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3 April 2007

Parents, Children and Society

This is about the recent drive by police in Mumbai to round up youngsters on Bandra Promenade and inform parents that has caught the media attention. The youngsters travel to Bandra to avoid their more conservative local milieu and the police acted on complaints from locals/ senior citizens who reported objectionable behaviour.

There was a time when any little boy or girl we were introduced to in childhood were bhaiya or didi (or it’s counterpart in any local language) Attaching an Anna, Dada, Bhaiya, Di, Tai, etc were not only the done thing, elders would seriously not consider any other alternative. “Namaste or at best, "hello" bolo bhaiya ko” were instructions that were hatefully but obediently agreed.

Cut to my little nephew all of three and his Dad, (no longer "Baba" or such) would say to his toddler when the neighbours little girl sauntered in, “look who’s here! say hi to your girlfriend”. And the parents would smile in indulgence at what was their “modern” and new age approach to parenting. Beaming smiles would pass around the people in the room with maybe an “Aatya" or "Bua” whose smile would be more of a grimace. "Arre we have to be open minded and modern, anyway in a few years he will go to foreign university and marry a foreign girl he will meet on campus". Resigned and learning; you can’t beat them, join them, etc. were the new parenting principles.

More time passed and India globalised some more. But even I did a double take some weeks back when a group of kids on the star tv show, Koffee with Karan were urged to comment on their favorite film star and a tiny bespectacled tot of all 3 or maybe 5 piped up with words such as fantastic, great, beautiful, fabulous but as Karan Johar kept prompting ... and? then the little boy piped up with “SEXY”! It was as if he felt it was expected and it would make the adult happy and just go away. There was laughter all around. Even though it was meant to be cute for some reason it did not match up to Bill Cosby's “Kids say the darndest things” and I did the next best thing- changed channels. I feel I live under a stone and that is where I want to crawl back when I watch Koffee.

Ask anyone in Mumbai and “Friends” is the favorite English serial on TV. Many of the people I see giving this quote in the newspaper are actors who are an integral part of the saas bahu serials that at prime time viewing spout in liberal doses, family values, sindoor, rishte et al. So at some level there is an inconsistency but of course they can always say that acting is just another job and we and the channel laugh our way to the bank while the viewers sob their hearts out.

I don’t know what people are saying but what I am hearing is, clothes, diapers, incomes, relationships - everything has become disposable. Why not values?

Anyway I am convinced our kids will teach us the right ones. One more wonderful reason to have them, love them and support them!

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