Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Problems of Today's Youth

A survey in today’s Times of India states that 58 per cent (Bombay) of youth have considered committing suicide. Only 26 per cent in Bombay have told their parents about it and discussed the reasons with them. This is frightening and shocking, at the same time. What is going wrong? It also says that the reason for contemplating suicide is because of depression. Whatever, however they are, parents love their children. I am yet to meet a parent who says he/she dislikes his/her child. (With the exception of a celebrity who allegedly killed her own daughter recently.) 

Something is wrong and, obviously, seriously wrong. So I decided to go a bit into the problems faced by children. What is causing this huge resentment in children? We, as middle class parents, want the best for our children and work hard for it. In the process, we also forget something about the modern world in which children grow up.

Here are a few pointers, because it concerns us, most of all, because they are the future of society and of the country.

1. They don’t understand what is going on.

Yes, they don’t. They don’t read newspapers, they skim through the news. They would watch some reality shows or competitions rather than a few good news channels. Parents should encourage the reading habit in children by buying them books appropriate for their age.

2. Easy availability of sub-standard entertainment (video and audio).

I mean, I listened to some of the songs young people listened to and was appalled. There isn’t music, just beats, and the lyrics are just horrible, except for a few catch words repeated, “Waka, waka, yeh, yeh.” Is that lyrics? That would make the youth more frustrated because entertainment should also address human issues: love, longing, nature, and incidents. Songs about love and longing is acceptable but not music videos that are provocative, such as Lady GaGa’s (She isn’t a lady, is she?).

And, most importantly, pornography is easily available, leading to a growth in desire, but not respect for the other sex. A person who views pornography cannot and will never respect the other sex. As a corollary he/she may not get respect from the opposite sex, leading to depression. Thoughts about unnatural sex forms a barrier between a boy and a girl and that could lead to misunderstandings and fights. That might be the reason behind most cases of sex offenses and crime.

3. Mobile phones.

Parents give mobile phones to children to know where they are, and to find out if they are safe. However, the sad fact is that these high-end mobile phones are misused and most youth exchange pornographic videos on them. That was not the intention with which the phones were given to children. Being in a very impressionable age, they would be tempted to experiment with sex, a bit too soon. I think youth should shun pornography as unnatural, thereby obviating a market for obscene videos.

4. Income disparity. 

Though you may give the best you can afford to your child, they are not blind to the income disparity between you and parents of their friends. This could upset them and depress them. Suddenly, all the love you give them may seem meaningless, though you may be working very hard to give them what they want. Parents should make children understand their financial background, so they wouldn’t make unreasonable demands.

5. Marital discord

Some parents do not get along which each other, resulting in fights, which may really depress the child. Parents need to understand that their fights would affect the child, and that should make them careful before fighting before their child.

6. Children should know how to speak to strangers

Parents teach children not to speak to strangers. But they should also be taught to speak friendly, non-threatening strangers, or, adults, with respect. They should also know how to discourage unwanted people from talking to them. They can demonstrate this by taking children with them for outings and letting them learn from your own behaviour.

7. Learning

Learning should be an overall, personality developing activity. A child should develop musical, athletic, and social skills. They should also respect and appreciate the art and culture of their parents and their ancestors. Put them in touch with these early in life. Just hankering after good grades and percentage is not enough, he/she needs to be an overall champion. So what if he/she is not on the merit list? Being on the merit lists has its on problems; it puts pressure on children and youth. Many merited children have failed subsequently, and non-merited children have excelled also.

8. Being depressed doesn’t help

Psychoanalysis is a science that deals with the working of the mind. It isn’t really a medicinal science (it prescribes medicines in chronic cases) in that it goes into the working of the mind to suggest what can be done. Having positive thoughts, being with positive people, and being occupied by positive activity can cure most cases of depression, which is what I strongly believe. A firm belief in one’s religion can help, that’s why I encourage children to believe in whichever faith they belong to. Faith doesn’t teach children to hate anybody (except maybe the fundamental ones). The very act of singing songs and chanting can heal a troubled person.
Young people idol-worship certain movie stars forgetting that they are humans and, therefore prone to failures. When these idols fail, or, rebuff their advances, they become depressed. Youth should never worship another human being as being infallible. They have their own weaknesses and fallibility.
Waking up every morning thinking how awesome the day is, loving the nature around you, loving the birds and animals can cure you of depression for the entire day. Recently I read somewhere (A Facebook post, I think.) that a single positive thought as soon as you wake up can carry you through the day and make it a big success. So wake up thinking “how beautiful is today.”
There is a lot more to share. So watch this space, as they say.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Puthencavu Mathan Tharakan's Biography Is Published

There are things that come to you by way of ancestry that you cannot deny. One such thing, which I am proud of, is my great uncle Puthencavu Mathan Tharakan, who was my grandfather's cousin. Tharakan also known as "Mahakavi (great poet)" was also called "Sarasa Gayaka Kavi (poet who sings)". He was, as mentioned above, a good singer and writer. The only novel of his that I have read is "Madhubalika," which is curiously set in Calcutta, may be, he has travelled to Calcutta in those days. Among his poems is an epic poem "Vishwadeepam (Light of the World)" based on the life of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Thomas Cyriac (Right) Presenting Puthencavu Mathan Tharakan's Biography to writer Ravi Varma Thampuran.
Here is his Wikipedia biography, which I have written. Family lore is that when he used to visit our village for a Poet's Conference (Kavi Sammelanam) he used to insist on my grandfather P C Mathew sitting beside him on the dais. He and my grandfather were close, as they had grown up together, and were good friends. My grandfather, the abovementioned P C Mathew was a lover of reading and literature and filled his house with many books. I have inherited quite a few of his books from those days, which, bye the bye, is another story, for another post.

I have often felt a need for a published biography of Puthencavu Mathan Tharakan. That seems to have come true with the publication of his biography by Dr. Jose Parakadavil. Here's a photo taken at the launch of the book by Dr. Thomas Cyriac (former Vice-chancellor of Gandhi University) presenting the said book to writer Ravi Varma Thampuran (whose novel Shayyanukamba was published recently).

Monday, April 04, 2016

This Happened on a Sunday!

It’s difficult to go for a walk these days. Yes. You think you are control of a situation, but, actually you aren’t. What I am going to describe left me sadly disillusioned. It happened thusly. Sundays, I go for a walk with my friend Henry in the environs of the dam, which is, alas, dry now. There is a slum by the side of the dam which was nurtured as a vote bank by the local politician. It has given refuge all kind of unwanted and fugitive elements, about which we couldn’t do anything. The slum has grown to occupy a huge area and is still growing, like all slums in New Bombay. When the politician is in league with the police, you can’t do much.

As I said, I and Henry were on our evening constitutional when we met a youth from the slum, riding a bike which was making a huge, deafening roar. Obviously he had disabled the silencer and, he was finding it a way to attract attention to him. As people with anti-social feelings often do, he was enjoying himself, being obnoxious. There is a hospital in the area, many aged people reside there, even many patients. So, we stopped him to give him a piece of advice. He got down from his bike in a menacing manner. He was only about twenty, his left ear was pierced and I think he was drunk.

-   Why is your bike making so much noise?
-   What goes of your father? It’s my bike?
-   Don’t talk like that. We are of your father’s age.
-   Then talk like old people.
-   We are saying there are sick and old people. There is a hospital in the locality. (In fact, we were standing in front of the hospital.)
-   What do I care? It’s my wish. (“Meri marzi” is a Bollywood song lyric that had become famous some time ago.)
-   But you should get it repaired.
-   I told you it’s my bike, didn’t I? Is it your father’s road?”
-   Don’t take my father’s name.

Till now Henry was leading the conversation. He had become upset about the boy mentioning his father’s name. The young man was truculent and had no respect for age. (But that’s the norm these days.) I interceded and took a flustered Henry away from the spot and asked the youth to leave. By this time some people had gathered, but they didn’t help, or, involve themselves, though, it was their problem, too. I knew I could phone the police station, but that would be taking matters too further. I fear going to the police station, because then there would be revenge from the boy and his gang.

Belapur is a small place. Everyone knows everyone, but it vexes me that this happened. Most of the people living around the area is known to me and greet me on my daily perambulation. Then I remember the incident of Dr. Pankaj Narang, beaten to death because of an argument. This happened in Delhi, it could happen in Bombay too. Economic disparities have enraged poor people and we may be the target of their anger. I told the boy to go away, the onlookers, and those looking from their balconies dispersed after they saw the tamasha, some were smiling and laughing. Laughing? About what? Humiliation of Henry, who is a senior citizen, and I (soon to be one). They don’t know they could be in such a situation tomorrow.