Denied childhood

Zamir  Ahmad
Wisdom comes with age, is a popular perception that has withstood vagaries of time. While comparing qualifications and experience, the latter always gets a preference. And experience again only comes with age. Experience and wisdom, so to say, go hand in hand.
An elder member has his own special significance in a family. While the members of the younger generation may have differences with those of the older one, it is the children who develop a special bond with their grannies and grandpas. It was more significant then when we were children than now when we have our own children. In our childhood a grandmother was that comely and sweet figure who was ever supportive of you despite your naughtiness. Her bosom was your shelter in which you would escape from the wrath of your parents. She was there even when your marks in the examination were a tad lower than what your father expected them to be. She was on your side when you were pleading with your mother to allow you to play cricket with your friends outside your house. She would take you along to the pashmina wool seller and get you a solid 1 Rupee coin from him after she finalized her business deal with him. Her pockets would always be stuffed with raisins, candies and ‘Kenchah Menchah’.  Most importantly, she was that large reservoir of countless bed-time stories which pushed your juvenile imagination to unknown limits. The tales of kings, prices, fairies, pawns and paupers, The stories of the prophets, the anecdotes of the holy men, stories she had heard from her grandmother ; she had a story for every occasion.
The imposing figure of your grandfather was another treat to your eyes. He was like a god in your small world. He had answers to all your questions. He was the only person in the whole world who could rebuke your father. His turban was the most respectable thing in the whole household usually placed on the top most shelf when it did not adorn his head. His word was law but his smile was the world for you. But more than that he was your first teacher. He would take you along with him wherever he went and along the way ingrain into you the basic ethics and moral values that would shape your personality later on. He would teach you how to greet elders, how to sit in a part, make you memorise the articles of faith and teach you the ways to perform ablutions and prayers.
Maturity, wisdom and experience used to take care of you through your grandparents in your formative years. The situation is altogether different now. First of all, the old refuse to get old. A grandmother prefers herself to be called mummy rather than a dadi or a nani; The modern grandfather is a Bada-daddy. There are no grandmother’s stories. She has no time for them. She is herself busy. It is not an exaggeration to say that the soap operas are mostly viewed by the grannies here. They have become addicted to those unending sagas of family intrigue and amorous morality. I even know a few who sync their obligatory prayers with the commercials played in the intermissions. I remember a story about a small girl who did not get to see best friend for quite a long time. Distraught and depressed she missed her dear friend badly. Then she was told that her friend’s family had got a television set and now her friend had no time to play with her. The poor girl did not know what a television set was. She though that it was a monster that had eaten up her friend. The same monster has eaten not only us and our elders but more importantly it has eaten the childhood of our children.


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