Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Innocence lost

The longer i stay away from Delhi, the harder it is for me to adjust back during my trips. Sometimes i am surprised that i lived in the city for 12 years of my life. But i guess those were simpler times. Though i’ve always had problems with the class/status obsession among the people of the city. The car you drive, the house you own, the clothes you wear, the dog you have, the bai who comes to your house, the look of the guests you receive, the colour of your watchman’s pants and the size of your crockery cupboard. Every single thing points only to your status. Crazy but very true about the capital city of india.

Okay! So i console myself thinking we all know how it works and how much of it is just a show off.  But there is one thing that truly disturbed me this time. And that is the effect all this show-shaw has on kids. And age no-bar here. i always knew my niece had her school van friends boasting about the movies they watched and she came back home complaining that she hadn’t. And i also knew that these kids had an eye on the birthday cakes in other kids’ parties to make sure they matched up to the trend on their own special day. And birthday party is as fun or memorable as the return gift.

But as my niece reached her 7th birthday, this sense of competition seems to have reached new heights. And at that age, we were busy taking care of one doll we ever got and a couple of comic books. A new dress on the day is definitely still the norm. But the dress has to be unique - a Snow white costume or a Cinderella dress. And if you have the one that no one else did among friends, the kid feels a new sense of respect. (We later realised that her idea behind choosing a particular dress was to tease another show-off friend, a year younger,  who had teased her earlier!) Toffees for class mates is fine but how about cupcakes for the school van companions. She wants to obviously stand out and be the talk of the town by using these novel ideas.

The materialism bug has definitely bit the kids industry. There is the largest variety of games and toys available and at ridiculously high prices. i wonder if it even makes sense to have entire household set with a Barbie doll for kids to play. The tiny pieces in the set are lost as fast as the kid’s interest in the novelty of the toy. But the number and type of gifts received for the day are equally important to make an impression among the peer group. No matter how many Barbie doll a kid has, there is always scope for more. And the more gifts kids get the more they hope to get. And that’s because the high point is in opening new gifts and then they lose interest in exactly 5 seconds hoping on to unwrap the next one. 

And the worst part is the sense of superiority with which they are going to go back and ‘show-off’ to their friends about how many latest and expensive toys they own. And the tone is ‘oh-so-perfect’ and condescending. I feel really scared for these kids who have lost the innocence of a toys and books being just that rather that status symbols in their own baby world.

When i really think deeply about this i realize that it’s impossible to keep them away from all this. They live in a society where appearances are more important and are used to judge the real you. How would young kids attach meanings to inanimate objects unless parents have somewhere been instrumental in guiding them towards it? i agree that parents might have the means to make a mega event out of their child’s birthday. Maybe it’s their way of reasserting their position in the social strata. But is that more important than instilling the value of more important things in their kid. Aren’t there other areas where they could make the same point? Is it so shameful to teach their children to value their toys instead of saying we can afford to get more every few days so it’s ok to throw things around?


Food for thought? Yeah! But we'll have to rise above the petty materialism and broaden our horizons so that the next generation can perceive the true value of things that truly matter.