During vacations, I would leave the house around 8 in the morning, sometimes earlier, the only promise to Mom being that I will be back home by lunchtime. We would meet at someone’s house or play cricket on the road or go to Don Bosco, our school, and kick some balls in the football grounds or play dodgeball or squareball or play a two-block hide and seek and terrorize the person whose “den” it was (the person who was “it” and had to catch us). Or we would sneak off to Sion to play console games or go off to Five Gardens to have “golas” (crushed ice with flavors) or just hang around doing nothing. In the afternoon, we would all sleep or sometimes meet in someone’s house and play board games. Then it was the same in the evening, the only promise to Mom being that we would be back by dinner time. Once in a while, we would sneak in a movie at a nearby theatre like Aurora, Chitra or Rupam.
Our parents had a general idea of our whereabouts, but had no clue where we actually were at any specific point in time nor did they know what we had been up to, nor was there any lunch or dinner time conversation of who we had met and what we had done…no parent wanted a minute by minute account of what we had done during the day.
There were no cameras tracking our movements, no phones to find us or location devices to locate us or to tell our parents where we were or what we were doing.
Why am I telling you this?
Today this behavior would be considered feral…and most of us seem to have forgotten how we used to be. If our kids were to behave in this manner, we would be aghast. I remember chasing BEST buses to get onto them and then getting off those buses before they stopped…our kids don’t even use BEST buses and if they were to step foot outside the gated complexes that some live in, the security guards would not let them leave without an adult accompanying them, forget about getting on and off BEST buses in motion or just loitering in the streets.
What happened to us? Why do we need to know what are kids are up to all the time? As if their surveillance was not enough, we have now added our parents to the list too, and many of us insist on knowing what they are up to as well every living minute of the day.
So we use Find My Phone or WhatsApp Location or whatever else is available, short of implanting GPS chips into our kids (though I think that is bound to happen when our kids have kids, unless the next generation rebels) and we put cameras in our parents’ homes so that we know how and what they are doing, the reason given to them being that we need to know if they are safe and have not fallen or set fire to the kitchen…
All this we do in the name of safety and with each passing day we become more and more anxious and controlling…and sometimes this extends even to our spouses. We complain about being a “sandwich” generation, but I believe now that some of this is of our own choosing.
What happened to us? Most of us turned out fine even if our parents, by and large, left us alone. We did what we wanted to do, within certain rules and parameters related to smoking, drinking, drugs and sex. Most of us didn’t have girlfriends or boyfriends till we entered college, and while sneak smoking was quite rampant, alcohol was rarely an issue, because we didn’t have easy access to any alcohol except beer sometimes, compared to the kids now who start drinking and smoking weed as soon as they enter their teens.
It is we…who were feral…who have now morphed into control freaks.
Is it the news? The constant exposure to how bad and unsafe everything is? Is it technology, which unlike our kids, we were not born with, but then in our 30s and 40s, we suddenly entered a fast changing and connected world?
I shudder to think what today’s parents will be doing to their kids. I see that around me, now that my nephews and nieces are having kids. They are worse than us…every second, every action, every task is minuted, catalogued and controlled. Pregnancy is seen as a disease to be treated, surmounted and tackled and children are a complex project to be managed using Excel sheets and multi-colored Calendars and ToDo lists.
We went from feral to big brother in just 40 odd years…our kids are already living in an Orwellian world where surveillance of everyone and everything is a given. The Government is run by people who think like us…hence we are fine with the increasing and constant oversight of our lives, with cameras and satellites tracking our movements, the constant barrage of requests for our cell numbers and other IDs and KYCs and God knows what else, all of which make it easier for anyone who wants to, to find out what we are doing and where we are. And so often, we just give away this information willingly, hell even post it on Facebook or Twitter or on large WhatsApp groups, without being bothered about who is reading what about us.
We want to know what our kids are up to all the time. We want to know what are parents are up to all the time. We want everyone else to know what we are up to all the time…and vice, versa.
What happened to us?
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