his own personal life, are non-contestable testimonies of the ambiguities and the grey areas that exist in life. Not even the staunchest of believers could justify the conduct of the Pandavas, led by Yudhishthir, in pawning his wife, and yet Lord Krishna decidedly supports the Pandavas in the Kurukshetra fight.
The above are only just examples from these two epics. There are many more that can be quoted to prove that black and white are not the colours that define humankind, but grey does. Even the colour of the soul of the Gods, in their human manifestations, was grey. Even they could-not accord to themselves any other colour of existence, in order to be true to their human forms.
If the above is true, if only grey is real, it would mean that the world would have to agree on the principle of existence of multitudinous perspectives, of varied possibilities, of diverse opinions, of multiple interpretations, all of them as plausible as the other. It would mean the existence of an exciting world of ideas and opportunities that would cherish and relish the lively debates and discussions that would have to be the norm.
I recently read the interpretation of Mahabharata by Ananda Neelkanthan. He has beautifully depicted the great saga from the perspective of the vanquished and the vile. His interpretation lays bare the heart and soul of Suyodhana (known to the world as Duryodhana), and forces us to question our entrenched beliefs about right and wrong, about good and bad, about black and white. It turns our moralities upside down and yet again forces us to acknowledge the truth of Grey.
I also just finished reading a book titled ‘Mr. and Mrs. Jinnah’, throwing valuable light on the almost never discussed personal life of the much reviled (in India) Mohammad Ali Jinnah. It again had the same impact on me.
In any situation, whenever I have tried to dig deeper into things, tried to break down and get to the basics, I have always felt this deep inability to judge, to label, and most importantly, to hate. I have felt my worldview broadening and my deeply entrenched beliefs and prejudices losing their foothold.
Why is it that I have had to wait for three decades of my life to just roll by, before I was able to experience this intellectual excitement in my life? Possibly because those that wield power can continue to wield power only if they perpetuate a world of ignorance. A world where only one dominant perspective is allowed to exist and all others our either actively crushed or passively ignored. So, it was decided that the education system that had the power to turn around the world would be universally tamed. If knowledge was power, then all attempts would be made to concentrate this power in as fewer hands as possible.
And so, children will never be exposed to Anand Neelkanthan’s version of Mahabharata, whenever they are being told about this epic. They will never be encouraged to read into the human being that Jinnah was, when they are being taught (in India) that he was solely responsible for the partition of our great land. They will be nurtured and fed with lopsided one single dominant perspective and will be told that this is the ultimate truth.
The possibility of a more just, peaceful and harmonious co-existence of human beings is being nipped in the bud at every moment. The recognition of ‘The Power of Grey’ is the only thing that can save the world from hatred, death and destruction. Is anyone interested though, is the real question
Nivedita Dwivedi has done MA in Elementary Education from Tata Institute of Social Sciences.