This blog has been selected as one of the best entries for the contest organized by Women’s Web and FlintoBox. Happy reading!
As I watched over the children prancing merrily in the play area, I reminisced over the way time has whizzed by. It’s as if the days had wings and they have flown past me, flapping with fury against the winds of time. Young ones zipped by happily over their newly purchased skateboard. Another one tumbled freely over her flashy scooter which had a brake, a headlight and the works. I witnessed two twins running about and fighting over a brightly coloured ball, which, by the way, belonged to someone else.
My thoughts wandered aimlessly to the time when play areas did not exist. But, play time certainly did. And, it was not bound by any walls of a gated community. Open lanes, walls to clamber upon, park visits to look forward too. My mind stood still as I thought of my childhood days, running crazily on the clean sands of the Goan beaches. As the morning sun rays found a way to break through the white clouds and caress our skin, I ran aimlessly into the water, awaiting a glimpse of the waves crashing into the shore. Each wave came stronger than the next, only to break into multiple tiny waves and come rushing towards us. The sea did this endlessly, sometimes throwing a splash of salty water straight into my mouth. The bits of sand and drops of salty water that clutched to my skin continued to stay faithful till I reached home with my mother. A dusty, sandy girl, that I was, who carried every bit of the sea and sand home!
This was a routine every Sunday and every evening during the week. Mornings at the beach that began at 6 am watching the footprints (or clawprints!) of crabs on the sand that showed their hurried activity during the night. Birds sat around lazily ( susshegad...Goan style!) and creatures inside the sea shells transported me to a magical world of a strange being hiding inside a shell. At times, it was the evenings that ended by 7:00 p.m.by the beachside. Our mother had the task of ensuring my sister and I were washed and bathed well by dinnertime. Meal times were simple or a plate of egg fry with freshly baked bread by the local paowala (bread seller). Nothing was ready-to-eat although Maggi existed. Anything and everything tasted so good when we had a good amount of physical exercise without the need to join a number of classes to keep our body strong, with a happy mind. The endless walks in the sea water continued even till graduation, although assignments seemed to pile up and the construction activity of the hotel industry had already begun along the shoreline.
If not the beach, the afternoons were well spent studying. This was followed by games with the neighbourhood children. Lock-and-key, Lagori, running around chasing each other, climbing walls and falling down in the process, riding a bicycle, playing group games with a plastic ring, or even a quiet game of Ludo and Snakes and Ladders were some of the many things that occupied our time. Much to the relief of my mother who found it appropriate to take a guilt-free nap as all of us pondered over board games.
There were no fixed study hours, and a good number of hours to play around were allowed. Rather, badminton was encouraged. Freedom meant using the time wisely and scoring good grades without missing out on TV time or play time (Yes, I scored high to secure a seat in the Science stream but preferred to choose to graduate in the creative field much to the horror of others). Watching Rangoli on a Sunday followed by Mowgli and the Epic – Mahabharat, was almost a routine. We never had the luxury of switching channels early on, with Doordarshan being the only medium of entertainment. This left all of us with ample time to pursue other hobbies such as art and craft. After all, when you don’t have a choice, kids will always invent new ways to entertain with friends! Studying was a normal routine as a lot of time was saved with lesser distances to travel to school and back. This meant, a short nap, followed by homework sessions, and loads of play time! Burden…??!! We never heard of it really! Unless one of the unpopular school teachers dressed in her fitting red dress harassed me for no reason.
“Times have changed,” I thought, as I came back to reality brushing aside the tears that trickled down for reasons I cannot fathom. There was no beach near my house, there was no expanse of open grounds for the children of the new generation to run around carelessly, without worrying about an oncoming car. The green cover had gone. The trees barely existed. Even if they did exist, the trees were some new varieties which the local bird species could not even identify with. Large sky scrapers hung around gloomy skies where the weather dictated how our evening would end with the children. A visit to the beach seemed like a yearly affair, sometimes, once in three years. After all, we all want to make money, to have a good life. But then, what defines a good life? I hardly even get to meet my nephew and witness his daily antics which have us in splits!
Why is it that we are always short of time? Why are we running around in circles chasing things that we think will make us happy? Why don’t children have the freedom to play in a beautiful and natural area, not defined by boundaries? The children of today may have the fanciest of gadgets, but they are losing out on exploring the real life. Connecting with nature on an everyday basis instead of a computer screen, understanding and loving animals, climbing a tree, riding a cycle on a long road without the constant fear of vehicles, unleashing their creativity through hobbies not dictated by parents or teachers, and living life with freedom that comes with respect towards elders and a sound understanding of the importance of education.
As I watched another group of children bragging about the brand of cars each of their parent owns, I knew that simplicity is missing here.
We led a simple life. We had just one fancy doll. Our toys were mostly made out of old clothes. We made doll houses out of cardboard boxes using leftover cloth as curtains. We exercised our creative mind to make the best out of waste. Perhaps, all this was possible, because we lacked choice. Sometimes, that is a good thing! Can we blame these smart kids of the smart generation for the innumerable choices? No!
What I think is missing now is oodles of creativity with a smattering of simplicity and a large dose of love and undivided attention. Love that is not dictated by our office schedule. Love, that is not restricted to phone calls to the nanny to find out if your kid is ok -“Has he eaten,” “Is she fine?” The birthday parties should be about having fun and not about fancy décor by an event organizer or wondering what your neighbor is wearing.
I don’t say the current crop of kids including those related to me lack these skills. Perhaps, they lack the opportunity to live without the need for gadgets that do not exercise these skills. All they need is personal attention, and guidance to explore new things in life. Perhaps, we need to learn to value relations, not things. Making memories and loving children should not considered as a task to be finished. I just wish children could live an unpretentious and a happy, carefree life with close contact with their parents and an unending amount of true love. Would that be asking for too much?
Perhaps, if we could all go back and live a simple life, our kids would be able to experience joy in its truest form. Not something dictated by someone. Not an activity enforced by anyone. Not a nature camp to experience all those things we had for free! But, the freedom to have a tiny tumble, and get hurt (a little!) is also an experience that teaches us to get up and move on. Perhaps, we may not really need to worry so much about money if we spent less on unwanted things.
Just a simple life and rich thoughts. Not just another brick in the wall. Not a child who is burdened with too many expectations. But a child, who flutters around like a pretty butterfly, happy and making the most of the freedom of childhood days. Because, these carefree days will never return.
That’s what I think, the children are missing today.
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