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Where have all the children gone?

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I HAVE A DREAM: Realising it can be tough for a child today
I HAVE A DREAM: Realising it can be tough for a child today

NIVEDITA GANGULY

Give them back their childhood.

There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colours are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again. - Elizabeth LawrenceIt's that time of the year when we remember our childhood and the joys associated with it as Children's Day is once more with us. But today sadly, the beauty has vanished and the joys of childhood have sneaked away. Anxiety and responsibility have robbed the pleasure of childhood. There is the enormous burden of homework, performance and the fears of adulthood that loom large over today's children. Earlier, children had a lot of time to play with their friends, walk through the green paddy fields, and enjoy the beauty of nature.

Changing times

But not anymore. Says N. Murali, a father of a 12-year-old, "We grew up amidst a variety of flora and fauna. We used to wait for rainy days, when we could bunk school and play in the water. But today's children are more anxious to finish their homework and rush to school so that they don't miss out on any lecture." Focus and strong determination are something that can be associated increasingly with new generation kids. It can be the question of chalking out a career plan or as simple as what to wear for the evening party, the kids seem to know precisely what they want. "Whether it is from seniors or peers or through the ubiquitous Internet, children are very well-informed. For them, the books of Enid Blyton who once opened up worlds of adventure and pleasure, seem like the puerile imagination of an unrealistic genius," says D. Laxmi, a schoolteacher. The written word opened up our world of imagination, offered endless scope to fantasise, but the television that has dominated our lives demands nothing but our inertness. It has homogenised us, blurred all things distinct in one shot, providing us all with a uniform set of ideas, she adds. The result - a child of five and an adult of 40 can watch the same programme by the push of a button. Children and adults therefore now talk alike, dress alike and play the same games."They often demonstrate a surprising clarity that belies their tender age," recalls V. Padma, a housewife. She once asked the five-year-old daughter of her cousin what she would like to become once she grows up. Fully expecting to hear one of the conventional answers, she was taken by surprise when the child replied: "Ask me when I am 19." Most often, it is the parents who are responsible for instilling the fear and anxiety in the children about their future. As a result, the children get paranoid about their performance in the schools. They work towards awards while in school because they know these details will lend weight and value to their CV. "From a tender age, the burdens of responsibility grip children and they fail to understand and enjoy the finer nuances of life and this a loss," says Padma. Parents and schools have to think of themselves not as autocrats and rulers, however loving, but as patient facilitators, people who help to bring out the best in children, with love and care..


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