Wednesday, February 21, 2007

our new-age children!

bringing up children today in today's world is definitely not child's play. when i think back to my childhood days (which is too far back for comfort) it seems as if i had a fairly easy time growing up and had a ball while at it! (some people might remark here that it definitely shows in the way i've grown up... and not in a generous sense :-) ).

let me list out a few things that starkly bring out the differences between our own childhood and that of our kids today -

1. i learnt to swim in a 'nalah' or an irrigation canal, where a friend taught me how to breathe and stay afloat. we used to have a whale of a time during our vacations where a group of enthusiasts used to travel on our bicycles to this nalah next to the empress garden in pune. i was in the 7th or 8th standard/grade then.
my son started his swimming classes right from his play school days. he agonises over it, refuses to let go of his floats and kick-board, knows all about various strokes, and takes a shower before and after he's done with the swimming session.

2. i used to walk to school and back with a gang of neighbourhood friends. i would look forward to school each day just for this walk. each day used to be a new adventure. and then when i reached secondary school (6th standard/grade) we used to drive our bicycles to school. which gave us a whole new sense of freedom!
kids go to school by the school bus and i doubt if most would ever ride their own bicycles to school.

3. i never attended any hobby/activity classes till my 9th standard/grade. i used to be part of the school choir and was also on stage every year for plays, dances, choir-singing, etc. once we got back from school our time was occupied with completing our home-work and playing scores of games with all the neighbourhood friends.
kids today attend all kinds of classes almost every day of the week. these include music (instrumental & vocal), dancing, chess, karate, swimming, art, etc.

4. during our summer vacations we used to travel to someplace within india or to our own native place (where my parents were born). we used to travel second class, bear the brain-sapping summer heat, and reach our destinations grimy and smelly. but the journey would always be memorable and fun! (i never travelled in an aircraft till i was 23.) and all the local travelling at these places was usually by whatever public transportation was available.
kids nowadays usually vacation abroad. travelling by flight is fairly de rigeur, even within india. public transportation is largely avoided.

5. toys and books were rare luxuries which we got for some special occasion like birthdays or doing well in an exam. (similarly, eating out was a rare treat!) we climbed trees, made up our own games, caught fish in bottles in nearby streams, made mud-castles, got wet in the rains, ...
most kids today have more toys than they can remember. eating out with friends and family is a very frequent phenomenon! they play games on their x-box, don't play in the mud or get wet in the rains, have never climbed trees, easily get bored in spite of all the games/toys they have, ....

don't get me wrong. i am in no way advocating that we deprive our children of all the good things they are getting exposed to.

but i somehow can't help feeling i had loads more fun when i was my son's age. do you feel the same? any answers why? and i feel, we ourselves are to blame... do you agree?


Anonymous said...

I think I know why it was more fun being a kid then than it is now...

Well, may be because there were nallahs, no fear of kidnappers and criminals on the roads, no reckless and mindless trafic, no insecurity of cut-throat competition in future, no pollution and green-house effect to fight out, streams to play by and trees to climb on...

These kids dont have all least not the truly urban kids we are talking about!

Where are the trees? All we can see are electric poles. Will they climb those?

Where are the nallahs and streams? All there is is the dirty juhu beach,filled with all kinds of garbage. ...You cant even walk barefoot there anymore. Where will they make the castles?

We did not have to fear a career-mahabharat till we were in a considerable position in our work-life. These kids will have to start fighting at the age of 15. Do they have a choice but to equip themselves through all kinds of classes?

With the kind of Greenhouse Effect and high levels of Pollution we are facing, is there any possibiliy of making these little ones travel in second-class? Dyhedration and sun-stroke , which used to happen to manual labourers earlier, are already becoming common problems of the rich as heat outside increases each year. Will the kids manage to take it?

All kids love to ride their bicycles on the road. It makes them feel like heroes. I am sure all of them want to zoom through Bandra bandstand humming the latest from Dhoom2. But, will we let them be there alongside all the almost-schizophrenic drivers on the road, almost all of whom live in a world of their own when driving?

Well, I am sure all these kids love all the fun we had. That is why they are excited about adventure trips and Essel World, where they get sweaty, muddy, wet and HAPPY.
But, unfortunately, we are today in a world, where we can afford only Essel World for our kids, but can't let them have all that fun in the world outside Essel World!

I will end with this beautiful quote from a poem, I used to read as a teenageer,
"What is this World If Full of Care,
There is No Time to Stand and Stare."

That is the World we all live in today...

Zhen said...

I to used to get nostalgic over such memories of my own childhood which was spent in a similar fashion. It takes infinite amounts of skill and patience to merely wind a 'jali' (string) on a 'Bhowra' (top - similar to what is called a Bey-Blade these days). It takes much more skill to hit another Bhowra with your own so that your own one still spins AFTER banging that fellow's Bhowra. (Those who have never seen this will not understand, so don't bother..)
I felt my kids too are not doing any of these things like climbing trees, etc. Then I saw that there are still kids who play Bhowra with a great fineese, climb trees and use public transport, and do all the things that we used to do and admire in our childhood.
What has happened is that we (as a family) mave moved up the 'value chain' and are percieved (by us and our peers) as being 'eliter' than those who use public transport, ride bicycles, play bhowra and climb trees! Therefore we have come to SHUN these things consciously or un-consciously.

I wonder if the class more 'eliter' than us (Business class travellers) look at us and dream nostalgically about how they used to travel in Economy class when there were tremendous hardships to face but life was very enjoyable!

Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Pirsig is a good read if you like this line of thinking...!

Guruprasad said...

hi zhen :

that's an interesting perspective of 'relativity' you have brought in here. and i agree with what you are saying.

i think there is also a similar divide between the urban and rural kids in india.

finally, i think, we ourselves are responsible for the world we are creating for our children.


Guruprasad said...

hi debanita :

you do have a point. its really unfortunate for kids especially in places like mumbai.

in fact i feel its quite tough on kids here. did you know that most kids in mumbai suffer from respiratory problems till the age of 5 because of the pollution?

and there are hardly any places where they can do most of what we did when we were kids (and living outside mumbai).


Anonymous said...

Hi Guru:

This one's for what we've enjoyed as kids and what our kids would most definitely be missing while growing up... I guess Zhen and Debanita ave already covered almost all important aspects in their posts and I do agree with them. However, have we realised how we have changed ourselves and our habits as grown ups from what we were as kids?

I for one used to get up at 4:30 am, walk all the way to school, report at sharp 4:50 am for my daily sports training... Can you imagine me doing that today? No way!!! I can't wake up at 7 to save my life!!! This is just an example of many more of such things that we no longer do... Another aspect we shouldn't miss is the fact that today we, leave alone our kids are so used to what i call 'comfort-technology solutions' that we tend to induce the same habit or needs in our kids... We don't walk 100 meters forget about anything in a kilometer radius! I guess the new generation is going to be even more dependent and needy of comforts and convenience that they will start abhoring any form of physical activity... Am I worried? Very much!!! But I guess a lot still remains in our hands... where we spare the kids the toys (espcially the virtual reality games) and go with them to walk the dog every morning...

We just can't give up as see a weaker, more stress-prone generation where they are stricken by lifestyle related diseases!