The demand by some teachers of Mangalore University for the withdrawal of U.R. Anantha Murthy‘s novel Samskara from the Hindi syllabus because the explicit details of the relationship of the central character in the book, Praneshacharya, with Chandri were difficult to teach in co-ed classrooms, raises the usual questions: are the floodgates of fundamentalism closing in on our minds? Are we increasingly becoming incapable of confronting the uncomfortable, of distinguishing fact from fiction? Is the rise of right-wing Hindu fundamentalism pushing the land of Kama Sutra back towards Victorian squeamishness?
Samskara (A rite for a dead man) was written in the year of the lord 1965. That Mangalore University’s “dons” should find trouble with it in the year of the lord 2008 tells its own story. The teachers claim women lecturers especially find it embarrassing to teach from the book because it has references to breasts on at least 19 pages. Their target audience? Not kindergarten kids but undergraduates in the fourth semester (second year) of their courses. If they haven’t flunked a single year, these students should be 19 or 20-year-olds. At an age when they are allowed to vote, drink alcohol, drive cars and if they are girls, marry, are they incapable of hearing about the birds, bees and breasts, howsoever explicitly?
Questions: Is a subjective accusation of “too much of vulgarity” reason enough to ban a classic from the classroom? Why are Mangalore University teachers finding trouble with Samskara 43 years after it was published when other Universities and teachers don’t seem to be having too much trouble with it? Should not even adult students be exposed to “sex education” of the novel kind in the classroom? Or is caste an issue here? Is URA who exhibits left-wing tendencies being conveniently made an academic scapegoat? Is the problem about Samskara not with students but with fossilised teachers using their academic credentials to play politics?
Also read: The U.R. Anantha Murthy interview