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Book Review: Calcutta on Your Plate by Nilosree Biswas

Nilosree Biswas’s Calcutta on Your Plate documents the rich food history of modern day Kolkata, noting the foreign influences on the cuisine.

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Calcutta on Your Plate

The reading community surely has two sides – fiction and non-fiction. I happen to belong to the side where we only read fiction for non-fiction lacks the taste of sheer delightfulness. To contradict my bubble, I recently came across Nilosree Biswas’s Calcutta on Your Plate. To my surprise, the only thing I knew about the book was that it is about everyone’s common interest – food!

Food has long been the central element of bringing people together from lands apart and diverse communities. Calcutta on Your Plate is one such book that travels down the Bengali memories and the city’s lanes to talk about how Bengali cuisine evolved over 340 years. 

Nilosree Biswas, in her book, Calcutta on Your Plate, presents her exploration of the rich and diverse culinary history of Calcutta (modern-day Kolkata). She divides her book into four sections – Charnock, Muddy Tracts and the Old Cotton Market, Turtles Dressed, ‘Gentlemen Boarded’, Guava Jelly, or the Good Housekeeper Code and Tangerine Realities. 

Calcutta on Your Plate: Plot

Biswas traces back the gastronomical journey to 1545-47. This was when Chandimangal Kaby, a Bengali littérateur, described the everyday life of lower-caste hunter-gatherers. Biswas goes over the geographical conditions of Calcutta that provide rich yields of rice, fresh fish, vegetables, and milk. This fertile land is the primary reason behind the culinary advancements. 

Biswas acknowledges that the majority of urban development in India was at the hands of British imperialism. However, the food of Calcutta had many contributors. Before the East India Company, there were Portuguese, the Dutch, the Armenians, the Afghans, and the Chinese. All of them combined over the long span of years to create the cuisine of the city. Biswas mentions that the book tells the story of Calcutta’s food. However, the story is not linear but rather explores how multifarious factors played their part in creating food tastes.

She highlights the convergence of indigenous food habits with foreign influences, showcasing the impact of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah’s entourage on Awadhi cuisine in 1856. The book also brings forth the vast confluence of culinary traditions that resulted in an eclectic and vibrant foodscape. This was continuously enriched by talented cooks, entrepreneurs, and enlightened Bengali women who experimented with the diverse array of dishes.

The book explores the gastronomic opulence of the Baboos, the elite Bengalis, emphasizing their eagerness to embrace foreign dishes and integrate them into their lavish tables. It provides a comprehensive account of Calcutta’s snacking habits. Biswas highlights how the British delights blended with local favorites, accompanied by the rising popularity of tea in the late 19th century.

Women and Caste

Most importantly, The book recognizes the vital role played by women in shaping Calcutta’s culinary identity. At the same time, it also touches upon how women used this advantage to liberate themselves from the clutches of patriarchy. Bengalis started educating the women of the community as these women had a great impact on recipe books. This eventually led them to write about their lives and experiment with diverse dishes. Cookbooks included India’s first by Bipradas Mukhopadhyay and later ones by women like Pragyasundari Devi. These became instrumental in disseminating recipes and fostering culinary innovation.

Additionally, the book does not depart from not acknowledging how important caste shaped the society. It presents food as a political subject. Food politics is widely recognized by scholars who have researched caste while at the same time, it is also neglected. Biswas holds caste as an important factor in revealing the social growth and food habits of all sections of society.

Calcutta on Your Plate by Nilosree Biswas becomes a heavenly piece for those who are literature geeks and food enthusiasts. It unravels the history of the smallest parts of our daily food habits and connects us back to the unknown origins. Irfan Nabi’s photographs of the delightful meals served on almost every street today in Calcutta will make you relish the book and leave you mouthwatering with the popular Bengali dishes. 


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Motor development in children 

Motor Development occurs overtime right from infancy. Understand the milestones of motor skills, factors influencing it and its types.

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Motor Development, skills, child, muscles, movement

Motor skills are the abilities required to control and coordinate the muscles and movements of the body. It essentially involves the use of different muscles required to move about and perform daily activities. It is required for daily functioning and develops over time right from infancy. It is divided into two main types– Gross motor skills and Fine motor skills, these are classified based on the group of muscles used to coordinate movements. Motor skills are crucial for a child’s overall development, impacting their ability to perform everyday tasks, engage in physical activities, and interact with their environment. They are also linked to cognitive development, as coordination and motor planning can influence problem-solving and other cognitive processes. Developing strong motor skills in early childhood sets the stage for successful participation in school activities, sports, and social interactions. Furthermore, early intervention and support for motor skill development can help identify and address potential developmental delays, ensuring children reach their full potential.

Gross motor skills

Gross motor skills involve the use of the large muscle groups which are responsible for large movements. They help in coordinating movements involved in tasks like climbing, running, throwing and catching a ball, overall body control and many more. The important gross motor skills developed over time are: 

  1. Newborn to 2 months: Turns head to both sides while on back; Able to turn head to both sides while on belly
  2. 3-4 months: Rolls from belly to back; Raises head while in the trunk when pulled to sit
  3. 5 months: Rolls from back to belly; Brings foot to mouth laying on back
  4. 6-8 months: Crawls on belly; Sits alone
  5. 9-11 months: Walks with two hands held; Moves between lying down and sitting upright without help 
  6. 11-12 months: Stands alone for a few seconds; Walks with one hand held
  7. 13-14 months: Walks alone well; Crawls upstairs
  8. 15-18 months: Kicks a ball forward; Can run, though falls easily
  9. 2 years: Walks and runs fairly well; Jumps in place with both feet off the ground
  10. 3 years: Balance on one foot for a few seconds; Rides a tricycle
  11. 4 years: Hops well; Can run, jump and climb well

  While this is a guide to understanding the different milestones that a child reaches, there can be variations that occur throughout achieving them. However it is also important to note that a large variation may lead to the parents’ intervention to ensure these milestones are achieved. Some of the activities that can enhance gross motor function in children are:

  • Physical activities: Many physical activities like running, walking, climbing, and many more help in strengthening the use of larger muscles which in turn help in enhancing the gross motor skills accordingly. While concentrating on physical activities, children can also channel their energy into these activities.
  • Play-based activities: Activities like playing with different variations of balls, tug-of-war, playing with bubbles, obstacle races and much more help in activating the large muscle groups.
  • Everyday activities: Errand running which is as simple as helping set the table, and walking the dog helps in the coordination of large muscle groups, especially the hand-arm and hand-eye coordination. These activities help the child to also develop cognitive skills like problem-solving and reasoning.

Fine motor skills

Fine motor skills involve the use of smaller muscle groups, particularly those in the fingers and hands, to perform precise and coordinated movements. Examples of fine motor skills include typing, holding the spoon, cutting with scissors, tying shoelaces and many more intricate tasks. Important fine motor skills developed over time are:

  1. Newborn-3 months: Grasp reflex (involuntary grasping of things in the hands), bringing hands to mouth
  2. 3-6 months: Briefly holds a toy like a rattle; Follows objects with eyes on all directions
  3. 6-9 months: Transfers objects from one hand to another; Brings toys to mouth
  4. 9-12 months: Stacking of blocks; Releases object voluntarily
  5. 12-18 months: Scribbles with a crayon; Put objects into containers
  6. 2 years: Turns pages of books one at a time; Puts rings on a ring stacker
  7. 3 years: Able to stack things on thread (making a necklace); Beginning with scissor skills 
  8. 4 years: Able to do simple puzzles; Can cut shapes with scissors

  As mentioned above, several variations in achieving the milestones may occur based on several factors that influence the children. But at the same time, major variations may need parental intervention to enhance the ability of the children accordingly. A few of the activities that may help children enhance their fine motor skills are:

  • Art and Craft Activities: Many activities like drawing and colouring, painting, clay and play dough, stringing the beads and many more help in developing the muscles responsible for fine motor skills through finger and hand coordination. 
  • Writing and tracing: One of the most common methods where fine motor skills are used the most is through writing and tracing. While working through these tasks, finger-eye coordination, hand-finger coordination and fine muscles are used.
  • Play-based activities: Building with blocks, Puzzles, Board games and many such activities help in enhancing fine motor skills. They involve the movement through several fingers which increases the coordination and speed of moving the small pieces eventually. 

   Several factors also play a role in influencing motor development in children which may be biological, social or environmental. A few of these factors are:

  1. Genetic factors: Inherited traits like genetic makeup that may influence the muscle tone, movement, coordination and physical development of children and genetic disorders or conditions like Down syndrome or Cerebral Palsy can highly impact motor development.
  2. Environmental factors: Socioeconomic status and exposure to toxins at an early age may all contribute to the development of motor skills in children. Socioeconomic factors can majorly influence access to resources, nutritious food, and safe play environments.
  3. Parental and Caregiver influence: Positive influence, guidance, positive reinforcement and encouragement can motivate children to develop motor skills. Parental involvement and active participation in play and physical activities with children promote motor skill development. 
  4. Developmental disorders: Autism, Global developmental delay, ADHD and other developmental disorders affect the child’s motor functioning. To understand these challenges faced by the children, efforts to identify and manage the concerns can be initiated by the parents.

     Motor development is essential for every child to develop into a well-rounded and capable individual. From infancy through adolescence, the progression of their gross and fine motor skills allows them to navigate their environment, perform daily tasks and engage in play and learning activities. Factors such as genetics, environment and parental involvement significantly influence the development of motor skills. 

    Parents, educators and health care providers can ensure children reach their full potential by understanding and supporting motor development. Providing activities that enhance and encourage their development and learning, and addressing their developmental delay early on are essential steps in fostering a child’s motor skills.

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Dear Men, Your Mental Health Matters : Men’s Health Week

From Silence to Strength: Men’s Health Week fosters a culture of openness and support, helping men share their voices.

sherrylsanjaypal@gmail.com'

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Men's Health Week, Mental Health, men's mental health, silence, support, struggles

Every year, Men’s Health Week serves as a crucial reminder to focus on men’s mental health, physical health and well-being. We are encouraging them to address both physical and mental health issues. Traditionally, alot of sociocultural factors have influenced men to carry themselves only with strength and resilience, a lot of the time at the cost of their mental health. This week aims to challenge those norms and foster a culture where men feel comfortable discussing their mental health struggles.

Breaking the Silence

The stigma around mental health is pervasive, but it’s particularly unending among men. Cultural expectations have long dictated that men should be stoic and unemotional. As a result, many men suffer in silence. They constantly have the nagging feeling that admitting to emotional and mental health struggles would be seen as a sign of weakness. They are often not met kindly when they open up, or their struggles are frequently watered down or brushed off. This silence that they resort to can be detrimental, leading to feelings of isolation, worsening their mental and physical health and, in some cases, even suicide. According to the World Health Organization, suicide rates among men are significantly higher than among women.

Unspoken Struggles

Men’s mental health issues often go unrecognised and untreated. Depression and anxiety are present, but we must remember that these symptoms can present themselves differently in men. Instead of sadness or nervousness, they might experience anger, irritability or aggression. They might end up engaging in high-risk behaviours such as substance abuse or reckless activities as a coping mechanism. These unspoken struggles are often overlooked by the individuals experiencing them and those around them.

Workplace stress is a significant factor. The pressure to succeed and provide can be overwhelming, leading to burnout, anxiety and depression. Men might feel compelled to hide these struggles under the mask of reliability.

Relationship issues can also take a heavy toll on men’s mental health. Societal expectations for men to be the emotional rock can make it difficult for them to express vulnerability, even to their parents.

How Speaking Up Helped

When we spoke to a few men about their struggles and triumphs, they shared their experiences. Here’s what they had to say : 

“When I was a young adult, I had this habit of not being ready to have open conversations with people, especially the girl I was dating. She’d provide me with the space to talk, but I just would avoid it completely; that led me to do a few things I regret. I also realised that I was not being honest with myself. When I sat down one day and spoke to a friend of mine, he pointed out that we do not openly talk about our feelings even if given a safe space because we are not used to that; we’ve grown up with the notion that we are beings with just two emotions- Happiness and Anger, nothing else. It was only when I started talking to trusted people who I knew wouldn’t judge me that I realised how beneficial it was to open up and talk about issues you are facing and share them rather than let them stay inside. I did take a few sessions of therapy too that helped me learn how to process my feelings, and I am now learning to communicate and process my emotions and have conversations regardless of how difficult it might be” – shared by M.A.

“I think the biggest change I’ve made in terms of acknowledging my mental health was giving myself the freedom and liberty to feel and let out my emotions. It’s this thing right that “Men Dont cry”, “Men don’t get heartbroken”, and the famous “Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota” that is not true; we do, it’s just that we don’t talk about it because 1- we don’t have the freedom to as much as we’d like, 2- the fear of judgement, 3- Its not how we grew up, most of us grew up learning to not talk about our feelings and just either distract ourselves from it or deal with it in silence without anyone knowing. But as I grew up and watched “Rambo: First Blood”, there was this scene in the last where he breaks down to his colonel and tells whatever he’s going through for a while; it moved me to see him cry onscreen like that, not only because it was emotional but also because I related to him, especially the way he carried that pain in silence, I found myself crying as well watching that. That’s when I decided I would make it a point to allow myself the space and freedom to do so; I also have a good set of people I can rely on and share my feelings carefree. We, especially men, must do this.” – shared by S.A.F.

Here are a few documentaries and tedtalks on men opening up about their journey with mental health. Some of the content might be triggering , please see the disclaimer before watching them. We hope they are helpful and insightful for you<3.

The Role of Support Systems

Support systems play a crucial role in addressing men’s mental health. Family, friends and workplaces must create an environment where men feel safe to open up. Encouraging open dialogues about mental health can help dismantle the stigma. Mental Health initiatives in workplaces can provide resources and support for those struggling. Peer support groups can offer a platform for men to share their experiences and find solidarity with others facing similar challenges.

Healthcare providers must be vigilant; regular mental health screenings during medical appointments can help identify early. Providing resources and referrals to mental health professionals can ensure that men receive the necessary care. Telehealth services have also become increasingly important, offering a discreet and accessible way for men to seek help.

Promoting Positive Change

Education and awareness are vital to promoting positive change. Campaigns during Men’s Health Week can highlight the importance of mental health and encourage men to seek help without shame; personal stories and testimonials can be powerful tools in breaking down barriers, showing that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Media representation also matters. Positive portrayals of men seeking mental health support can normalise this behaviour and challenge outdated stereotypes. Celebrities like Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan and Varun Dhawan and public figures such Virat Kohli who speak openly about their mental health struggles can inspire others to do the same.

To Wrap It Up

Men’s Health Week is a pivotal opportunity to shift the narrative around men’s mental health. By creating a culture of openness and support, we can help men move from silence to strength, addressing their mental health issues without fear of stigma or judgment. It’s time to change the norms that have long dictated that men must be stoic and unfeeling. Instead, we must embrace a more compassionate approach, recognising that mental health is integral to overall well-being. By doing so, we can ensure that men receive the support and care they need, ultimately leading to healthier, happier lives.

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Child Labour: A Reality

Child labour is the most talked about issue in the world, but do you know what exactly it is and how we can try to prevent it?

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Child labour, children, kids, parents, schools

Aren’t there days when you just hate going to school? Remember those days when you just wish to stay back home and do nothing or start working at the nearby grocery store, as that seems better than going to school? But do you know the reality of those kids’ lives? What you take for granted, such as going to school, doing homework, meeting friends, etc. is something they can only dream of. Why? Because they just don’t have enough money or parents who think education is important to support them through it all. And hence, these kids are forced into what we know today as child labour.

What is child labour?

Child labour refers to an action or act in which children are deprived of their childhood. What does your childhood involve? Playing, doing homework, going to school, etc. The kids who are engaged in child labour don’t have access to all these things that you consider to be part of your childhood. Instead of going to school and growing up like you do, many kids are forced to do manual work, such as working at the construction site or at people’s homes. And most of the time it is because of financial issues or parents who are not aware of the importance of education.

Imagine not being able to play outside because you must deliver the cups of tea to the people in order to buy yourself dinner. Waking up early even before the sun rises just to ensure that each house has a newspaper delivered. Imagine going to school on a Sunday! Horrible right? But for these kids even Sunday is a working day because a day off will imply no money for that day. And unlike you or me who may have a stack full of our favourite dishes in our fridge, they barely have the bare necessities like rice or wheat. It is so hard for us to imagine a life like that, just think how hard it might be to live that life.

Yet, every time on the way to school when you see someone young, who is of your age how many times have you stopped and wondered how they are doing? If they are okay, do they need anything? How many times have you ignored them knowingly or unknowingly? The answer must be many. And no one can blame you for this as probably you thought they must be helping out their mother or father like you help out at home. But it’s high time you realise that that’s not the case. Especially if they are missing school or not even attending it to help out then it is not right at all. These are the times when you must speak up and alert your parents about the same so they can help them out.

How can I help stop child labour?

There are various ways in which you can help stop child labour. As you are a kid yourself, other kids are bound to feel more comfortable sharing their tales with you. This is where you can help connect them to the help that they require. You can help these kids in the following ways:

  • Be aware of the laws: 

The best way to help other kids is to be aware of the laws that will legally protect these children from getting forced into manual labour. Article 21-A of the Indian Constitution makes it mandatory to provide all children between the ages of 6-14 with free and compulsory education. Further, Article 24 of the Indian Constitution prohibits the employment of children below the age of 14 years in any factory, mine, or hazardous or dangerous occupation. Knowing about these laws and more can help you guide those in need in the right direction.

  • Educate and spread awareness:

Most of the time people participate in and encourage child labour because of a lack of awareness. Spreading awareness about the same by making posters and videos about the same helps spread awareness and saves many children in the long run.

  • Educate the parents of the child engaged in child labour:

Educating the parents of the child engaged in child labour is highly important to stop the cycle of child labour. As the parents of the child, they have a major say in what happens in the life of their child. Educating them and making them aware of all the opportunities that will become available once their children become educated will ensure that they don’t force their children to go and do manual labour and send them to schools instead.   

  • Volunteer at NGOs:

The best way to help more children in need is by volunteering at NGOs that focus on helping children who are stuck in the trap of child labour. Help out in whatever way you can. Being their friend is the best way for you to connect with them and help them realise their potential. You can help them understand how important education is and how it can benefit them in the long run.

  • Don’t turn your back:

The most important thing that you need to remember is to never turn your back on them. No matter how easy it may seem it will haunt you for a long time. Before you turn your back on them, put yourself in their shoes and try to visualise how you would feel if you were in a similar situation and somebody else turned their back on you. You would definitely not feel nice. You would in fact feel sad. And that’s what they must feel too. So, the next time you see someone of your age selling tea by the roadside or working at somebody’s home or at a construction site, inform your parents so that they can take the appropriate action to help the kids in need.

Conclusion

You will be surprised to know that it is not easy to care for somebody else and be vigilant about others’ situations. However, taking the first step by being alert about the child labour happening around is a step in the right direction. Follow it up with spreading as much awareness as you can and you will be surprised by how much things will change. Child labour won’t end in a day, but it will also never end if we don’t try.

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World Day Against Child Labour

On June 12th, we celebrate the World Day Against Child Labour, let’s dive deep into the effects the children face and help as a community.

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World Day against child labour, child labour, law, employment, labour

Children are the purest form of growth we witness in our daily lives. The way they grow into complete human beings is truly a glorious thing. But when these children are deprived of their milestones and a healthy development environment, it leads to other forms of mental challenges to their ideal growth. One of these deprivations is enforcing employment on children. On this World Day against Child Labour, June 12th, let’s learn about its effect on children, laws against it and what we can do about it.

   Child Labour is the employment of children in any form of work that deprives them of their childhood and interferes with the milestones necessary for development. It causes them to dedicate a major chunk of their early years to work which should ideally take place in their late adolescence stage. This leads them to develop role confusion which highly impacts their adulthood. As per the Constitution of India, the law prohibits children aged 14 and below from labour in any factory, mine or castle or any other hazardous employment. 

  As per the Census of 2011, there were about 10.1 million child labourers between the ages of 5 and 14. This includes 5.6 million boys and 4.5 million girls. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimated in 2016 that around 12.9 million children aged between 5-17 were engaged in child labour in India

Psychological Effects of Labour on Children

 While children are engaged in Child Labour, there are many psychological effects they face as they develop into an adults, few of these effects include:

  1. Trauma: The highest risk of labour on children is the experience possibly being traumatic. They are usually employed in places like mines, factories and other jobs that require energy, it is usually seen that if these children do not keep up with the expectations of the owners, they can cause emotional and physical abuse on the children which leads to traumatic events ingrained in their lives. For example, a mere child of 8 fails to carry a heavy load from the factory to the truck which may cause a loss of product, on witnessing this the immediate in charge of the child can beat him to let him understand the cost of his mistake. Therefore, it is given that Child Labour can cause major trauma that can be quite difficult to overcome even as adults. 
  2. Cognitive Development: The predominant route through which a child can gain knowledge is through school life and homeschooling. However, if an expectation of Labour is enforced on the child, they are automatically deprived of their immediate function of education. Thus, the development of their cognitive functions also stays stagnant. Cognitive functions include brain activities like problem-solving, abstract reasoning, creative thinking and many more processes. For example, engaging in labour-needing activities may not functionally help a 10-year-old child to develop mathematical reasoning as any other school-going child.
  3. Emotional distress: It is valid to assume that having to work and carry a heavy load and engage with people of older age following their orders can cause significant stress and anxiety. For example, a child working in a harsh environment may experience anxiety about not being able to meet quota, facing punishment and dealing with hazardous conditions. This leads them to experience depression as well due to the lack of childhood abundance. 
  4. Physical conditions: The most common physical conditions faced by them are injuries and accidents. Considering the harsh labour imposed upon them, they are more likely to experience cuts, bruises, fractures and many other injuries that may cause serious damage to their body. Chronic conditions like respiratory infections, hearing problems, skin conditions, sleep disturbances, growth impairments, and back and joint pain at a very young age are quite commonly associated with Child Labour. 
  5. Behavioural issues: Stress and Trauma can manifest in several ways- aggression, withdrawal and difficulty in forming healthy relationships. A tendency for them to also develop strong opposition and defiance as they grow to the result of being controlled can take place in children who grow up doing labour. Trust issues, attachment problems and difficulty in forming interpersonal relationships can also take place as a result of having a working environment very early in life. 

What can we as a community do?

It is crucial to understand the consequences of Child Labour in the long run. While we take into consideration, the effects of the same, we can also put in efforts to make a change in their lives. Here are some of the ways we, as people, can help them and acquaint ourselves with the laws for the same:

  1. Awareness campaigns: Gathering information about the psychological, emotional and behavioural impact of Child Labour on people is vital to make sure other people also understand the adversity they face. Doing so can also educate the people who have been unaware of these issues. Further, awareness campaigns also help the individuals going through these issues identify and address them accordingly. A few of the campaigns organised in India are The Child Labour Awareness Campaign by Smile Foundation, Campaigns2 by Kailash Satyahari Children’s Foundation, Say NO To Child Labour by Hope for Children Foundation and many more. 
  2. Improve education access: As people of the society, we can improve the overall functioning of the country by also ensuring education for all the children. Children facing the issue of Child Labour may not have a choice of providing themselves with a well-educated life. Therefore, by providing donations to the cause of their education we can support these children and make way for a better society overall. 
  3. Encouraging community involvement: Volunteering for campaigns and supporting the children can provide a space for others to join in the cause. Promoting support through organising fairs, sports events and cultural activities can involve a wide array of people to participate. Furthermore, involving people of all ages can help create a wider space to help children suffering from labour and also provide assistance accordingly. 
  4. Direct assistance: On witnessing an instance where Child Labour has taken place, as free people of the country, we also have the authority to inform the government about the same. Here are some of the laws that concern Child Labour according to the constitution of India
  • The Child Labour(Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Act, 2016: Extends the prohibition of child labour to all sectors of children under 14 years of age and employment to hazardous occupations and processes for adolescents(14-18).
  • The Mines Act, 1982: Prohibits the employment of children below 18 in mines and any hazardous activities 
  • The Factories Act, 1948: Prohibits the employment of children in factories below 14 years of age and regulates the working conditions for adolescents (14-18).

        By educating ourselves with these laws, we can use our power to protect and safeguard the lives of these children who have been deprived of their rights and needs. 

 In recent years, there has been a decline in the number of child labourers in India over the past decade. One of the laws that contributed to the change is the Right to Education Act (RTE), 2009 which mandates free and compulsory education for children aged 6 to 14. As stricter laws and regulations have been applied, the decline seems plausible and there is also the possibility of complete eradication of Child Labour in India. To do so, we must ensure we provide adequate support to these children. While Child Labour has been normalised in the past years, let’s evolve our mindset into creating a sound environment for every child and eventually build a future where Child Labour and Employment has been completely erased from the world.

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Morally Grey: The Different Shades of Human Morality

Morally grey is hard to define but that’s truly what we human beings as our morals are dictated more by intentions than conventions.

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Morally grey, morality, morals, development, Kohlberg

Ever since we were kids we were introduced to the concept of right and wrong. We were constantly taught how to differentiate between right and wrong, but nobody actually teaches us how there is no singular right or wrong. Our morality is always framed in black or white. The biggest proof of this black-and-white view is our existing laws for crimes. What we often forget in our rush to categorise everything in black and white is that the laws and morality that we use to categorise right from wrong are applied to the actions thoughts and motivations of human beings. And human beings can never be just black or white. But rather they exist and function in various shades of grey. Hence, they are considered morally grey. Let’s understand a bit more about moral development by going through Kohlberg’s theory of moral development to understand how morally grey works.

Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development

Moral development refers to the process by which an individual learns to differentiate right from wrong and form their sense of morality. American Psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg came up with the widely used and acknowledged model of moral development. The model also known as Kohlberg’s theory of moral development consists of six stages and explains how moral reasoning is formed over the years. The six stages are further divided into three levels. The first level in Kohlberg’s theory of moral development is known as Preconventional Morality and it consists of 2 stages which last from birth to 9 years of age. The first stage in the first level is called Obedience and Punishment which involves someone deciding or doing something moral as a way of avoiding punishment. The second stage in the first level is called Individualism and Exchange which involves deciding or aligning your moral actions that serve one’s needs the best.

The second level of Kohlberg’s theory of moral development is known as Conventional Morality which applies to individuals in their early adolescence to their adulthood and consists of 2 more stages. The first stage in this level and the third stage overall is called, Developing Good Interpersonal Relationships. This stage, also referred to as the “good boy-good girl” orientation, focuses on how our moral development depends on living up to society’s social expectations and roles. It brings in the aspect of conformity or the idea of trying to fit in and hence abiding by the majorly agreed upon moral codes of conduct. The second stage in this level and the fourth stage overall is called, Maintaining Social Order. This particular stage focuses on maintaining law and order to preserve the entity called society. People consider society as a whole and see following law and order as a way of sustaining it and hence, consider it as their duty to follow law and order and respect authority.

The third level of Kohlberg’s theory of moral development is known as Post-Conventional Morality, and it is only achieved by a few adults who can grasp the abstract principles of morality. The first stage in this level and the fifth stage overall is called, Social Contract and Individual Rights. In this particular stage, individuals begin to realise and acknowledge that different people may have differing values, principles, ethics and morals of their own. They understand why everyone needs to agree to certain rules to sustain society as a whole but also take into account the differences in opinions and values. The second stage in this level and the sixth stage overall is called Universal Principles. This particular stage focuses on how certain individuals understand morality and form as well as follow their internalised principles of morality and justice even if they may conflict with existing laws and rules.

The Case of Morally Grey

From Kholberg’s theory of moral development, we realise that not a lot of people can truly reach the highest stage of moral development. Maybe part of it has to do with the fact that we wish to be a part of society and hence prefer to conform rather than stand out from the crowd. But we need to understand that just because one is white the other doesn’t necessarily need to be black, just like the opposite of love is not hate for how can you get disgusted at something you once cherished? You might not feel the same amount of love and preciousness towards that person or thing but you can’t exactly feel disgusted without it carrying hints of affection from the past. 

The term morally grey refers to those individuals who don’t exactly follow or rebel against the existing laws without a cause. This term mostly applies to people who have achieved the sixth stage of Kohlberg’s theory of moral development. It highlights the capacity of people to discern right from wrong according to their own principles that may differ from society from time to time.

In this world of differing opinions and individuality taking a central position, it’s high time we start acknowledging that your white in the sense of morality could be somebody else’s grey and that’s fine. Take the case of white lies, we have been told since time immemorial to never lie as it is bad and only hurts people. But as we grow up and meet people from different walks of life we realise that there is something called white lies which we tell to prevent hurting the person’s feelings on many occasions. Although lies are considered bad, white lies are actually a saving grace. Even choosing to use white lies is also a sort of morally grey move on a person’s part. True the level of morally grey attitude that one exhibits differs from person to person and even varies in extremes as some may choose to indulge in just white lies and nothing else while others may choose to form their entire identity based on it. And when Kohlberg talks about the sixth stage of moral development he most likely is referring to people who form their identity based on their own moral alignments. 

Regardless the most important thing at the end of the day is that we respect people for their individuality rather than shun them for it. We let them be morally grey and in fact, we should try to be such a way whenever possible to whatever degree we can manage, because this world will only become better and richer with a variety of opinions and perceptions which will only come with the ability to form one’s own morality which is not targeted at harming anyone. Let’s appreciate the different shades of grey that we human beings are, rather than forcing us to choose between black and white.

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