“Off we skip like the most heartless things in the world, which is what children are, but so attractive; and we have an entirely selfish time..”
I do not remember when it was that I came across Peter Pan for the first time; perhaps my vivid memory of being shown the 2003 movie at my school in the 7th grade was the first. I obsessed over it for months or perhaps years; enchanted by the concept of Neverland and never growing up. And when I read somewhere that Sagittarians are known to have ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’, I was elated at the discovery. I divulged to every passer-by my noble intention to never grow up or be an adult. The concepts high-schoolers attach to coolness are strange indeed.
At 29 years old, looking back and recollecting some incidents, I am glad that I grew up.
TR and I were having an informal chat about the brouhaha surrounding the societal-induced need for generation of posterity when he mentioned that his longterm girlfriend and he had unanimously decided not to have children. Reasons ranged from cost-cutting and preservation of sanity to in-depth research on how 90% of childless elderly stand by their decision to let resting wombs be.
Adoption was still on the cards though, if ever they felt the need.
“But only girls, mind you”, said he, “there is no way I’d want a boy.”
I was surprised. Daddy’s little girl and all that aside, has our nation really turned its back on the overwhelming need for a male child?
“Don’t you read the newspapers?”, he continued. “There is a rape happening every day. There is no way I’d want to father a potential rapist!!”
I laughed and laughed, caught off-guard by his deranged line of thought. This has got to be a first, when someone decided the preferred gender of their offspring based on crime rates in the community.
Or was it?
I realised what was deranged about him was not so much the line of thought as how it culminated. In a society that feared having its daughters raped, he feared raising his son wrong.
Isn’t this the very paradigm shift that we need today? As I read somewhere once, why not let the girls roam free after midnight and lock in all the boys instead? Why not spare the women lectures on modesty and safety, and teach men how to behave instead? Why not stop fearing for your daughter’s morals and save your son’s instead?
The Open Page of The Hindu today featured a short article titled ‘The World of Chhota Bheem’ which highlighted the dark sides of the highly popular animated TV show for children, stereotypical characters and racist biases being some of them. The writer lamented over how these may subtly influence the multitude of children who watch the show regularly. I, for one, being one of the 90s children brought up on a lavish dosage of Cartoon Network, couldn’t help pondering on my own upbringing. Looking back, I realize I can trace almost every aspect of my personality to one childhood experience or the other.
Yours truly is an environmentalist who faces constant death threats from friends secondary to irritating and long drawn lectures about saving Mother Earth, and today it struck me how my favorite toon as a kid, Captain Planet, might have something to do with it.
For the uninitiated, it was an animated edutainment program which featured five youngsters from five continents, each in possession of a powerful ring that could be used to control the elements (Fire, Water, Wind, Earth and Heart). Working together, they could seek the help of Captain Planet who would fight the enemies (criminal masterminds with no concern for ecosystems) and save the day. Their portrayal of the perfect Earth with a focus on sustainability, afforestation, animal conservation and responsible waste management had a significant impact on the kind of person I turned out to be. Today, twenty years down the line, the mantra of Reuse, Reduce and Recycle still stays fresh in my mind and I try to comply with it wherever possible.
On a similar note, I am pretty sure Denver, The Last Dinosaur is to blame for my one devilish craving – potato chips.
The issue does not pertain to TV shows alone. One of my favorite toys as a child was a set of tiny colored wooden cookware I acquired on a visit to Madurai. The minuscule look-alikes of pans, rollers and traditional utensils won my heart like nothing else did. Over the years, the pieces were broken, misplaced, lost.. As I grew up, they became but a fond memory. Fast forward to January 2017 when I come across brightly colored wooden items at a handicraft exhibition in Pondicherry and go gaga over them. I come to know that these are the famous Channapatna Toys from Karnataka – these even have a GI tag! Since then, I have gone back multiple times and acquired more and more of these adorable collectibles. I’m afraid I can’t help it. They are a part of my childhood and that alone deems them a precious and priceless status.
When I was a little girl, I imagined I would remember not to grow up to be the kind of adults I hated, the ones that forgot all the simple games, the tricks, the ones that did not know how to turn a piece of old newspaper into a little boat, or a ripe coconut leaf into a watch. But as J. M. Barrie ruefully documents in Peter Pan, we forget. All of us grow up and forget what it is to be a child. That in itself is not so dangerous – we only turn potentially boring. What is indeed dangerous is how, as parents, elder siblings, uncles and aunts, we forget how impressionable children are, how every little thing can make or break them and have lasting effects on their lives.
Especially in today’s world where mass media, social media and cyberspace come together to play a major role in our daily lives, we need to be responsible enough to decide and control what the posterity is exposed to. Toddlers do not need iPads, they need attention and care that they can in turn learn to disseminate. Let technology take a backseat; lead them to books, stories and imaginative play.
Let us create the perfect future, the perfect Earth, one child at a time.
I felt a follow up post was necessary to showcase the stuff I wrote about yesterday. I would like to apologize for the poor quality of images. Almost all of them were taken from a moving car as I did not have the time to stop for pictures. Still I felt some snapshots were warranted, and here they are.
You may not even be aware of the rural district of Cuddalore that nestles in a corner of the state of Tamil Nadu in India. Even I was not. Like almost the rest of TN it has the occasional bustling town separated by miles of empty fields. But I was unprepared for the raw life that existed there, the sort that is the heart of villages in India, man and nature interspersed, unwilling to separate into distant entities as in the urban landscape.
Agriculture plays a major role and tractors laden with hay were a regular sight on the roads. In some of the more wealthier houses, you even spotted one resting by makeshift gates. I passed many a bullock cart too.
The crops grown in the regions I visited were mostly paddy and sugarcane. I couldn’t help craving a bite as I passed lush fields of the latter.
Most of the houses in the villages were made from scratch using clay and hay. Occasionally some would have brick walls but these too were usually thatched with hay. An agricultural refuse, the left over paddy husk becomes a sustainable source for building houses!
The post cannot be complete without a picture of the kind of schools I visited. The children were lovely, enthusiastic and welcoming and obviously shy. I did not want to distract them from their classes but managed to get a covert click of the primary school students as they sat on the veranda for their classes.
This is of course just a glimpse of the places that I visited. Many a lovely sight had to be forgone and many potential clicks abandoned, being pressed for time and due to the circumstances. I find every place has a charm of its own, and Cuddalore certainly won my heart.