WITHER THE INNOCENCE OF CHILDHOOD

Childhood meant freedom to soar to take wing, freedom to enjoy, freedom from any kinds of stress and tensions. For me as a child freedom was getting engrossed in an Enid Blyton and get on a flight of fancy, playing butch on the street below with my cousins, stealing mangoes from the opposite house in midsummer afternoon when the lady was taking her nap, sailing paper boats in the rainwater in the courtyard below, winning on five pebbles, playing with the ordinary dolls and kitchen sets that mama brought for me. We had no access to TV, Video games, Glitzy malls and multiplexes with gizmos and gadgets at our fingertips. The outdoors was our canvas and we painted it myriad hues.

Compare it to childhood today……kids have to finish their reams of homework as soon as they come home from school. They have the pressure of performing in the classroom not only in studies but in various competetions.At one time these used to be fun but now it’s a matter of pride and prestige for the parents who are contending more than the kids.

Kids are sent for dance classes, swimming and tennis classes, even chess classes whether they are interested in it or not. Just to keep up with the Joneses we torture the children and test their abilities to the extreme. Children are sat in front of the idiot box to keep out of the harried parents hair. Parents are busy with their work and numerous social merry-go-rounds. Most watched are the cartoon channels (we had our Richie Rich, Tin-tin comics) which only stunt the growth of the mind rather than stimulate it. Agreed it gives one a lot of info and knowledge but am glad we didn’t grow up glued to the TV but rather enjoyed life climbing trees or playing Hide and Seek.

Another gizmo that has robbed kids of their childhood is the computer. Kids of 4 or 5 are playing computer games and they have a Facebook account by the time they are 7. Social networking is scary even for an adult to handle and for the kids it could be a nightmare. Google search may give you all the info to complete your kid’s project but the same Google has all sorts of adult images and info in the search engine itself.

The play station is another addiction for the kids. We never got any expensive toys as kids and as a parent I saw to it that my kids never wasted their time on senseless programs on the idiot box. Kids these days are becoming lazy and couch potatoes with all this inactivity.

My projects in school used to be simple things like make art with glass bangles or a rabbit with cotton. Our sewing teacher taught us to create magic with our fingers on fabric. Parents these days are saddled with difficult science projects and they spend lots of time and money on the same. Kids who actually do their project work are adept at Cut, Copy, Paste. My mom and dad never ever knew what we did in school or what we were studying and still we didn’t do too bad either.

Sessions of Ludo, Chinese checkers or scrabble were played on boards but now they are played on the computer. Joint families and a horde of cousins added to the spice of life. One could share and solve many problems by talking to the cousins but now kids are loners and like to be solitary and hate to have their privacy infringed upon.

It was safe to indulge in sleepovers at weekends or holidays. Pajama parties with midnight feasts were the ultimate indulgence for us. Now kids are dragged to DJ parties where the adults drink and sway more coz of the drink rather than the music.

The only parties I attended in my childhood were wedding parties…all fun and fervor and clean bonhomie. Now even the birthday parties are at fast-food centers with artificial food enhancers affecting the growth of kids. Kids these days grow up so fast and are so mature that there is a new word for 8 to 12 years olds….Tweens!!! These are the new consumerists spending large amounts of their parent’s money through coercion and sheer peer pressure. If parents are hooked on to their nonstop beeping Blackberry’s then the kids too are occupied with fancy cell-phones catering to their age.

I wouldn’t blame the parents alone for this. It is the global consumerism which has flooded the market with a plethora of toys and gizmos. From the much abused Barbie doll to Harry Potter memorabilia, technology has taken over from the simple Malory Towers or Famous Five series. Agreed that kids have become very tech-savvy and are informed of sphere of their choice but on the flip side they have stopped thinking on their own and their creativity is becoming non-existent.

Parents too demand a lot from the children. They expect them to have multiple skills and talents and outdo their peers. The dearth of time instills guilt in the parents and to assuage this guilt they bow down to the whims of the kids.

In spite of all these distractions and the surfeit of choices there is no satisfaction as the more choices we have the more and more our needs grow. There is no end to our desires and so where will it all end. Desire for a child a few decades ago was limited to a bar of Cadbury or a visit to the library or zoo.

In childhood, we press our nose to the pane, looking out.  In memories of childhood, we press our nose to the pane, looking in.  ~Robert Brault. I keep peeping from time to time!!!!

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