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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

give them a break

A leading newspaper recently carried a report that TV is making kids forget the outdoors. It mentions that ‘…. among the 33 things a child should do before 10 are making mud pies and climbing trees… building sand castles or rolling down grass slopes ….’. Our children cannot readily identify themselves with these pastimes since they relate to a foreign environment and culture. Today’s children are more knowledgeable about remotes and computer operation and handling cell phones. There is even an instance of a 5-year old boy who drove his cousin in a Maruti van to the hospital, reportedly to take care of a minor ailment!

In this context one recalls the famous poem Leisure by Leigh Hunt – ‘ ….what is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare, no time to see when woods we pass, where squirrels hide their nuts in grass, no time to see in broad daylight, streams full of stars at night …’ The fast world of today has snatched so many beautiful things away from us, the grown ups feel their absence, our subsequent generations are probably not even aware of their existence! Does anyone remember the silent game children used to play – of making and filling boxes on the last pages of the exercise books? Well laid-out carpet of dots, two or even three could play at the game; all that were necessary were a pencil each. All that the contestants were supposed to do was to join the dots and create squares. Once a square is created, its owner identifies it with his initials. It was a wonderful pastime during periods when the teacher was late or when he was so engrossed with the first benchers that the last benchers could merrily continue owning the squares! There were other popular games like the bagatelle, ludo and snakes and ladders. Alas, they are obsolete – today’s children grow up on violence, they shoot down aliens and hoodlums and destroy minesweepers via the hundreds of computer games available freely.

One more activity that used to be the in-thing in days of yore was meant only for the girls – in the evenings, the elderly aunt or grand mother would sit with the younger girls and apply oil to their hair, then comb and weave the thick flowing hair into fascinating braids and plaits. The complete exercise would be accompanied by useful advises and tit-bits that young girls were curious to know about. Similar scenes are certainly shown on TV today but the purpose is to promote certain brands of hair oil. The actual events are, alas, missing. The reasons are obvious – elderly women do not find any place in the tiny satellite families of today and, girls hate long flowing hair. They grow up in the belief that shampoos and hair oils complement each other and best results are obtained by applying the types based on the specific nature of hair. Ads on TV even go to the extent of spreading the message that kids cultivate the habit of using shampoo everyday.

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