Thursday, January 12, 2012

Combat counsel

“Why?! Why?! Why?! Why was I born at all?!”

This was Asawari, three days short of her departure for University, a long, a very long way off.
We were nice and snug in what her Dad calls our domestic cybercafé, respective laptops out and keypads in a state of furious animation. The radiator provided a cheerful foil to the daily dose of depressing national news. There was the high decibel delivery of fatiguing refrains on global warming, security threats, scams and financial flubs.

Her plaintive wail of protest cut through the domestic daze and made me sit up. What a gory picture we paint for our children, I thought, even as I added to the despondency in the room with my own thesis on the state of the world. What must this next generation think of an adult world that is forever scaring them, threatening them, short changing them and penalizing them? We, who owe them support, security and strength are so shaky ourselves that we make a habit of sounding the knell.

Be careful, very very careful, we tell them. Do not trust strangers. Beware of relationships. Keep your wits about you at all times. Squeal if you feel threatened anytime. Avoid commuting at night and in areas that are shady. Move in groups. Keep a deterrent handy. Store money in a secret pocket. Look after yourself. Don’t lock eyes with that pesky driver at the red light. Roll the window panes up and try to stay with the traffic. Send text messages at check in, boarding, landing, cabbing and arriving. View unattended objects with suspicion. Prepare for continued recession. Our neighbouring country is in the throes of a “nervous breakdown”, in Fatima Bhutto’s words. Stay on the ball.

Does this sound like a preparatory advisory being delivered to soldiers stepping into the enemy zone? It does and is in fact worse than combat counsel for the simple reason that these instructions are for survival in one’s own city, country and people. What have we come to?

I want to tell all the children whose existence I touch that life is beautiful and it is a brave world they inhabit. Instead, what is running through my head is an article I read online about a tagging chip in the child’s skin to keep a twenty four hour track of him/her. It is a tough call! 

In what manner do we justify bringing them into a world that will make it impossible for them to live a life free of fear? How do we make it possible for our kids to believe that the world is a safe and not a scary place! Is it something we even want to risk ?! Can we afford to?

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