Satire in the Age of Letters and Technology- more than just a pinch of it.
As a kid, I remember, my least favourite part of the day would be mealtime. An indifferent, frugal eater, I had my mother forcibly feeding me till I was about ten, refusing to budge, simply because she knew there was no way I’d finish even half of what I should unless she’d made sure I did. I detested greens, and she insisted I have them. Somewhere down the line, unknowingly perhaps, I stopped caring. I’d just gobble whatever I was given; food was the least of my worries.
Today, at nineteen, I can’t thank my mom enough. I think her sole motive during those years was to make sure I turned out healthy. And I pretty much did. In all these years, I never missed school due to ill health. I never had those ‘infamous’ stomach aches. I studied, went out with friends, read, watched movies, holidayed, and later of course, Facebooked and texted. A normal life, I’d like to believe. Most children my age weren’t ahead of their times, we took things as they came. We smoothly and seamlessly made the transition from crayons to computers. We didn’t dream of owning Mac books when we were seven and we could do without personal cellphones. We watched television with our families and music was something we bought and then relished. School was more than a second home. Learning truly was an enriching experience and homework, at least for me, was fun because I did it when I wanted to. And I enjoyed recalling what we learnt at school.Exams, I thought were important, to grow, test and discover oneself. Till the tenth Boards, I don’t think I’d ever even seen anyone my age cry before an exam.
Times truly have changed now.
Which is what puzzles me. I don’t think we were another generation altogether. We aren’t working professionals now facing a midlife crisis. We are as vibrant and gregarious as the school going kids we see every morning while walking to college. Why, then, do they seem to belong to a different world? Facing different problems, seeking different paths?
The statistics may vary from source to source. But the problems still persist. India has 440 million children. That’s more than the entire population of North America (USA, Mexico and Canada put together). Apparently, every fifth child in the world is Indian. One source tells me that 79% of children under 3 in the country have anaemia. Another says that around 20 per cent of the children worldwide are overweight and the percentage in India is also alarmingly high.
The Times of India data is alarming. It tells me 22% of children in the 6-9 age group in Delhi own cellphones, 32.2% are sleep deprived and 88.9% watch an unnecessarily high amount of television.
What saddens me is how children today seem to be in a hurry to grow up, race past the uncertain phase when you let life take its course and miraculously evolve into mature, self-dependent know-it-all individuals. I wouldn’t blame the concept of nuclear families, working parents or the fact that they seem to have less time to devote to their children. On the contrary, I think parents today are more approachable and broad minded, besides being concerned and meticulous. They have more to take care of and worry about. I think it’s more about the magnitude of choices offered. There’s so much to do, so much to tempt you, so much to abandon your nests for. The world, today, is more exciting than ever before. We learn that we have to make things happen for ourselves much before our parents did. We discover the importance of decisions, choices, relationships and lifestyle patterns. We’re born in a world that refuses to let us hold on to the umbilical cord. We have to learn to fly, keep pace with the world, be first in, or at least, part of every race that matters. For we all know that at the end of the day, the rebel does not really have the happiest life ever.
Somewhere, of course comes the stress and the self-centredness as part and parcel of the half baked growth. Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t think the problem with kids today is that they’re not concerned enough about their future but rather that they take themselves way too seriously. Somewhere, they just realised they couldn’t afford to be their true selves all their lives- vulnerable, innocent and sensitive. They just refused to let their mothers force food down their throats beyond a point.
It’s not a paradise lost. I think it’s a paradise they’ve voluntarily given up.