The Ghastly Vicissitudes of Childhood

ChildhoodThese times are like Christmas for children. From the cheerful yellow of McDonalds to the various game parlours cropping up like mushrooms in urban India, children seem to be enjoying the festival (even in the sweltering summer heat!). But all is not merry about this perpetual Christmas- it is painted red, not with love, but with blood. It is a grisly, unhappy situation. Violence has numbed human sensitivity. Television, video games and even newspapers have made children immune to violence. Be it WWE, the ever popular cartoon series- Power Rangers, movies like Terminator and Resident Evil, games like Counter Strike and Max Payne and even the repetitive and increasing mention of violent episodes like molestation, massacres and riots in newspapers, all of them have served to annihilate the soft and humane side of adults as well as children. Violence, i.e., the use of one’s power to inflict mental or physical injury upon another, has become commonplace while the fear and terror associated with the same has receded into the background.

The recent “student shootouts” in the capital bear testimony to this fact. The first incident of this kind happened at Gurgaon when two eighth standard boys shot their classmate, Abhishek Tyagi, to death over a petty row. This was followed by another incident, which involved students of Kendriya Vidyalaya. The victim was attacked by his classmate, again of eighth standard, in Delhi itself. The fight ended with one of the boys conceiving serious stab injuries on the chest and the shoulders.

Such frightening incidents chill people to the bone. They force us to forgo the momentary sympathy which we offer while reading about them. Instead they compel us to think; think seriously in terms of what we have been doing, where exactly our species is headed, and further, shudder at the casual attitude with which violence is dealt with. They generate within us a sense of guilt, hopelessness and terror.

We cannot say that violence gained entry into our lives only recently through television or books. Man has been killing man for money and power since time immemorial. The difference however, is that taking somebody’s life was a grave and serious matter earlier, and most people were ridden with the moral repercussions of the deed. Today, the familiarization with violence has taken away from its grossness and fear; like a child afraid of dark overcomes his fear on being exposed to darkness very frequently.

It is a grim scenario ahead. As if man against man wasn’t enough, we have 14-year-olds shooting at one another, without realizing the repercussions. Either ways, it is highly disturbing. If children don’t know the consequences of all the fighting and killing they witness on their computer or television screens, but instead, use the methods advocated to settle scores, or, they are smart enough to realize that using a revolver or paper cutter would mean getting rid of that “bully” in school permanently, it only highlights the fact that they are being exposed to a dosage of violence which the adult world feeds them. The time has come to review our plans for development and mend our cruel profit making ventures. Agreed, childhood has many vicissitudes, but this red and frightening one surely doesn’t seem befitting in the warm, happy and innocent spirit of childhood.

Swati Verma

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