Our childhood days were so full of fun (I am talking about the generation which was born around the 70s and 80s). There was so much freedom and clarity of thought at the same time. No dream dreamt was left unfulfilled, in a way. Playful, cherubic faces could be seen dotting the streets, the playfields and even schools. This did not mean that we were total goners who did not study. I would say that we enjoyed studying – at school and back home, though the pressure was not unbearable. Even television was great fun with only a handful of children’s programmes available, like the famous Charlie Chaplin, Lucy, Different Strokes, Agatha Christie’s Piorriot and other such wonderful programmes.
I remember whenever my maternal grandmother would visit us she would bring “Tele Karra” (some kind of lentil fried in oil with a flour coating), “Parath” (a large multi-layered pan cake fried in oil) and “Chanchabil” (a mixture of peanuts, shireen, shredded coconut and grams). So did other visitors to our house. My uncle used to get us salted peanuts and sometimes Marie biscuits. We used to savour the items at our pristine pleasure. It was the same for other kids also. The best bite would be to get a rupee from someone and buy an orange ice candy or two. We used to run hither thither with no shoes or slippers. As for toys the best we would get would be an old rejected cycle tyre which we would drive around with a stick. My father was a mechanical engineer and once he surprised me when he got me a made-to-order iron ring with a driving stick of the same material, well dipped in glossy red colour. It was an object of envy for the kids in the locality.
We as kids would have everything that belonged to the tradition and culture of Kashmir. Be it food, clothes or anything else. Times have drastically changed and today we can rarely find anything which is not an invention or discovery of the West. Our kids have packaged chips and colas, burgers and pizzas, and for clothes jeans, capris, T-shirts with Western captions and what not. Everything is so unhealthy about the current breed of kids, not because they wanted it but because we have not been able to give them what they should have got. These days you would rarely find a parent talking to his son or daughter in our own lingua franca. Parents prefer Urdu – and how and what they speak is almost a grammatical disaster.
Today’s kids are seldom free. You will see a kid at school or attempting to complete lengthy school assignments. If nothing else you will see kids glued to the idiot box watching cartoons which are worse than Hollywood nightmares speaking of violence and spiteful language.
I am of the opinion that we have utterly failed with our kids. We have not been able to give them what was passed on to us by our past generations. We have not been able to recreate the magic that set us free. Our kids are living a nightmare and we are not even concerned. On top of everything the strife in the Valley has infested our children, while we are busy demanding and debating freedom. We need to do something fast lest we would end up losing our future generations to volunteered decadence.