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Saturday, August 11, 2012

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(Published in on August 9, 2012, retrieved from

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As Young India trends on Twitter, and most of the educated are intensely debating the regurgitated columns of pulp fiction writer Chetan Bhagat, and his theories on naukri and chokri, a former schoolteacher of mine posted an old article by Ron Clark. The article brought to my mind a facet of India’s yuppies that is rarely discussed – while we’re busy making money, and toasting our success, what are we raising our kids to become?
Perhaps it’s the guilt of the working mother and the absentee father, but the generation that is raising children now seems to believe they can make up for time spent nurturing, by nurturing their kids to believe they can do no wrong; mama and papa will always be on their side, whether it’s arguing with teachers or fighting for the rights of their children to travel by business class on flights.
I suppose the phenomenon began with the IT boom. At some point, I remember, I was astonished when fast food restaurants were taken over by crowds of screeching children and socialising parents, most of whom didn’t seem to know each other from PTA, going by the self-introductions they shouted across the room. Now, the sight of a few waiters in ridiculous hats is enough warning for me to get out of the place before it gets hijacked by a birthday party.
How did a generation that grew up with intimate family birthdays, the highlight of which was cake-cutting and new clothes, conceive of birthdays as a social occasion that merited a hired venue?
How did a generation that created its email accounts when the holders were in their teens or twenties see fit to bestow iPads on their toddlers?
How did a generation that was only recently introduced to Tommy Hilfiger and Zara showrooms in their own cities think their growing children should have access to designer wear?  
For over a decade now, gyan gurus have been writing articles about how quality time can never compensate for quantity of time, but the main thrust of the argument seems to have slipped by the young parents of today. They’ve done the math, and arrived at the solution that treating their children like celebrities can compensate for not spending enough time with them.
When the people who are in their late twenties and early thirties today were in school, it was taken for granted that the teacher was right. If she was “mean”, we must have done something to tick her off. If she was “partial”, maybe the student she was “partial” to was spending less time on cricket and television than on his or her textbooks. If she “yelled”, it was because she cared. If we didn’t do well in school, the teacher would question the parents, and the parents would reprimand us for bringing such humiliation upon them.
Today, it’s almost as if teachers are in a customer service oriented business. If the student doesn’t do well, it’s because she is mean or partial, and that makes her answerable to irate parents. If a teacher loses her temper, it counts as “abuse” of a child’s rights. If the student brings home a poor report card, the teacher isn’t doing her job.
A howling kid in an aircraft, at the cinema, or even in a theatre where a play is on, must not provoke clicks and hisses of annoyance, on the grounds that it is “just a child”. And what about the genius that brought it along to a public place? Well, they have plenty of expert articles to reassure them that they needn’t put their lives on hold just because they’ve manufactured their own human beings.
The availability of technology such as YouTube and social media networks that enable photo-sharing means our memories aren’t captured in family albums alone. No, every little new finger movement and syllable demands that a video be sent to family and friends. I’ve even received an unsolicited email requesting its exclusive band of recipients to “please not forward the link to all and sundry”. No wonder, then, that children grow up with the assurance that they’re an entitled lot.
Maybe we should be asking ourselves if we would have pushed ourselves this hard to achieve what we have, if we’d grown up with the same privileges we treat our children to. And I’m not talking about economic privileges so much as the privilege of the mindset that we can do no wrong.


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