Jack is in a severe crisis as a story teller, father and husband. Jo is growing up and is into ‘reality phase’ where his fairy tales fall flat before her logic. She turns out to be a challenge to Jack’s beliefs. He cannot end the story with the wizard hitting the mommy back on its head. To change his narrative is to change the way his belief system is, how or what he has been all these years. The tale that he narrates inseparably reflects his identity, beliefs, ideology etc. It contains memories of his childhood humiliations, the times with his mother etc. He tries to impose upon Jo his perceptions and beliefs. With his rigid ideas of gender and gender roles, he finds even his daughter a threat to his male ego as he never likes ‘women taking him for granted’. How can he narrate a new story when he felt ‘empty in his head’? How can he create characters against his nature? How can he change his narrative against his smug convictions? Jack is a story teller without a story. He sits vain before his effervescent, curious listener who can no more be fobbed off by his outdated ideas. He feels his authority as the story teller has been questioned beyond repair. To bring a transformation to the story, he needs to transform himself, he needs to open up to new narratives.

If Jack is a conventional, conformist reader, Jo is the defiant, tenacious, progressive reader who poses logical questions on the text presented (here the fairy tale). She doesn’t want to know the intentions of the creator of the story but is focused on the story narrated. She tries to find gaps in the narrative by her simple and intelligent questions. Jack like the character in Robert Frost’s ‘Mending Wall’ keeps mending the gaps whereas Jo exposes the futility of it. Jo believes in the freedom of the reader who gives meaning to a narrative. She doesn’t feel convinced at all about the mommy’s hostile reaction to the fragrant makeover of Roger Skunk. And Jack fails to convince her and therefore tries to suppress her questions. The debate between the two readers(Jack and Jo) goes on.

Jack’s authority as a father and husband is also at stake. As a father he is unable to make his daughter obey him. Jack lacks the smart skills of parenthood. He doesn’t know how to equip himself to satisfy the curiosity of his growing daughter. He is adamant in his opinions and beliefs and thus creates the age old generation gap. Generation gap is the inability of a generation to adapt to changes. Even after Jack narrates the story, he finds Jo awake. Jack’s sight of his wife wearing his shirt on her maternity smock shudders him as she does the work expected of him without waiting upon him. (Jack always liked women apprehensive….) The shirt on the maternity smock is symbolic of the gender role shifts which leaves Jack like conservatives confused in a patriarchal institution called family. Jack, who considers himself the authority of that institution, finds himself helpless before the fresh challenges his daughter and wife throw at him. She is pregnant again which reminds Jack that he is merely biologically productive. He is undoubtedly in an ugly middle position.

Jack’s crisis can have parallels in all social and cultural spaces and discourses. For example, teachers and classroom. The classrooms, the system and students have undergone tremendous changes. The teachers with conservative approach fail to appreciate the neo leaner-centered pedagogy and adapt in the techno-savvy, activity-oriented, constructivist class room interaction. Jack like teachers who hardly update are going to be outdated before a vibrant group who can shake their value system, principles and methodologies with their impassive and utilitarian outlook. Our institutions are in a serious evolutionary crisis and those who make strenuous efforts in finding creative solutions alone can survive. It is the ‘baag bahadur’ situation everywhere.

Should Wizard Hit Mommy? The title itself opens up a debate- the Jack and Jo debate. Those who say YES are with Jo who doesn’t find anything wrong in the creature’s need to transform itself from a stinky Skunk to a rose-smelling one. Those who say NO are with Jack who strongly support the mommy’s resistance against the transformation. Jack is authoritarian, unwilling to change and also subtly defensive of his own mother. The mommy can be called right in her decision as she fights a lone battle against a system that propagates cosmetic changes in an individual to be accepted. She strongly feels that one shouldn’t sacrifice one’s identity for acceptance. We should let others accept the way we are and not become what others want us to be. She is the crusader of a marginalized voice rebelling against the mainstream demands and decisions. She fights against the discrimination in the name of colour, smell, appearance etc. She questions the politics of beauty, culture and personality hitting hard on the wizard-led cosmetic industry. Just as culture is a plural reality, beauty also is. But the so called mainstream has marginalized this plurality and is constructing a singular edifice of beauty, culture, acceptance etc. The story is a debate between the mainstream and the marginalized, the plural and the singular.

There is no single answer to the titular question. But one thing is true, productive debates are the stepping stones to a progressive society. Let the debate and the dialogue continue without compromise. Let plural voices flourish.

-By Santhosh Kana