Saturday, November 05, 2005

Don't dwell on the past, don't worry about the future

The sight of my ten-year old daughter comfortably settled on the sofa, a bowl of potato chips in one hand and the TV- remote-control device in the other and surfing her way through 30 channels in 15 minutes - was more than I could bear. It was time, I thought, that I should deliver a fatherly sermon on how lucky she was in having so many good things which, we of the earlier generation did not even dream of. Every parent in every generation has preached thus and I did not want to miss this opportunity.

So I stared her squarely in the eye and asked, "Do you realize, you techno-savvy brat, that you are thoroughly spoilt? Do you know that even when I was twice your age, I had just one channel to watch, that too black and white ?”

“ Just one channel to watch , the whole day?" she asked in amazement.

I had to correct her. “ Not the whole day. Doordarshan used to begin transmission only at 6.30 p.m and would wind up at 10.30 p.m. And they used to screen movies only on Saturdays”

“ What ! Just one channel and just for 4 hours. And just one movie a week. How did you manage to survive ? Surf the net?", she enquired, not unlike Marie Antionette wondering why the proletariat could not eat cake, if there was no bread.

“ There were no computers then, let alone the Internet.” I had to tick her off sharply.

“ Then just what did you do to spend your time ? Play games on your mobile phone ?”

“ There were no mobile phones then" I responded "and for good measure, no cordless phones. Not even phones with buttons. Phones those days came with a round dial. If you had to dial a number like 72345 you had to put your finger in the hole with the number 7 and turn the dial, wait for it to come back, then put your finger in the hole with the number 2 and so on. If the number was engaged you started all over again. “

“ And”, I continued, pre-empting the next question, “ there was only one type of car. The Ambassador. No Marutis, Hyundais or the Hondas. And no air-conditioning in the car. Not even music systems”

“ Appa, stop “ my daughter screamed out loud “ Don’t talk to me about the past. It makes me very sad. You people had nothing then. You had such a miserable life”.

At this point, I felt it prudent to inject a more cheerful note into the proceedings.

“ You know,” I told her, “25 years from now, you are going to have a similar conversation with your daughter. You are going to show her some of the photographs that we took last week and she is going to stare at them disbelievingly. She is going to find your dress bizarre and your hairstyle incredibly funny. She will ask you why you needed to wear this thingy called spectacles, as nobody in her generation would be using them. As a matter of fact, she would want to know why one needed to have photos printed on paper, as kids of that era will be living in a paperless world.”

I went on, “ She will stare in wonder if you described to her the TV set, the computer and the mobile phone that you have today. She will be shocked that people living in the past had to struggle with such primitive and bulky stuff. In her time, all these functions would be integrated in a single compact device attached to the wrist .

“ She will ask you why you had to go to school. She will want you to explain why you did not have the automated self-learning studios then. Were you so poor when you were a child that you could not afford these basic necessities ?”

“But, not everything that you have today will look bad to her. She will long for the fast cars that we have today. By the time she is old enough to drive, the world would have run out of oil and she would be going around in a slow, solar-powered vehicle….”

I would have continued in this vein for some more time, but at this point, my daughter interrupted me, “ Appa, stop. Don’t talk to me about the future. It is too scary”.

That was the end of the conversation.

“The past is dead. No point in dwelling on it. The future is unborn. No point in worrying about it. The present is a gift. Make the most of it”, I muttered to myself philosophically, mulling over the lesson that my daughter had just taught me.


Pareshaan said...

Don't know about the future, but the past does seem ancient indeed. How things change!

neha vish said...

Stop scaring your kid! :)

rauf said...

I was cleaning up, my niece was helping me, I gave her a few albums for dusting, I just keep them though I don't have a turn table now
'What is this mamadu ? she asked, I said its a record.
'what record ?
Music record.
'you mean there is music in this ?
her lovely eyes went wide with wonder
I said yes
Oh dear its so big !
'how many songs are in this plate ?
I said ten to 12,
'WHAT ? only TWELVE ? She made a face.... pooh !
why is it so big then ?
she ran inside and screamed
'mommy there is music in this plate'
Her older brother my nephew has 512 MB of music on his mobile.

I cried the day I played the first stereo record.
I tell the guys who talk about spiritual happiness 'go take a hike'

Anonymous said...

You can change the situation to some extent regarding the TV. When I was growing up (born 1974) my parents didn't buy a TV. In fact they were so strictly against TV, that they didn't buy a TV until my sister graduated which was 2003. Thanks to them I don't have a TV even now (a rarity in the US) and can spend quality time doing something else.

rauf said...

Goodness mees
oweee Mr.Anonymous
What is QUALITY time ?
I think its an American disease
Here in India we love wasting our time, what a joy !
If life is that serious I don wanna live.
1200 rupees was a lot of money
in early eightees, I had to wait.
Saved money for months to buy myself a walkman, Why didn't you tell me my sister said, she gave me the money. I ran all the way
bought it and the first slbum I played was 'darkside of the moon'
I was in heaven.

Anshul said...

Joyous read :) yeah the pace of change is going to be fast all the time. I sometimes even can't imagine the lifestyle of people seven years younger than me!

do remember to tell your daughter though - that no matter whether its with plasticine, Leo toys, computer games or virtual reality - childhood is always the funnest place to be

A Motley Tunic said...

Nice Blog! I think every generation has its own struggles, but the important point is to never miss out on your childhood. Nice gift from your daughter.Enjoy it.

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