There is a moral panic about screen time today. Is it good or bad? What kind of screen time is positive and what may be detrimental? Is it right for certain states in India to ban online learning? How much screen time is recommended? What are the best practices and safeguards necessary for maintaining the physical and mental well-being of kids during the virtual mode of learning?
Every generation faces disruptive technologies, yet why does today’s version seem like the end of civilization? It is not as though humans have not panicked before. Enlightenment, literacy, the industrial revolution all brought fear and uncertainty to us but we shifted gears, metamorphosed and moved on.
There was a time when children were economic assets. They worked and contributed to the family income. It was a reciprocal arrangement. Then along came the concepts of “a child’s right” and schools. Children stopped working, the school became work and the load shifted to the parents. And it kept growing in radius because now there was the child’s happiness and self-esteem that began to be held up as the absolute moral values. Everyone forgot that these two elusive and ephemeral notions are tied up with effort and pushing and doing things one does not want to do. For the earlier generations, the parents provided this discipline and structure and hateful nagging but for this generation, there was no one after school/college. Not for want of trying but the young themselves developed a very private, independent, and individual sense of self. The personal choice became a virtue and failure began to be celebrated. More confusion. About this time they began to ring true, the words of sociologist Viviana Zelizer, that children have become “economically worthless but emotionally priceless.”
It would therefore not be farfetched to say that this segment’s “selfishness” in fact makes up the stable, productive, sane fabric of India. They are the class that harbor and nurture the “value system” of the nation. It is another matter that some WhatsApp groups today have become unsafe and unsavory. These were supposed to be safe spaces of solidarity but are now broadcasting divisive content that some are hard put to trust. You either clap or beat utensils or you are against us.
The 7th pay commission is supposed to justify all of this as also the accompanying ringing of the ears, spinning of the heads, and palpitating of the hearts. And it goes without saying that there is always that universal echo permeating the busy hullabaloo, “But what does the Primary teacher do the whole day?”
How do you spend your free time millennial? Other than scrolling through Instagram, taking to Twitter, or browsing Netflix? You will blame the technology of course and perhaps you are right. But how do I tell you the joys of watching a bedcover take shape under your needlepoint? It breaks my heart that you will never know the sisterhood of sitting under a ‘kikkar’ tree in Punjab with the womenfolk in the humid afternoons, humming folk songs, and knotting a ‘dhurrie’ by hand. From scratch, let me tell you.
Now Japan’s managers were rated the least likely to approve worker leave in a study surveying 19 countries. Is it any wonder that according to the most recent government figures only 52.4% of the workers took the paid leave to which they were entitled in 2018. The main reason is said to be guilt –it’s considered normal for workers to take the last train home every night. And apparently the words “Japan” and “holiday” rarely feature in the same sentence. Not taking holiday leave is a normalized part of working life. No one thinks about the impact on my family, health, or well-being.
India had never before been in so much love! And because I was such an Aunty my mind went to the parents of these lovelorn pairs. What were they told about their children’s coordinates? Did they think their kids were at college or some coaching class? They looked too carefree to be employed anywhere. The earth seemed to have come to a stop for them. They were entirely and wholly in the moment.
Disinformation deserves to be beaten back. A responsible online conduct needs to be canvassed. We ought to care that so much hate is snaking around the web links. Adults, kids, everybody who gets online needs to be watchful, critical, and analytical. Is the website genuine? What is their purpose of existence? Is the information they post accurate, current, and comparable?
That there are so many disinformation artists and agents clogging the net-ways is hardly reason enough to give up the desire to hear and speak the truth. Silence can be a very deadly sanction!
There is something else palpable and alien, rearing, and growing up in our schools. It is the increasingly acknowledged phenomenon of dating. An entirely new and unfamiliar frontier for all concerned, this high school culture is cocking a huge snook at the hitherto acceptable definitions and parameters of teen discipline, safety, and security.
What makes Snapchat so popular? The happiness involved in editing, filtering, and fooling around with goofy pictures, doodles, bitmojis, crazy filters, and other creative effects. There is a snappy snapping happening with this app. A “must-have app” among teens and tweens, it is winning over some older adults too. A whimsy way to the consumer’s heart Snapchat offers you a way to display digital versions of yourself and your friends in a fun way. And even though, there is a base age prerequisite of 13 years of age, how is the administration going to keep track?
The growing importance of this generation is reflected not just in these protests and rallies but also on the internet. Google searches for the Gen Z peaked in 2019. This cohort was born into technology. They are like fish in internet water. So at home are they with social media that it has earned them the stereotype of being tech-addicted, anti-social, or “social justice warriors.” This lot will very soon become pivotal to the future of retail. In fact, many of them are expected to have a sizable spending power by 2026.
The question being asked by those that dabble in psychology is, “Was this extension, deep down, an act of self-loathing? Have we reached the point where snake people wish to shed their skin and admit who they really are?” Who are they? It is the Generation Y that is better known as Millennials; those reaching young adulthood around the year 2000. Oh yes, they don’t buy cars or houses, they communicate primarily through text-heavy with emojis and they also periodically congregate at EDM “concerts”. They experience difficulty looking someone in the eye when talking to them. They often live at home and would rather hang out with friends than invest their free time in their 20’s on a worthwhile career.
What in our collective mind, for instance, is the millennial’s vulnerable spot? Their famed burnout! Now is it a cover for entitled laziness or is it just plain old common fatigue brought on by a long to-do list? Depending on the view we take, the advice is likely to sound prescriptive. One, stop being so lazy and two, do less, why don’t you? The clear presumption is that humans are in complete command of their bodies and minds and it is therefore merely a matter of exercising the right choices. It is inconceivable for a boomer to appreciate that some forces larger than us might be at play around the millennials.
Of course we have a role to play in this ‘all or nothing’ theme song when we offer unconditional support to our young. It is we who bring them up to think all paths are smooth when we do not allow them to bear the consequences of their actions. Perhaps we spoil them by always standing by. There may even be an anxiety born of a relationship so open with parents that everything is shared, including misgivings and insecurities. And with so much generic alarm and mess around them, is it any wonder so many young people suffer from insomnia and depressive disorders.
The pandemic has given my second chance a keener edge. The world has gone flatter. Everyone is back to the starting block. Erase the slate and start over. There is no middle man, no dealer, and no guards at the gates of opportunity. You have the steam, you have the fire you can rush right in and seek your target. So write that book. Compose that piece of music. Record your video. Own your piece of real estate online. Build your brand. Bring your life story together and tie it up with a bow.
Isolation. Apocalypse. I have heard these words from my children. One of them has felt caged during the lockdown, not being able to cross interstate borders on drives. But I do believe that in the zoomers, the millennials have met more than a match in stubbornness. Here is a generation as bent upon, if not more, on not compromising on their aspirations to match the much touted notions of reality. Their smartphones are their umbilical cords and their Snapchat is chill. For this wired generation real world friendships begin with social media profiling. The online world does seem far more significant to them than the physical world and there is none of the older generation’s skepticism. They also do not appear to be as smitten by celebrities as those gone before. Their own individuality is important to them.
Godfather, Lolita, and the odd Playboy magazine comprised the entire spectrum of sex education for the Baby Boomers. Mandakini in Ram Teri Ganga Maili and Zeenat Aman in Satyam Shivam Sundaram would have seared many a triggered mind. Reams were written on the bold scenes of Rehana Sultan in films like Chetna and Dastak. And who can forget Lakshmi as the lush Julie against Vikram as the fervid Shashi Bhattacharya. Then comes Bobby in her ascendent dress and dewdrop face. Those were the “gapoochi gapoochi gum gum” days. So much was “Khel Khel Mein”. It took a simple finger on a fainting woman’s pulse to confirm pregnancy. Shame shrouded both private and public life like New Delhi’s asphyxiating pollution.
Alright, so millennials have had it rough at the hands of boomers but now it is Gen Z coming for them. The wheel is clearly turning if only partially. Because unlike my generation, millennials do seem to show support for the concerns of Gen Z. They seem to, in fact, go a bit overboard with lauding their ideas and outspokenness. Oh no, they don’t dismiss them as greenhorns, they, in fact, listen to the Zoomers. It’s another matter that Zoomers consider the millennial TikToks lame and in time may even come to resent their burdening them with saving the dying planet.
Most boomers and Gen Xers will likely say that right and wrong do not change ever. But far more millennials and zoomers seem to have a more fluid view of what is right and what is wrong. They do seem to harbor some form of content bias based on factors such as business interests, gender, intelligence, work experience, and the context or the pull of the story. It does appear that ideas on morality are no longer as stable as they were once. They are in fact, relative today. Every generation alive is not on the same page on morality and this has not been debated or reckoned with.
If you were to stop the average John, Jaani, Janardhan on the road with this story he would shrug it off! In a country struggling under the crushing weight of poverty, illiteracy, and corruption, any mention of heritage is treated with incredulity, “People are dying here and you are talking about preserving history!” Oh no, we are not a nation too high on heritage walks or recording of ruins! The appreciation of glorious history is a luxury, as far as we see it, befitting races that are developed beyond the basic sustenance mark. Those are people who have sublimed beyond survival, with refined antennae for finer levels of cultural assimilation. We are too caught up meanwhile to be watching the back door out of which, unknown to us, our history and heritage are quietly vanishing.
It is not that we are not creative but it does not seem to go beyond the idea of ‘jugaad’, the contextual improvisations born of limitations that are generally not scalable. Do our industrialists invent new things or merely trade for profits? It is said that India copied the industrial revolution; it did not grow from scratch here. It was the real industrialists elsewhere who transformed the agricultural economy into an industrial economy by taking advantage of scientific principles in the 19th century. Some entrepreneurial Indian traders then imported the new order to set up factories in Calcutta and Bombay and earned their fortunes.
In retrospect, I am not so sure just this large-hearted, good faith benevolence is enough. It is important today to foresee and anticipate the twists and turns that are sure to come up ahead from the upbringing that the www and peers are providing each other. In this instance for example, is enough thought being given to junior’s game plan? Have some all important questions been voiced? Will Junior feel comfortable and be included in the unfamiliar Korean culture? Has the stress of “being different” been factored in? Do we know the inside mechanics of this international rage called K-Pop? What does the competition look like? What are the cultural values you will be up against? How well can you expect to fit in? And should you not make the cut, what is the coping strategy going to be like?
Have you been around depression ever? It is a dark, insidious enemy. I bet you that many in my generation probably do not even know the signs. I did not, for one. When I saw it for the first-ever time, I remember my stomach muscles tightening, and a frisson of fear rush all over myContinue reading “The Healthy Mourning”
It is a common misconception that assault is about sex. It is not. It is about power, conquest, and proving oneself a “man”. Often these unwelcome actions are prompted by a sense of self-loathing. It is time we begin speaking of maleness in terms of kindness, self-reliance, and respect for women, courage, and a sense of humor. The current discourse about men being a blight on the culture or predators whose dark and damaging impulses need to be reined in is dangerous and utterly self-defeating.
That’s right. The economy is shrinking. There are huge fears about public health. Public services are in a state of survival mode. It stands to reason therefore that maintenance and care-giving responsibilities will fall upon the home and its maker. Even when the lockdowns lift shyly, not all our needs will be met outside any time soon. These negotiations will be orchestrated by the women primarily. With schools and daycares closed, responsibilities like childcare and eldercare have become the monopoly of home. Have women’s lives in the pandemic; become more burdened, smaller, and less free? It is true that every single person has a public health obligation to stay home, but only women appear to have a socially enforced responsibility to take on disproportionate domestic work while they are there.
The tyrannical power of my grandma’s generation had given way to a watered-down and benevolent form of authority, a progressive model of parenting tempered with caution. There were no diktats but Dad and Mom’s involvement and active presence were presumed. The heavily authoritative tone of the earlier generation had made room for a moderate, accommodating acceptance based on the premise of the parent holding the superior position.
Though we picked careers of our choices and married people mutually chosen for us, we led our lives with our parents as our lodestars. They were there with us, in all of our life’s events and it was important to keep them informed, connected, and supportive.
Along with this shift in gender dynamics, we are in the midst of dialogues about the definition and meaning of masculinity. Toxic masculinity has begun to be examined and derided. There is an acknowledgment of the sometimes invisible and unspoken negative effects it can wield, not just societally, but on women in particular.
It is such a leap from my grandfather who expressed his love by acquiring farming land and buying the family a white-colored Ambassador MK III with the license plate PUK 1100. He barely spoke with his daughters, my aunts. The only physical display of affection was a quick and awkward, gaze averted, ruffle on the head! We graduated to a shoulder hug with my father from there. And today, it is perfectly permissible for fathers to bring their gentleness, their loving and demonstrative caring to this next generation. Not only do they get to model the strength that comes with kindness and vulnerability for their boys, they also get to guide their girls to look out for these qualities in their partners.
Vaping and Juuling are the new gateway drugs used for coping and self-soothing. These are covert methods for ingesting nicotine and marijuana (pot/cannabis/weed/ganja/charas/bhang). Addiction can happen in a matter of weeks and young people are fascinated with the paraphernalia around it, the tanks, the mods, the Juul, the chargers, and the pods. Most of these devices fit neatly up one’s sleeves or in a pocket of jeans or a backpack and because the output is vapor, it is either odorless or has a child-friendly smell like that of bubble gum or cereal.
The suicides begin in school; continue in college and into the late 20s. Academic stress, highly competitive admissions to prestigious institutions and the whimsical job market are all contributing factors. Add to this the fear of disappointing their ambitious parents and falling behind their peers. Ironically enough, even those students who eventually do pass the entrance exams feel even more pressure to excel at university, often taking their own lives when it all becomes too much.
These are heartbreaking times. Youth was supposed to be the spring of life, a time of promise and vitality looking ahead with eyes of wonder. Instead, you have zoomers aged 14 on medication protocol for anxiety. Those young bodies have already seen enough. These are spirits that are perplexed at the chaotic waves of misinformation, polarizing views, and poorly researched opinions crashing against their weary minds. It is not unusual to have a zoomer share, “There is nothing to look forward to.” And this if you are honored enough to be privy to the workings of their inner minds. For the rest of us, it is withdrawal, disconnect, even dissonance. Families are no longer able to keep up with their young, that space has been taken over by friends, therapists, YouTube, and Google.
A big shift is happening in the world of buying and selling. Did you think for instance that it is just the Indians sweating a bargain? Price has begun to excite the zoomer as much; in fact it is emerging as their primary motivator when shopping. And this is not for lack of money, their Gen X parents provide well and many have their personal sources of income.
Have you struggled with a closed door in your house ever? No, it’s not jammed. It has been deliberately and firmly shut and latched with an intention to keep you out. Go ahead. Knock. First gently, then insistently, soon with an ear flattened against the wood. Call tentatively to begin with, then louder but theContinue reading “The Door”
What is that one arena in India where it is perfectly legitimate to be lascivious and come hither? A trifle cheap as they say. Fleshy, undulating and mock seductive. You can throw your head back, tip it one way, or even cock it. The eyes could be dilated under twitching brows, narrowed for coquettish effectContinue reading “The Moves”
“Are you sure you want to get into this? Wasabi is the world’s hardest plant to grow!” Qamar gave her questioning husband that steady look. “It is a superfood Rahat, a powerful plant, both in taste and value. What a challenge it would be to cultivate! I have had it easy far too long withContinue reading “Risk”
“Please help me. I can’t find my child. It has been two years and no news. We checked at the Italian Language School. No one seems to know. My husband and son have filed an FIR. The police say that the few calls we have received have been from this area.”
“I mean, I don’t know but our girls are really crossing all limits these days,” Namita’s pride in her two sons had dimmed a bit lately, what with the girls topping national exams and storming every male bastion in sight. “Have you seen how they walk and talk these days? So much aggression and impatience!”Continue reading “Dystopia”
Surely that chair is designed to antagonize! It is almost as though it is deliberately placed at a confrontational angle to the client. Saloni lowered herself onto the double sofa tentatively, the husband already having registered his impatience at this couple therapy by rudely plonking ahead of her. He made a show of adjusting hisContinue reading “Therapy”
“You have everything. Good looks, youth, health, great education, opportunities…why the rage? What more could you possibly want?” Arjan whistle breathed through his mouth, his bewildered eyes locked with the defiant glimmer in his teenage daughter’s glare. The air bristled, their hearts raced and emotions ran riot. “This is your fault,” he turned his helplessContinue reading “Repression”
The mind is a trickster. Salma stood paralyzed, watching it thrash, “Who am I? That fabulous porcelain jug, do the others see the folds in its curvature? Does the pearly glow touch them the way it reaches my eyes? Why do I feel like I want to break free of my body and soar farContinue reading “Trickster”
Driving home along the Sardar Patel Marg, Kunal decided to give his usual road rage a break. It was Saturday evening and there was the delicious prospect of an entire day ahead for him to do as he pleased. He turned up the car radio volume so as not to miss Bahua’s punchlines. ‘What aContinue reading “Anxiety”
The presentation began to roll. Nice, understated music, pastel colours and catchy taglines. ”Rise from home-makers to nation-makers”, Narendra Modi. And, “The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women”, Charles Malik. There was more, “Can you better the condition of your women? Then there will be hope for your well-being. Otherwise youContinue reading “Empowerment”
Some people can give you both, a nick in the stomach and a stab in the heart. You are never completely sure of the emotion they inspire. Ira felt buffeted between sour jealousy and an admiring envy around Janice. “What is it about this woman? She enters a room in a cloud of music andContinue reading “Confessional”
Asmita was your typical Indian mother. Guests were gods and friends of her children avatars of God. The household pulled out all stops when the young people came visiting. Not only would all the domestic services be pressed into action, family members took time out to be social around the visitors. The best of snacks wouldContinue reading “Hospitality”