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Updated: November 26, 2011 23:32 IST

Our children deserve a better deal

Zenobia Khaleel
Comment (13)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
The Hindu

From peddling wares at traffic lights to cleaning sewers to tarring roads, child labour is generating more employment than the IT industry in India. If we can't give basic necessities to the most vulnerable of our citizens, all our dreams of India shining will be tarnished.

Children's Day came and went, along with associated festivities; a day off at school, distribution of candy and endless screenings of Taarezameen par. Now it is business as usual. In our quest for turning our children into successful super humans, the realisation of our unfulfilled goals, or the extension of it, we berate them, taunt them, pressure them beyond exhaustion and deny them a carefree childhood they are entitled to.

My housemaid works for a pittance in six houses and barely makes ends meet. She scrapes by so she can send her sons to a ‘state-of-the-art English medium school.' Her sons are her gateway out of poverty. As uplifting as the story is, I shudder at thought of the humongous burden of responsibility placed on the fragile shoulders. Not to mention the identity crisis the children face daily when their world collides with their affluent classmates'.

A bleaker scenario is the maid bringing her pre-teen daughter to work, ostensibly to lend a helping hand, but in reality the child is being forced into an unjust career choice. How many of us have had that self-loathing moment when after our sumptuous meal in a restaurant, a scrawny child comes to our table with a washcloth and a tray twice his size to clear away the scraps of our food! From peddling wares at traffic lights to cleaning sewers to tarring roads, child labour is generating more employment than the IT industry in India. If we cannot provide the basic necessities and ensure a safe environment for the most vulnerable of our citizens, all our dreams of India shining will be tarnished with the blood, sweat and toil of these bonded labourers.

Of all the atrocities, the cable networks shove down our throats in the name of entertainment, the children's reality shows singe the gullet. Girls, hardly 10, gyrate to the likes of sheilas and munnis, in dance moves that would do justice to a Las Vegas strip club. The innocent child is thrust into the midst of intense drama and cut-throat competition, not to mention inappropriate song and dance sequences, in return for 15 minutes of fame-plus a few bonus points. What happens when the spotlights fade and the child has to deal with her peers and a normal school life, I wonder.

Eyebrows are raised when I tell curious well-wishers that my 14-year-old daughter has not decided on her future career yet. It is inconceivable to most people that a 9th grader hasn't already started off on the Yellow Brick Road. I will not accept her judgment, at 14, in choosing a life partner, nor do I expect her to know how she wants to spend the rest of her life. Being one myself, I can relate to the parent's point of view. In our country, where KG classrooms abound with 60+ children, you have to be the sharpest tool in the box, to be heard or picked; you have to make your choices hard and fast. With universities demanding a 100% cut-off for admissions, the cutting edge has transgressed the breaking point. This insurmountable expectation is taking a toll on the adolescents and showing up in symptoms from ulcers, migraine, and apathy to depression, drug abuse and even suicidal tendencies.

As parents, we must educate ourselves that there is no “make or break moment” in life, especially at 15. Life offers a variety of choices. If we instil in our children the motto that learning is a lifelong process and teach them to adapt and innovate to the dictates of their circumstances, they will have a better chance of a productive and contented life.

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it,” said Einstein. It would do us parents good to heed the advice of one of the smartest persons seen by the world.

Fourteen years down the line, my parenting skills are still a work in progress. I recently updated my parental wish list….

1997: My daughter names me in her Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

2005: My son stays out of trouble.

2011: I hope my children survive this jungle of life.

(The writer's email ID is: zenoaju@hotmail.com)

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A realistic article illustrating core issues of the ill-fated present day children and the snobbish mindset of the new generation parents. Today, the whole attention of children and parents is towards scoring high marks rather than acquiring knowledge, while the competition stares. In contrast, the bitter truth is those who cannot ‘reach for the stars’ take the crooked route to get into ’prestigious’ professional courses to ‘serve’ the society. This unhealthy trend degrades the morale of the very concept of education.
The agony of the under privileged for survival is heartrending, as we all encounter it in our daily life. No doubt, Child labour is a malevolence that should be eradicated. It reflects very badly on our conscience too. The Government has merely “banned” it by enforcing a law, without realizing the cramps of hunger of millions of families. The politicians shed crocodile tears and give false promises to get into power. Hence the only choice left for them to survive in this world is to send their children for work although the future of these innocents is ruined!

from:  A A Majeed
Posted on: Dec 10, 2011 at 19:28 IST

This is a very interesting and needed article of this time. It has defenitely highlighted the robotic life of the new generations..

from:  SHAJEER
Posted on: Dec 7, 2011 at 11:07 IST

Guess the remedy to this grave social malaise is heightening basic human sensitivities and compassion.I understand that's the hardest of tasks in today's selfish unthinking majority who have lost this God given blessing to the deceptions of the material world.A wiser target then,are our children thmselves who can raise their voices for their own breed.Organisations like CRY[Child Rights and YOu} are doing some amazing work in schools towards this goal.May God bless them and may their tribe increase.

from:  ambar
Posted on: Dec 5, 2011 at 19:24 IST

Guess the remedy to this grave social malaise is heightening basic human sensitivities and compassion.I understand that's the hardest of tasks in today's selfish unthinking majority who have lost this God given blessing to the deceptions of the material world.A wiser target then,are our children thmselves who can raise their voices for their own breed.Organisations like CRY[Child Rights and YOu} are doing some amazing work in schools towards this goal.May God bless them and may their tribe increase.

from:  ambar
Posted on: Dec 5, 2011 at 19:25 IST

The article addresses many issues. But the opinions above somehow are limited to just about our own children and how to allow them make better career choices. That definitely is a real concern, but we need to look a little further than that.Most of the middle class /rich people employ maids nowadays at home.And most of these maids are either accompanied by their small girl child or sometimes the girl child herself does all the work. We seriously need to stop this. If this does not make us think, there is definitely something wrong with us. We need to have proper child labor laws in place and the violators need to be taken to task. It is an apathy both by the govt as well by the public that child labor in our country is thriving. Coming to the point of educating / raising our children, I think we should not be overly concerned with that. At different ages, children are expected to learn different things. Let's not try to artificially accelerate that.

from:  Tariq
Posted on: Dec 5, 2011 at 16:47 IST

An excellent article that captured the essence of "childhood" in today's world. Instead of blaming the parents alone, one should question the society's role in defining "success" for parents would justify their actions by saying that they only want what is "best" for their children. The world out there is no doubt competitive and ruthless in its approach, but there is a greater need to re-define education and knowledge and the role they plays in moulding our children's future. Stressing on quality over quantity is the need of the hour.

from:  Uzma
Posted on: Dec 3, 2011 at 11:55 IST

A well-articulated article that refocuses our blurry - and blurring -
ideas on parenting ideals in a quickly degenerating world. The writer's
wishlist towards the end is the fitting tragi-comedy conclusion to this
disturbing presentation. Disturbing, because the downgrading of the
wishlist over the years happens in the context of an upgrading of the
sum total of unhappiness in our happily impotent society; indeed, in our
society of slaves that's keen on enjoying its slavery.

from:  Biju
Posted on: Dec 2, 2011 at 19:10 IST

Children are unique creation of nature and special gifts from the Giver of life. These young ones are the joy of their parents and families. In these youngsters lies the future of our families, communities, society and the Planet. It is our duty to keep on beautifying their life-world all the time. Nice article. Thanks.

from:  Dr. Cajetan Coelho
Posted on: Dec 1, 2011 at 15:38 IST

Excellent observations. Problem is i don't believe the mentioned parents are smart enough to read these versatile columns. However I am under the impression things are changing in india and parents are slowly letting kids make much better choices than engineering and doctors. Please share in this forum if this is not true.

from:  Anand
Posted on: Dec 1, 2011 at 08:32 IST

It is indeed a great pity that young and adolescent children are forced by their parents into participating in competitions in singing and dancing before judges. The quality of these shows is not always decent. It corrupts their minds besides distracting them from their pursuit of education. It will be worthwhile if they participate in quiz programmes which improve their knowledge. T.V cannels can play a great part in doing this. Creative thinking and inspiration to achive
desired goals are needed. They should be motivated to become very successful in life.

from:  B.Gopalasami
Posted on: Nov 30, 2011 at 05:34 IST

A good article, excellent point about the reality shows !!!

from:  Karthic
Posted on: Nov 30, 2011 at 01:12 IST

You just recounted my childhood story here. Scary!

from:  Abhijith
Posted on: Nov 28, 2011 at 06:12 IST

Excellent ! Here is one person who is a true parent. The choices are kept near the gaze of the youngesters and each one picks up that suits him/her. That way we will see happiness and mental peace among youngsters.

from:  chandrasekar
Posted on: Nov 27, 2011 at 16:12 IST
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