Early one morning a few days back, I got frantic messages on my phone from the mother of a ten-year-old girl. The issue in hand was that the little one who suffers from Celiac disease had gobbled up a whole big packet of wheat biscuits and two packets of cake the night before!
Those of you who do not know what Celiac disease is may just laugh out loud on the gluttony of the little girl. However, binge-eating is not the issue here. People with Celiac are gluten allergic. So they need to refrain from consuming those foodstuffs containing gluten, wheat being the chief gluten consisting ingredient. Consequently, the range of food items is much-restricted for them.
After painstakingly preparing all delicacies with gluten-free ingredients every day over and above the family’s normal menu and ensuring that her daughter doesn’t miss out on anything, the mother was understandably aghast at her daughter’s doing. And, what did the little one have to say about it all?
Mummy, I was so frustrated being tied down to dietary constraints for the last ten years, that I just thought to flout them and see what it is like to be able to eat normal food which everyone else eats!!
The explanation was, of course, no consolation to the mother who was desperately praying that allergic reactions should not surface!
Ask diabetics how easily they adhere to sweet and carbs restrictions, and there’ll be endless stories for you to savour!
Restrictions limit us from doing what we so feel to do, but should not/are not allowed to do for certain purposes.
I categorise restrictions into the following types –
The first category of restrictions that come to mind is the restrictions put in place by the Divine Lawmaker. The moral laws of the Divine Lawmaker are universal and absolute – with no space for relativism and slackness whatsoever. That is why making light of such restrictions is called nothing else, but sin.
You shall not steal.
You shall not covet others belongings.
You shall not kill.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not look at a woman/ man with a heart of lust.
You shall not dishonour or take the name of God in vain.
These are few of the many restrictions put in place for us humans by the Divine Lawmaker. Let me present the above-mentioned restrictions in reverse order. It would read somewhat like this –
You are free to steal.
You are free to covet and usurp other’s belongings.
You are free to kill.
You are free to be in an adulterous relationship.
You are free to lust after a woman/ man.
You are free to dishonour and take the name of God as frivolously as you feel to.
How do these sound?
Imagine a world with freedoms as the above!
The restrictions which God has put in place for mankind do not serve the purpose of portraying Him as an authoritarian theocrat but are wise prescriptions for peace and order among human beings on earth. The chaos we see all around in the world today is the result of careless disobedience, lack of adherence and deliberate non-cognizance of the divine restrictions.
The second broad category of restrictions is societal restrictions by the country/ society/ family. In the year 1999, Odisha (an east Indian state) was struck with a devastating super cyclone, the after-effects of which echo in some parts of the state even to this day. The casualties were very high, not to mention the loss of property. However, the state did not fail to learn its lesson from this heavy blow. Many cyclones have struck the state ever since, but with negligible human casualties, the reason being, the stringent imposition of restrictions by the administration – fishermen being debarred from venturing into the seas, timely evacuation of the inhabitants in low-lying areas, and many such well-thought-of restrictive measures.
Nevertheless, there are always a few people who resist these restrictions not wanting to leave their houses and livelihood for the sake of saving their lives. Imagine what would be the reality if these people were permitted to do as they wished without adhering to the restrictions!
Medical restrictions for people suffering from certain ailments, mobile phone usage restrictions during thunderstorms and lightning, lockdown movement restrictions, certain travel advisories comprise those in this category.
Ever been penalised for jumping red lights? A price to pay for making light of well-intended traffic restrictions!
The third category of restrictions that I can think of is self-imposed restrictions. These restrictions may or may not be aversive to the well-being of the individual and that of others. In his book My Experiments with Truth, Mahatma Gandhi writes of his self-imposed restriction arising from a firm conviction to abstain from consuming milk. Such a restrictive dietary regimen worked well for him to the end he wanted to achieve.
People switch to vegan or vegetarian diets, give up going to the theatre/ cinema, restrict themselves to wearing certain types of clothes only or restrict themselves from socialising with certain types of people. Such self-imposed restrictions are specific to specific people based on the life principles they wish to live by. Flouting these restrictions would result more in one’s own emotional and personal discomfort, rather than cause major repercussions for mankind at large.
The final category of restrictions is what I consider as forced restrictions. These are restrictions that are forced down the throats of people by significant others, with threats of dire consequences if flouted. One example that I can think of in the Indian context is caste restrictions. Though inter-caste mingling has seen a sea change over the years with many of the restrictions having been done away with (largely in urban areas), restrictions on inter-caste marriages persist invariably. These forced restrictions lead to loss of lives every other day in the name of honour killing – just because some young couple chose not to adhere to these restrictions that were forced on them by elders.
Certain families restrict women from holding jobs outside the house after marriage. In certain countries, women are restricted from venturing outdoors without a male accompanying them. In a certain country, women are prohibited from wearing make-up leading to a thriving smuggling industry for make-up products.
Forced restrictions, though not necessarily sinful are definitely detrimental for the mental health of individuals and pose threats to the development of a healthy society.
Whatever be the category of restrictions, if they are well-embraced by people they do not cause many inconveniences. However, if they give rise to rebellion, there remain consequences to bear.
What happened in the case of the little girl mentioned in the beginning of this article, was a slow build-up of a pressure cooker situation. When the pressure was too much for her reasoning and rebelling mind, the lid simply blew off making her do the unwanted irrespective of the consequences that lied ahead of her.
All we need is a prudent mind to discern which restrictions to adhere to and which restrictions to speak up/ go against hoping to bring out well-meaning progressive changes in the society and the in the world at large.