Monday, November 24, 2008

Coquettish Angels

November. The leit motif of the month is children.

I must confess that I am somewhat envious of anyone who was born after 1984. By the time they had gathered themselves and by the time they could make sense of what was happening around them, the intellectual infrastructure was up and running.

The internet, which has revolutionized the way people LIVE today, had become popular – by the time these kids reached 15.
Google which has empowered one and all, indiscriminately, by providing access to a world of information at the click of a button and has made it so easy for people to get smart, was operational - by the time these kids reached 17.
Cable television. Cable TV had just been born when I was 13 or 14. Anu kapoor’s Anthakshari was gaining popularity. Reality shows were yet unheard of.
But in just a few years, there were multiple news channels, more sophisticated, smarter and sharper than ever before.
The talk shows, the debates like the Big Fight on NDTV, the Discovery and Nat geo were only few of the many stimulants packaged and available already to the 85 borns by the time they reached 16.

It does not matter anymore whether a child today is born with a silver spoon or not. The intellectual infrastructure is incomparable to any other blessing a child has received before.

But,……………But the child of today isn’t quite a child.

Even as I begin, I don’t know if this is pointless ranting, if this is the same old recurring, nagging complaint by the older generation about the ways of the new generation; but the fact remains that there is a huge gap, somewhat blatant, somewhat flagrant and it is but inevitable for the more observant of us to discuss this gap and make those unavoidable comparisons.

Children of today are tending to reach adulthood far earlier than they are meant to. Whether this is fortunate or otherwise, is debatable.

For one thing, they are way too smart and independent. They can operate with ease a number of gadgets like the remote control, the television, the computer, the music system…etc.
The pleasure of teaching the child, all those things it is curious to know, from the very beginning, is no longer savoured by the elder whose privilege it has been to condescend to guide a blinking innocent.

The pleasure of being that all-knowing-big-brother is taken away by a smart kid who already knows more than you.

That shy, apprehensive kid, afraid of unknown people and needing handholding is extinct today.
It renders you, the elder, somewhat useless or redundant.
In some cases, their boldness and confidence receive so much encouragement and praise from proud parents that they become somewhat impertinent. I find this rather irritating.

The very fact that they don’t need you anymore makes them less deserving of your sympathy if not less deserving of your love.
I personally preferred it when they needed me, when they evoked my concern, my protective instinct, when they asked too many questions and knew too little, when they needed to hold my finger firmly in their tiny fist to explore the wide wild world. The assurance, that whether or not somebody else in this world needs me, a child definitely needs me is now taken away from me.

I also observe, somewhat poignantly, that the child of today has lost a certain innocence. Parents are responsible to a large extent. Most of them do not see the fine line that separates smartness from impertinence, exposure from over exposure, ignorance from innocence and independence from detachment.

A colleague, a mother of a 7 year old who had left her kid behind in India as she traveled to the US and stayed there for a few months was telling us all with pride that the child did not miss her or wince about her absence even rarely, that he was taking care of himself very well, that he called her up only to remind her of all the fancy toys he wanted her to bring him and that he did not want her to return to India if she failed to bring him those toys!

Such detachment! I would have been deeply pained if I learnt that my child did not cry for me even once! And the mother found it very convenient as she was spared of a big headache and could move on with her career.

Have you been watching all the reality shows on television? I am talking about those in which children sing and dance.
I can’t stop shaking my head in utter disbelief at the endless pretences, shameless lies and rigged up, staged disputes that are made part of the shows just to help the program get better TRP ratings!
To hell with the director of the show, to hell with the judges and to greater hell with the celebrities whose livelihood solely depends on such lies and pretences and whose most important means of getting visibility is farce.
What about the children? Does anybody spare a thought for them? Lying, pretending,……Is this what we want to teach them? Is this the kind of exposure we want to give them during their formative years? Alright, they have talent and they deserve a platform to exhibit them. But why does nobody, not the government, not even the parents of the children protest against such loathsome practices as staged brawls? Why such effortless acceptance of hypocrisy and deception?

And the dance competitions. Ah! What a gory scene! Have you ever watched this show called Boogie Woogie? A machine of sorts that has an incredible capacity for making every participant – boy, girl, child, man, woman – don a whore like disposition.

I have had the good fortune of watching a few episodes where the competition was exclusively for children. All of them must have been below fourteen years of age. The girls were wearing plunging necklines (already!), performing gyrating hip movements (already), jiggling their breasts (even before they were fully developed!) and giving suggestive looks and winks to the judges even before understanding fully, the meaning of those looks (I hope so…the matter would be worse if they already understood the meaning of those gestures!) amidst cheers from the audience, judges AND parents!

Some of the children were just six years old. Cheeks sucked in, mouth protruding. Coquettish expressions on angelic faces! The younger the daughter, the prouder the parents! I haven’t seen anything as disgusting as this. How can any mother bear to see her daughter trying to look or behave like Bipasha Basu and Mallika Sherawat, leave alone feeling happy about it?

And when a fourteen year old girl consented to have sex with the son of a Goa chief minister, the parents kicked up a big fuss about the guy raping a minor and all that.
What the hell was the fourteen year old doing, consenting to have sex when she should be playing with Barbie dolls?
What kind of upbringing has the mother given her? And why is she accusing the boy instead of whip lashing her daughter for sleeping around?

As I said, the fine line is blurred… the fine line that separates smartness from impertinence, exposure from over exposure, ignorance from innocence and independence from detachment.

Let us keep them away from the race. Let them be innocent. Let them depend on us a little. Let them walk to adulthood at a leisurely pace. Let us not push them towards adulthood. They are not fancy show pieces at display for neighbours to admire. Let them be dumb. It’s alright. Let them know, when it is time for them to know.

Let them be the children of Tagore’s world…the children Tagore’s dreams were made of…

On the seashore of endless worlds children meet.
The children meet with shouts and dances.
They build their houses with sand
And they play with empty shells.
With withered leaves they weave their boats
And smilingly float them on the vast deep.
They know not how to swim, they know not how to cast nets.
Pearl fishers dive for pearls, merchants sail in their ships,
While children gather pebbles and scatter them again.
They seek not for hidden treasures, they know not how to cast nets…

The greatest gift you can give your child is childhood. A prolonged one.

When my friend Pramod, a creative man in the advertisement field, was asked by his friend to suggest a suitable name and tag line for a kindergarten he was opening, Pramod rightly said…

Because First Steps Last.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

//All of them must have been below fourteen years of age. The girls were wearing plunging necklines (already!)//

I do understand your use of "already", but I must say, I don't completely agree.

My point is, the "already" is meaningless.

It's like the question some people ask when they see teenagers smoking: "Isn't it too early to smoke?" That could imply that smoking is somehow a good thing if you were older.

Same way, your "already" could imply, "Why so soon? You can do it in a few years."

Now, I'm not necessarily a supporter of the idea of draping women (or for that matter, anyone) head to toe, but let's not pretend that plunging necklines in adults are always just incidental and are hence immaterial.

Similar to the way these kids wear (or are made to wear) these dresses and exhibit (or are made to exhibit) such behaviour in order that they increase their chances of winning these games and/or competitions on TV, grown-ups, too, wear plunging necklines, etc., and exhibit attention-seeking behaviour so as to increase their chances of winning some real-life games and/or competitions.

So, you see, in the abstract, it's not just about children alone. The rabbit hole goes deeper, almost always. :)

Ketan said...

Hello Sowmya!

Thanks to Vijay and his comment, I came to know this post existed!

It was interesting to know there was something that had made you angry! Okay I know by now I've understood really well, that as a person I don't know even 1% of you!

Generalized disclaimer: I was born after 1984, 85 to be precise! ;)

It was surprising that I agreed to everything you had to say, but maybe for somewhat different/additional reasons.

Parents do not complain against rigging of shows precisely 'cuz they're the ones who push their children into such shows!

I entirely agree with your point on how bad values are injected into young children because of these shows, but I want to bring to your concern one very grave consequence, viz., wrong priorities are set in life for these kids at a very young age. Instead of dance and music staying as means of genuine self-expression, they become instruments for winning votes! The value of one's emotions is taken over by that of their worth as perceived by instant-gratification-seeking-attention-deficit-audience. The problem this creates is that these kids grow on to become individuals who're only bothered about what others think of themselves. Never really thinking what they themselves want! No wonder, such tendency can only result in more double standards in the society.

And I don't know if you'd relate it thus, but ultimately it's the same trait that makes parents push their children to start 'preparing' for IIT-JEE right from class eighth, when the student would have no idea if they would end liking painting or cricket or economics or psychology or biology or architecture!

Sexuality is a very complex subject, and I don't agree with your suggestion of mother lashing her daughter. But here, the more flawed idea of society was that the girl was a 'victim'! She did what she wanted to! But the practical problem here is we cannot have different set of laws for those who grow up fast and those normally! The concept of statutory rape is most applicable in case of domestic abuse, in which case the girl victim actually needs to be protected!

And I very much liked Tagore's poem! Nice post! Not to pressurize you, but looking forward to more such posts! :)