Once upon a time, there lived a king. The king had a beautiful daughter, the Princess. There was a problem though – everything the princess touched would melt. It didn’t matter what it was made of: metal, wood, stone… anything she touched would melt.”
I grew up reading innumerable fairy-tales which would start with the very line “Once upon a time …” and end with “And they lived happily ever after”. Like so many others of my generation, reading about Snow-White and her seven dwarves and Rapunzel’s long golden hair was a treat that would not equal any other delight in this world. I spent my days wondering if castles (like the one in Sleeping Beauty) really existed and wishing for a chocolate and candy house just like the one in Hansel and Gretel.
Those were the days!
Slowly, the fairy-tales gave way to Famous Fives and Secret Sevens and thus marked the entry of Enid Blyton into my life. Darrell Rivers from Malory Towers was my idol and I wished for a friend like Sally Hope . Reading about Peggy, Nora, Mike and Jack’s adventures in The Secret Island made me want to pack my bags and go in search of an island to spend my days on ! In school we had a huge library and all of us would have a grand time scrounging for Enid Blytons and Carolyn Keenes and Agatha Christies and Meg Cabots and Roald Dahls.
Those were the days when kids behaved exactly like what they actually were – kids !
A decade and four years later, I am trying to come to terms with the fact that the children of today are not as naïve and innocent as we were, when we were of their age. A month ago, my school hosted its first reunion and I was lucky I got to attend it. A formal session had taken place and we got to meet and interact with a lot of young students. While being greeted by them and after talking to them for a few minutes, I suddenly realized how easy it was for them to talk to us. There were no traces of hesitation in their voices and they did not appear ill at ease or awkward when we were interacting with them, quite contrary to how we used to feel, at their age. Talking to them, I was feeling pretty warped out myself!
Talking about another instance, one day I was playing with a 12 year old cousin of mine and chatting with her mom at the same time. Her mom was in need of a good makeup artist and I happened to know one from my town. As soon as I mentioned his name, my 12 year old cousin cried out “ Oh, that Gay ?? “ That left me almost dumbstruck. When I got back to my senses, I asked her “how do you know he is gay?” and prompt came a reply “Well, all makeup artists are supposed to be gay, don’t you know that? “
Does she even know what is being gay supposed to mean? No, I couldn’t muster the courage to ask her any further.
Yes, it’s a good thing that the kids of today are well ahead of their age and time and they probably have to be, given how competitive today’s generation has turned out to be. But where did all the innocence go? Where did that naive assurance disappear to, which we were so apt with? What about that wild sense of freedom that had us blissfully unaware of the perils of adulthood? That child-like naughtiness that made us do some pretty crazy stuff, which we now look back at and laugh about !
Today’s kids think and act like adults. I sometimes find myself at a loss when talking to some of my cousins who are barely 12 or 13. I have no idea how to respond to some of the things they come up with. Should I be an adult about it and reprimand them for getting such ideas into their pretty li’l heads or should I just be a kid about it and laugh along with them. The latter is a pretty difficult task for me as my brain still tries to comprehend what just hit it!
A few days ago I came across an old photo album which belonged to my mother, when she was still in her high school. My mother grew up in Shillong, Meghalaya. Going through the pictures in the album; I could actually feel the simplicity of those times, when vacations meant picnics at picturesque sites with beautiful hills and winding streams, straight out of an Enid Blyton book or the occasional trip to nearby towns and cities with family. Looking at a picture of my mother, posing with her friends near a river with the hills in the background, smiling up at me, brought about a strong feeling of longingness that I found hard to ignore. I found myself yearning for those days – when happiness was a continuous state of mind rather than something that had to be sought after.
When did it all become so complicated?
I remember – as kids, my cousins and I were crazy about Scrabble. During vacations when all of us got together, we used to wake up early in the morning and a Scrabble marathon would start for the day ( as a matter of fact, it is still popular among us friends and we all get started on the game like kids when we catch up) . And when we got tired of Scrabble, we used to switch to either Monopoly or go outdoors to play a round of cricket or badminton. But you don’t get to see that culture anymore in today’s kids. Scrabble has been replaced by Farmville and so many other computer games (with the internet) that rule their lives.
And talking of the idiot box, it is really upsetting to see how kids of today take pleasure in vulgar, blasphemous and socially irreverent cartoon series like South Park and Family Guy that contribute just one thing to the society: kids now learn obscene words faster than the multiplication tables.
Even Cartoon Network is not the same as it used to be. Gone are the days when Tom and Jerry’s antics used to have us in splits, or Popeye, Olive Oyl and Bluto used to leave us wishing for more with their love triangle!
A few days ago, I was watching a TV show that focuses on teenagers gone wild, based on true life stories. The sheer intensity of the hatred shown in the part of the actor who was playing the character of a jilted lover, made me recoil in horror. Yes, being a teenager can be a challenge – you suddenly find yourself changing and there is a lot of pressure to be responsible and to “grow up”. But that does not interpret into “be an adult”.
We all get to be a child only once in our lifetime. That is probably the only time during our entire life when we could get away with anything we did! I wouldn’t want to trade it with anything in the world – just keep it well stocked in some corner of my busy brain, so that sometimes in my mundane day-to-day life when everything else fails to cheer me up, I could just take out some part of it and enjoy it, just by myself.
After all, we get to be a child for just 12 or 15 years, from the day we are born. After that, life is all about achieving non-existent targets, responsibilities and chasing after illusions of happiness. So why not stop being so “adult “about everything and just enjoy childhood for what it is ?
– Written by : Kasturi Saikia
– Picture Credits : Bidisha Chetia