Heads are bent low… The finger moves... And they sit still!!! - Dr.Navniit Gandhi

Dr. Navniit Gandhi
Sunday, June 7, 2015

We are different personalities, and our ideas, memories and experiences are obviously different. One childhood is also different from any other childhood. Your memories of it will be different than those of the rest of us. And yet, certain activities; certain joys and certain memories will probably evoke identical emotions. There are some experiences and memories, because of which we can relate with each other’s childhood. And those memories bring smiles, even today.

The excitement of going to the homes of grandparents and uncles and aunts, as soon as holidays would begin...

The aroma of delicacies being cooked by Mummy, in the kitchen, while the radio played enchanting melodies... The exciting wait to pounce on the delicacies... and of course, the fights over who got how much...

The dirty faces and dirty hands and the playing of games around some large trees... The loud chatter in the afternoons and the Aunt next door coming out and lashing at such unruly behaviour...

The carom; the chess; the cricket; the dolls and the kitchen-sets... And then, the paper boats and collection of coins and glass pieces...

The jumping-with-joy when guests would visit home and bring gifts for us, or when there was that rare treat of ‘eating out’ on a special occasion...

Every experience; every sensation; every spanking and every friend has made us who we are today. Do you have any memory of you aged 3 years or 4 or 5, sitting at one place for hours, in still silence, with your head bent down and just your index finger moving aimlessly? Is there any such memory?

Cheryl is two years old. Nine times out of ten, the chances are that if you go to meet her, her head will be bent low; her eyes intently staring at the bright screen of the mobile and she listlessly moving her index finger to go from one song or cartoon to another...

Advait is six years old, and his head remains bent even when he is in a restaurant. The advantage is that his mother can feed him what she wants to, while Advait’s mind is numb and overwhelmed with what is happening on the screen. His parents can even have a quiet conversation, with ‘nobody’ creating a scene over food or other demands.

Maliya is turning five, next month but has to be coaxed, and even sternly forced to say ‘hello’ to acquaintances, family-friends and guests. Her world is her I-pad. That alone comforts her, while people disturb and irritate her.

Much has been written about the effects of introducing our children to gadgets at an early age. However, the poor parents are so full of fatigue, handling their toddlers that it seems to be the only option left. Hand them an I-pad or an old mobile handset and let them stop moving… They sit still then. There is no noise; there is no clutter; there are no endless demands for this or that; and there is no running amok and breakage of precious things...

For working parents, sanity is probably their priority. They have to handle all kinds of pressures, while the help-at-hand is limited. Giving a gadget in the hands of their tiny-tots seems to be a tempting way of sneaking a few quiet moments for oneself. But these few moments of quiet, may not be without a price. Staring intently at the bright screen for hours altogether in a day—be it of the TV or i-pad or the mobile or the computer must be damaging their tender eyes... And, the posture is no less unhealthy! Their necks are bent... and they sit on the sofa with their half-bent backs for several hours in a day... Some mothers are so full of love for their children that they are prepared to do all that it takes to bring a smile on their lovely faces—even if it means keeping a pack of chips next to them or a can of sugar-loaded juice or soft-drink or an ice-cream or any salted and fried snack. Children jump with glee, and mothers are so proud that they have a well-stocked kitchen cabinet and that they have the capacity to make their children happy.

Dear Parents, let us please think. Gadgets will make their minds numb. The attractive and colourful pictures and catchy songs and jingles will not allow their own senses and imaginations to be active and alert. Our kids are so lost in mechanically moving their finger that their brain cells may become less capable of thinking, visualising and imagining independently. It is important to observe people; to observe nature-- the sky; the moving clouds and listen to the birds chirping... It is really important to have one’s feet on the ground and play thereon. It is important to run and create games and indulge in a little madness. It is important to read comics and important to go the neighbour’s house and feel their love and warmth. Do we want our children to be cold and mechanical as the screens ushered in by modern technology are...?

In how many houses, children go up to their mothers working in the kitchen, and remark on the aroma of the food? Do they say anything about the things they imagine? Do they invent their own stories or songs? Do they hum? Do they smile and greet people without the parents forcing them to do so? In a friend’s house, the mother was telling her three-year old son: ‘Anees, if you do not say ‘hello’ to Aunty, I will take the mobile from you and not give you back till evening.’ The child immediately looked up, mumbled a ‘hello’ with unconcealed irritation at me—who was disturbing his viewing of rhymes. He went back to the screen...

Even if we, the adults- stop working, socialising and pursuing our hobbies, and decide to spend the whole day sitting before the TV or fidgeting with the computer—from one website to other, mindlessly—there will be an enhanced level of anxiety, and irritation manifested in our behaviour. Our minds will become numb, and our personality, dumb. And, if there is an outdoor activity we regularly indulge in or even just plain walking barefoot on the green grass and there is routine work to do and friends to share jokes and tea with, and if there are hobbies to pursue... life takes on a different shade altogether. And our children are being bombarded with audio-visual messages which they are mutely receiving and becoming couch-potatoes—before the age of ten!!! It seems very much likely then, that on growing up too- they will have friends and they will experience the joys of friendship on the screen itself. They will ‘like’ their friends and chat with hundreds of them, but remain isolated in the confines of their room. Going by the pace and intensity of addiction of our young boys and girls, all their sensations—of shopping; of chatting; of entertainment; of music, and even of dating will be on the screen of their gadgets. Do you think this is alright? Do you think this behaviour of our children and their increasing addiction to gadgets will let their behaviours to remain normal in the long run?

Dear Parents, it is indeed important that they do not sit still and stare meaninglessly at screens. Do not let their creativities wane. Do not let their sensations become weak. Even if it is inconvenient, let them run and make noise; let them disturb neighbours and keep playing for hours; let them think and wonder and ask hundreds of questions. Let their tiny fingers write or paint or hold your hands and sit, instead of moving on cold screens...

Dr. Navniit Gandhi is an academic, and a freelance writer/columnist. She has been writing extensively for several newspapers, magazines, web-portals and academic publications and has authored five Books, till date.
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