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Sam was 9 years old and lived with his parents and an 11 year old sister Samira. Both the siblings played with each other and every evening went down to play with all the other children in the locality. They cycled, climbed trees, played rhyme games, went for walks and chatted late into the evenings, until mom called them home for dinner. Their house had games like chess, carom, ludo, a remote controlled car set, and a few other games.
Every once in a while dad would come home with a strange looking packet that created ripples of delight inside the household. Mom, Samira and Sam would be summoned and very dramatically, dad would unwrap the surprise, and ‘Yippiiee….!!’ There would be the most fantastic toy that either of the children or mom would have seen. Sam and his sister would squeal with joy and hug their dad. There would be such excitement in the house, it would feel like Christmas. And dad would be their Santa Claus. Every gift or toy he gave was precious. It would be treasured. They knew that dad loved them, and was always on the lookout for the best of toys for them, even if it was just 3 -4 times in a year. They knew they had the best dad in the world.
Zubin is a 9 year old who lives in a modern furnished tower. Being a single child he has no one to play with at home. But he is provided with the most hi-tech games and gadgets. X-box, simulator, laptop, hi-end mobile phone, etc. fill his well-to-do lavish apartment. During evenings, he does not like to go out to play as there aren’t any boys his age in his tower, and none of the boys in the neighbourhood are of their status to mingle with. Besides they play rough and dirty games on the playground and soil their clothes badly, and Zubin does not like that.
Zubin’s dad does not have much time to spend with Zubin since his business requires him to travel a lot. His mother too is committed to social causes and often comes home late. Zubin has tutors to teach him, and attendants to cater to his needs at home. He always gets what he wants. He knows that all he has to do is tell his dad, and dad would arrange to have the item bought. Zubin loves his parents very much. Yet he is not very happy or excited about anything. Life seemed boring.
This is the tale of a city, any city, in India or anywhere in the entire planet today.
Both Sam and Zubin are nine year olds. But they live in different eras. Sam belongs to the generation of us parents who ideally are 40+ today, ie. he was born in the 70’s. Those were the times when media had not overtaken our lives. We lived content in our world and our homes. Our lives felt complete. We saw the world from the eyes of our parents until we got to be grown-ups ourselves. Demands were less and satisfaction was more. Comparisons were less and happiness was more. Sam felt blessed and filled with gratitude.
Zubin is a nine year old who lives in today’s day and time where media is in control. It defines and dictates what Zubin should play, and eat, and wear, and do, in order to be happy. This sets the benchmark for happiness for Zubin, which sometimes he is unable to keep up to. His peer group is constantly challenging him to keep up to the mark and this race often tires him out. His father tries to fulfil his wishes but it doesn’t seem enough any more.
Yet when you flip the coin, you also see another picture.
In the previous era, pace of life remained slow and information was not easily accessible. People had time to ‘live’ their lives and be with their families as the world moved at a slow and predictable rate. However, in the absence of competition, products and markets did not evolve, rather stagnated. Consumers looked towards the west for better quality consumer goods and smuggling was rampant. Opportunities were limited.
Times have changed. In contemporary times, opportunities are unlimited. Information is freely available and technology is galloping its way to Mars. Globalisation has made every product accessible irrespective of the geographic limitation. Internet is defining new standards of work and play, every few days, such that consumers are barely able to keep pace. Much is available far too easily and competition is rife. Media defines what we wear, eat, read, see, and play. It tells us who we are, and where we can be, provided we wear a certain brand, or drink a certain drink. It delightfully informs us that we can mortgage our ‘gold’ to buy a ‘car’, and that true love can be expressed with a diamond ring. So if the husband is unable to present his wife with the diamond ring, his love probably isn’t true enough.
Expectations today have sky-rocketed, and demands are many. Incomes have increased yet satisfaction and happiness seems to have missed the boat. The more you have, the more you want, as there is no definition of ‘enough’. Obviously, there’s much to be celebrated in both the eras. While there are developments that add value to living a human life, a lot that is valuable has been taken away.
But the smart people know what needs to be altered. It is not possible to reverse the clock to hang on to the good values, but it is certainly possible to regulate and moderate the extremes of today for the sake of posterity, provided we ourselves are conscious of it.
So you see, it is the best of times... it is the worst of times.