Thursday, June 30, 2005

Vanishing Childhood

“Vinu, wake up my dear, mamma is going to office.”

His mom’s voice used to be the morning alarm for Vinu.

“Have your break-fast which is kept on the dining table. Don’t forget to drink the milk. Yesterday you didn’t drink it and it was wasted.”

By the time he wakes up from his bed, Vinu’s pop and mom would have left for their offices. The maid would have started her work in the kitchen. Though Vinu is only three years old, for him, time immemorial this has been the routine.

Straight from the bed he went to the window of his bedroom to have a look at the world outside. The sun was already up and running and so do the crowd in the roads outside.

Their flat was located in one of the busiest corners of the city. There was no space left in the city. So less so that even the buildings found it very difficult to stand up. There weren’t any independent houses with lawn outside but only flats with balconies of the size adequate only to hold some junk, two three flower pots and a rope to hang the clothes.

Vinu never went outside for playing. There were't any free spaces for him to play. In fact the case was the same for any other child in the city. He used to see cartoons, played with the pokemons and did some artistic works on the bed sheet. Very rarely only he saw his father and mother. At first he felt sad. But then, even at that small age, he kind of adjusted with it.

Once, his cousin from the village came to Vinu’s house for a visit. Vinu was amazed by the stories he told. He said they have a very large open space in front of their house. They have very big fields. He even explained its size to Vinu. He said it would be covering a distance equivalent to that from his flat to the junction nearby. Vinu became extremely jealous hearing all these things. He even presented the topic to his parents thinking that they all would go and stay in the village. But his pop’s and mom’s job was in the city and they said they will be falling short of food and toys. And he agreed to them.

Vinu looked out through the steel grid attached to the window. In one of the branches of the lean teak tree which stood beside the flat, he saw a bird-couple with their small kids. The kids were about to fly and the birds were helping them learn flying. While he was observing this, one of the small ones took off from the branch. Its parents helped it to fly towards the open sky, towards freedom. And the other ones followed.

Vinu watched all these carefully. He didn’t feel much about the happenings. In fact he was so young to think about those. To think about growing up in the open world, to think about doing things he liked, to think about playing in the open space, to think about how his childhood is being killed inside the four walls of a flat. Only thing which was there in his mind was his mom’s words.

“Have your break-fast which is kept on the dining table. Don’t forget to drink the milk. Yesterday you didn’t drink it and it was wasted.”

He ran towards the dining table to drink the milk. He didn’t know that the milk was already frozen.


anil said...

parents never consider what their children want. truly said the childhoon is dying in cities..

Matter of Choice said...


I was directed to one ur prev post. but i found this even more interesting. There have been lots of angst (often well written) about how the busy life nowadays is destroying families and childhoods.

however, i kinda beg to differ. Human beings, IMHO, are like pigeons, crows or rats. no disrespect meant. in fact i have high respects for these species because they are adaptable. And so are humans.

we will adapt and we will survive. Probably not like we survived earlier but that doesnt mean the new way of surviving is not as good as the prev way. just different.

every generation goes through this. our parents had a entirely different outlook based on their childhood and we have our own childhood which we use to compare. I am sure the next generation, when they become parents themselves, will have nostalgic memories of their childhoods too. we must take care so that nostalgia tinted glasses doesnt colour our senses.

Having said that, i agree that children should not be cooped up in flats. Go to any developed country and u will see places where kids can interact, learn and develop. I am sure even our country, in its march towards modernity, will soon realize this and provide for the same

and finally excellent writing. almost felt like i was reading an article in a good publication


Jithu said...

> anil
its true yaar..

> anish
foa, thnk u very much for droppin in.. wt u said is really true. the greatest of the qualities of human genre is its adapting nature.. in terms of childhood lives, developed nations have a better edge. at least they think abt their children a lil more...

undoubtedly, v shud b doing something abt it..

nin said...

nice story.....i hav to visit again..

Jithu said...

> avik
thnx yaar! and thnx for droppin in.. and yeah u r always welcome :-))

ramesh said...

hi jithu,
u aptly put it across... ppl dont consider abt their children and how their childhood is going in the cities..

Jithu said...

> ramesh
thnx and thank u very much for dropin in.. :-)

silverine said...

I wrote a similar post once about a friend who was adamant about not having kids of her own ( Hostile Planet). She really felt that it was wrong on her part to bring a child into this world,and leave it to fend for itself. She like many others like her work 9 to 7.She feels strongly that a child has certain rights, most important among them is the right to undivided attention of at least one parent.

I disagree with the opinion expressed by matter-of-choice. We may be an adaptable species in terms of habitat and certain circumstances but our young ones still depend on parents or parental figures for a longer period than for instance animals. Leaving a child for himself is courting disaster as any Psycologist will tell you.

Jithu said...

> silverline
yep, i think i did read ur post sometime back..

well, human childhood is something so different from that of other animals. it takes 1 long year for a human child to stand on its own feet. where as in all other species its a maximum of 1 day!!!

it takes 25 (variable) long years for a human to make his own family, where as for other species its as small as 1 year (even less).

it all points out the attention a human should get and the support it needed during its childhood phase.

and mingling (talking, playing...) with other humans in its childhood is so vital for a human child to enhance its learning process, lacking it will lead to an interrupted growth.. science once proved this, i think...

so altogether the matter is so very serious. i may call the step taken by ur friend a bold one, but, with a small "but"..

but the last point matter-of-choice put across was indeed a relevant one.. kindergartens greatly help in enriching the childhood of children having busy parents..

lets hope and act for a better life of our own children...

Anonymous said...

really liked your style of writing. the language is simple and complete. here is my two pence on the discussion part.

i think its due to the change in the indian culture to a modernised, westernised culture that people try to settle more in cities. in their quest for a new lifestyle, they are actually ignoring the lives of their children. i cant say ignoring, but i think i should say, forced to ignore. but yeah, there should be some way out.
kindergartens, i think, will help to ease the situation to some extent. but the care a child gets from his/her parents is something which no one in this world can provide.

kickassso said...

I can empathize with the poor kid who can't play outside or go elsewhere. But not about him missing his parents.Parents should be more involved in their childrens upbringing. Unfortunately ambitious and career driven parents mean that they miss out on their child's growing up. Another side effect is that while the parents may wish the best education for the kid ,and send him to the best playschools etc, the child is more in contact with the maidservants etc and end up imprinting them. And then the parents blame the kid for picking up their mannerisms. When they only have themselves to blame.

Jithu said...

> anon
thank you very much and thnx for dropin in! yup! may be the parents are forced to do this! but is it fair?? :-)

> kickasso
what u said is true. the age till 6 is a period during which a child learns a lot thru observations. it is a crucial period. lemme tell something which briefs how crucial it is..

in ages less than 4, children used to ask many questions. for many of the questions we think that even if v give him/her the answer, he/she wont be able to digest it. bt the fact is that eventhough the child doesnt understands it that time, these answers are stored in its mind and after years when it hears something similar it comes back to his/her mind. thus it greatly enhances the learning process. but usually children ask big questions, v just ignore it, which greatly affects his/her learning process and may lead to a low scorer in acads! i think this is a proven fact and its proved that children who asked more questions and were answered more questions became brilliant minds.

it all indicates how crucial the childhood phase is!

>|' ; '| said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
>|' ; '| said...

well...this seems to be the very essence of todays children's lives.invisible parents and confined spaces.the population density of the earth is booming anyway. so, like their ancestors, they will learn to adapt to the situation and pull through somehow. they will definitely evolve into a new type of mental beings. take the case of japan...this has been the case there for a long time now.they have evolved a personal aloofness as result. at least, thats what i have read about the social scenario in japan.

lost optimist..^!^ said...

excellent writin..u have certainly put across ur thots very well..i cant imagine wht growin up in the absence of parents wud be mom gave up her career to be with us..and now tht we have grown up..she has started is all bout priorities..i guess..makin choices...

sanaja said...

I like ur style of writing....will be back...

Jithu said...

> poison
invisible parents and confined spaces!, liked this usage. didnt know about the Japan thing. thnx for sharing that information :-)

> lost optimist
thnk u very much! hey the example u've given, tht of ur moms, shows an excellent way to handle such situation. yes it was a brave decision!

PS: priorities and choices; reminds me of the Matrix dialogue :-)

Jithu said...

> sanaja
thnx yaar! u r always welcome :-)

സു | Su said...


Jithu said...

> su
swagatham! kudikkanetha, chayayo atho kappiyo? ;-))

nin said...

thanks jithu for dropping by my site.....
hope u will check it as soon as often as possible...

Praveen said...

Jithu, you have presented a great case of someone who just lives alone and within the four corners of his house. To put it like you did "A childhood killed inseide four walls of a flat". I can think of umpteen ppl who grew up like that. Nice post!

Mirage said...

The poor kid! Even if u made that up, that's what actually happens. Both parents are working these days...they obviously mean well, they work hard so their child can live in luxury. But in working towards a good future, they often forget the present...and fail to give the child what he needs more than the latest toys and games; and that's spending time with him, and giving him freedom to appreciate simple things in life. No wonder Vinu's czn was so happy...

Jithu said...

> avik

> praveen
yup! v can feel it around us and sometimes even empathize!

> mirage
true! no one can be blamed in this. parents do it for the well being of their children. for them theres no other way. :-(

Matter of Choice said...

i just came back to see if u have posted anything else but saw a chance to create a fight :). hope u dont mind!

Silverine says her friend "feels strongly that a child has certain rights, most important among them is the right to undivided attention of at least one parent".

I might be too much of an optimist, or slightly leery of nostalgia. Go back 2-3 generations, we see that each family had atleast a dozen kids. Now add this to the tremendous physical work required in those days (no electricity, no mechanized agriculture) and the precarious existence of even upper middle class families (even they starved when no famines/floods came). If i extrapolate all these, i find it difficult to believe
1) that all children got un-divided attention from atleast one parent
2) the children had a better quality of life than what what today's children get.

Not meant to provoke anyone, but my entire argument is based on two aspects. One, our view (including mine) is highly skewed and two, human beings (especially children) are highly adaptable. Ok, today we read about children unable to cope with the pressure of school, lack of time from parents, peer pressure etc. But i am sure similar (if not worse) horror stories would have happened in the earlier generations too. Just that we havent heard about them or cant imagine them. ofcourse today's world requires lotsa improvements but hey its not so bad!

I conclude my diatribe with this

"comparing today's childhood with earlier generations is like comparing bradman and tendulkar"

ps: ahem..and i am not planning a whole brood of kids, just love to argue against "accepted" notions :)

Jithu said...

> anish
i dont mind it at all. in fact i'm really happy to see the discussion growing :-)

even if a family contained 12 children, they had an age difference and hence each child got the attention as and when required, one after the other, and also those were joint families and hence there was always quiet a few grownups other than the parents in these families who took care of the children, children might have got the required attention. but i believe Vinu's case, for that matter a similar child's case is pretty different.

but yeah, as u said, there are certain issues which inhibits the comparison of children of yesterday and today. for example the presence of TV. u know hw good a time killer it is and children are how much fond of cartoon network and stuff and thus engage themselves pretty well.

my two pence and lets hear wt silverine has to say!

silverine said...

I did not want another bout starting here and hence refrained from further comments but since Jithu has so graciously consented to the continuance of this debate I will defend my viewpoint against matter-of-choice’s vitriolic diatribe. :))

In the past, large extended families lived together. The women never went to work and tended to their home and kids. Adequate attention to children was ensured by their presence in the home. The children too grew up amongst cousins and siblings in this close family unit. Of course there was poverty and absolute helplessness in terms of employment opportunities. But life was content in most Indian homes. Every child wore Bata shoes, tailored clothes and went for the occasional movie. There was no conflict of keeping up with the Joneses or the stress of getting a foothold into the technology driven world at any given point of time

Today’s kids are the post economic liberalization generation and life is a different ball game all together. The rise in job opportunities and cost on living sees both parents employed. The mad frantic rush to buy the latest gizmos and consumerism makes thing worse for parents as they work harder to cope with the mounting bills. That elusive home of your own, or that higher paid job becomes the ultimate goal in life. And into this scenario enters the child as having a child is the natural thing to do after marriage for most Indian couples. The parent’s are ill equipped to look after let alone give attention to this little piece of humanity which after birth needs years of devoted care to become a responsible social citizen. And this is where the crux of this discussion lies. Children do not grow up on their own. They absorb and adapt and learn from the sights, sounds around them. And a parent should be an essential part of his/her surrounding. So what can today’s child learn from the four silent and cold walls of his home? And what stimulation will he get from TV?

Lets face it, human younglings are just not adapted to a life without a family.

Jithu said...

> silverine
its a tradeoff. tradeoff btn the happiness of a child and the lifestyle of its parents and himself.

Matter of Choice said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Matter of Choice said...


you are comparing apples and oranges (best of the past versus worst of the present!)

i rest my case :)


Jithu said...

> one and all
its was an awesome discussion. i enjoyed each and every sentence of it.. i wanted to write a consolidated thing for the discussion but then there is no outcome from this discussion. hence refraining from it.. cheers to all.

seducation said...

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