We Shrunk Their World

Dr Navniit Gandhi
Sunday, December 9, 2018

Teacher: “Have you heard of Narasimha Rao?”
An awkward silence prevailed in the FYBCom class. The expressions were all unanimously blank.
After a few seconds, a hand went up.
Teacher: “Yes?”
A student: “Ma’am, he was probably from an era when we were not even born. So, how can we know who he was.”
Teacher:“Ok, can you then name the present President and Vice-President of our country?”
Another hand went up this time.
Student: “Ma’am, we are not interested in Politics.”
Teacher: “Then, what are you interested in? Who are your role-models?”
Silence.
Teacher: “You have completed12 years of education in an Indian educational institution. Can you tell me three facts about Bhagat Singh or Savarkar? Have you even heard of stalwarts such as Dadabhai Naoroji? Or, of Gopal Krishna Gokhale?”
Silence. The expression—blank; the gaze—bored, and the mood—indifferent.
Teacher: “Have you heard of the ‘Gitanjali’?”
Silence.
Teacher: “You surely know who Dhyan Chand is? Or certainly, Naushaad?”
Silence.
Teacher: “What about George Bernard Shaw? Alfred Nobel?”
Silence.

No, the purpose too was not to test the GK of the students. It started with an innocent question, which came up while discussing Economic Reforms in India, with first-year commerce students. It was not entirely a shocking revelation that the young minds did not know as to who initiated economic reforms in the country, but not to have ever heard of one of the PMs (Narasimha Rao) of the country, and someone who governed less than 30 years ago????? Our own kids, and who have studied in our own Indian schools here and are aged almost 18 years are turning seriously apathetic in large numbers. Over the past 6-7 years, the shrugging of young shoulders in the classrooms at the under-graduate level, and the cynical expressions and blatant disinterestedness in knowing anything about anyone or any country--- has reached appalling proportions. Is it over-confidence that they feel they do not have to know anything about anyone and that life will just be fine even if they remain clueless and blank? Are our teenaged children so sure that they will never have to face serious job interviews or participate in group-discussions? Or, is it that they are innocently clueless? I shudder at the very thought of such disinterested and bored-with-everything youngsters becoming parents themselves one day? Glued to their screens, they shall—in most probability, outsource the entire parenthood experience from the scratch to an online firm!!! After all, how much knowledge will they have, to pass on to the gen-next?

I clearly recall how our parents patiently read the newspapers every day and while we initially watched them with interest, eventually—we too picked up the habit. Our teachers too, discussed in school as well as in college—the burning issues that the country and the universe faced. During the course of all of such events---we amassed in our hearts our own collection of heroes whom we adored---either for their views or their writings or their speeches or their songs and lyrics or for their character and aura or for their charisma and idealism…

If one probes a bit deeper into the young minds now, one sadly discovers that there are hardly any heroes or stalwarts or role-models who they adore??? Except for the names of a few movie stars from Bollywood/Hollywood, and a few models/pop divas or perhaps, a few names of cricket and tennis stars, there are almost no lives they are interested in following or knowing about. Obviously, we forgot to introduce our children to the luminaries of the past and the present. We could have introduced a few family members at least, to them with pride and awe, for them to seek inspiration from. But either we did not have the time or we simply did not ‘care’.

What a shame, isn’t it? While it is unfair to compare ourselves with our children, the indifference in their entire demeanour and the shrugging of their shoulders and the boredom in their eyes, hits one hard… One is then compelled to wonder that what will keep them intrigued in the years ahead??? If no life and personality appeals to them, whom will they look up at, with awe or treasure or be mesmerised by?
We too were not born in the times of Che, or Churchill or Shaw or PG Wodehouse or Castro or Marie Curie or Mahashweta Devi, but our world was dominated by ‘real’ personalities of any era whatsoever. We either loved them or loved to criticise them. There was so much we wanted to know; there was much to read and much to debate over—sitting with friends in the canteen. And for almost all of us, the admiration for a person was hardly ever based on incomes, life-styles, or designer dresses. The style statements or the halo of glamour did not draw us to people. They were all largely men and women of ‘substance’.

We have simply shrunk the world of our kids… We have stuffed their world with artificial realities. A few cartoon characters and a few virtual super-heroes and lots of virtual games and play stations---is what their world has been reduced to. It is not just about their lives remaining glum and emptier but it is rather much about their increasing distance from ‘reality’. Friends are virtual and chatting with them is virtual too; ‘likes’ are virtual and so are comments.

Based on our own ‘smart’ calculations, we, at first, shrunk the size of the family for them. Grand-parents are either altogether out of the picture, or are there till they can watch over our little girl or boy. Often, they are there to be seen and met during annual visits. In our day-to-day living, grandparents and their virtues are not discussed in many homes. Even other relatives are made out be villains rather than heroes, in the eyes of our children. Over the years, as our tendency to praise others and adore people unconditionally has shrunk, so have the inspiring talks and discussions at home. It has also become ‘convenient’ to keep relatives at bay, and since the family size has shrunk, the weddings and funerals are fewer too. This means there are lesser occasions to meet and interact with others in the larger family. Large-sized family whatsapp groups serve little purpose in drawing our kids to the real persona of relatives.

The right to be a ‘part’ of the family has been taken away from neighbours and family-friends too. Our neighbours and friends do not interact that much with our children, so that our kids learn to admire them or to strongly disagree with them on issues and ideas.

With the family-size reduced and the roles of neighbours and relatives shrunk, our kids have not been able to inherit adoration for ‘real’ folks from us. To add to the woes, there are not many such personalities in the present times, who we can unconditionally eulogise. We could have introduced our kids with a few charismatic figures from the past, but herein we have failed miserably.

We have severed their link with the past. I shudder to think how empty life would have been without arguing for or against Osho, Bose, Shaw, JRD, PG, Enid Blytom, Sahir, Montogomery, Madan Mohan, Gulzar, Indira Gandhi, Saratchandra, Jagjit Singh, Gorbachev, the Amte family, Federer, Margaret Mitchell, Wordsworth, Arun Shourie, and a whole wide range of sports-stars, poets, and visionaries. And the eyes also held adoration for parents, a few relatives, half a dozen teachers at least, and for parents of friends, and even for friends. We had ample folks we revered, in both the arenas---immediate (family, school and neighbourhood) and those that illuminated faraway (the poets, writers, philosophers, sport-stars, fighters, crusaders, social activists and many more).
It is not that virtual figures are not to be loved. Tintin and Cinderella and many others have been loved for ages. And Stilton and Captain America are loved too but then, we either outgrow them or even if they remain on our list of those we treasure, the said list expands and broadens our outlook in life.

Let us take a few moments out from our usual worries of shrinking bank-balances, investments, portfolios and gold-deposits and focus on the shrinking or non-existent list of ‘real’ people our kids know, like and adore.

Let us talk and share with our kids our own list of ideals and idols… On birthdays and festivals--let us gift them dreams… gift them stories; imaginations and ideas and let us gift them ‘real’ people they can hold in awe, so that they too can set off on happy journeys of exploration---trying to know people within and outside the family. Let their eyes be filled with adoration for ‘real’ people, instead of addiction for the virtual…or worse still, with indifference and boredom.

Dr. Navniit Gandhi is an academic, a feature writer and an author, who also counsels and recurrently conducts training workshops. Over 200 feature articles and 7 Books written by her have been published till date. Her most recent publication is a Book titled: Dear Parents, published by BYB Publications, Mumbai in June 2018. She has also authored two Work-books and two e-booklets. She takes lectures/training sessions at Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Kuwait and Gurukul—a skill development centre in Salmiya, Kuwait.
View full profile

Express your comment on this article

 
Ashok Hemmige
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Well said, Dr, Gandhi!

Let''s take a step back.

How many parents / adults in Kuwait do really read general interest topics (beyond watching serials or the odd Indian Idol?

Majority of the people I have asked say ''no time''. Am sure most of the people in Kuwait spend a lot of time in commute. Wonder why not use that time?

Children just mimic the parents. Several studies have revealed that children pick up most behavioral cues from home just by watching the parents.

We need to fix ourselves first. Easy to blame the kids.

Mahnder
Monday, December 10, 2018
On a lighter note, Note even kids, but even adults dont know who is Narasimha Rao because he was not from gandhi family!!! The reason is Gandhi family as they tried to push the only PM out of Gandhi family to the dark side of the history!!!

Now to the serious side, your observations are very true. and I would add to it that when we are in school, we used to go to library near our house every Saturday, we used to walk to our friends house to play etc.. But the same situation is not practical in Kuwait as we are even afraid to send them alone even to the next building.

Submit your comments...
     
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are strictly personal and IndiansinKuwait.com does not hold any responsibility on them. We shall endeavour to upload/publish as many of the comments that are submitted as possible within a reasonable span of time, but we do not guarantee that all comments that are submitted will be uploaded/published. Messages that harass, abuse or threaten other members; have obscene, unlawful, defamatory, libellous, hateful, or otherwise objectionable content; or have spam, commercial or advertising content or links are liable to be removed by the editors. We also reserve the right to edit the comments that do get published. Please do not post any private information unless you want it to be available publicly.

Community News
 

The inaugural function of the St. Peter’s C.S.I Vacation Bible School was held on the 15th of March 2019, at National Evange...

5th March 2019: ASSP Kuwait Chapter has objectively been organizing program for member's professional development and improv...

On the advent of international women’s day, Kozhikode District NRI Association (KDNA) women’s wing conducted an enjoyable ev...

KOC D&T Directorate Technical Support Group in collaboration with Tamil Nadu Engineers Forum (TEF), Kuwait, the one & only ...

IndiansinKuwait.com presents a free seminar on Double Your Memory on Thursday, 21st March 2019 from 7:00 to 8:15 PM at Guruk...