I recently saw a news coverage on Times Now of a parched village in Madhya Pradesh where mothers send their little children down steep wells, right down to the almost 20-30 feet deep bottom, scaling the inside wall of the well, to fill water in buckets. It is dangerous and risky and all they get at the end of it is maybe 2-5 litres of unclean water. It is an arduous climb down and up with a risk to life and limb. The mother stands above and instructs the kids about filling more water. It is almost a scramble as kids try and get the most water from the depths of the dried well. And this after they have trekked sometimes 30 kms.
My window overlooks a swimming pool of a neighboring building and I watched kids jumping into the pool as mothers stood by the pool side shouting instructions to swim faster, dive deeper.
The first mother pushes her kids in the well to help the family survive. The second mother pushes her kids in the pool to survive in the rat race of achieving excellence at any cost. For the first set of kids water is a precious life source and for the other set it is a source for entertainment. Ironic isn’t it?
At a traffic signal I watched as young street l kids did the balancing act. Jumped through hoops, balanced on a tight rope as their parents played music and collected money from the bystanders. Soon the cops came and herded the kids away to a juvenile home; I presume and told the parents they can be arrested for child labour.
I switched on a channel and saw kids as young as 3, 5 and 9 years ‘gyrating’ their hips to lewd songs all the while being cheered by an audience and so called celebrity judges. I saw their parents standing in the wings shouting encouragement. The parents had a sick expression on their face and in their body language, that of making their kids fulfill their dreams at any cost and after all childhood does not cost much. I am sure the same cop must be sitting at home watching this show with his family and even sending a ‘vote’ from his cell phone for the kid participants. His sense of justice about child labour? Nowhere in sight.
The first set of parents were using their kid’s skills to feed the family the second set were using it to feed unfulfilled dreams and desires. Both at the cost of childhood. Ironic isn’t it?
This is divided India for kids. Poor kids fight for food, water and the basic necessities and the rich abuse those very basic necessities. What is our role as parents and educators? Maybe instill empathy in our kids? Maybe try and do our bit for these kids? Or maybe ensure that our kids do not misuse basic necessities for their use and entertainment while more than half the kids in this country fight for it.
How do the local authorities give permission to builders to have swimming pools in societies? In fact now you have homes with private swimming pools for each flat. Is this a necessity or a sheer waste and lack of empathy for human suffering? Today half of India is reeling under drought, severe drought. What is urban India willing to sacrifice to support them? We can’t make it rain but we can stop ourselves from extravagant use of water can’t we?
As a sociologist I am worried that this great Indian kid’s divide will not augur well for the mental and social health of our country. Here I would like to quote author and educationist Lilian Katz from her book ‘Intellectual Emergencies’- “I believe that each one of us must come to care about everyone else’s children. We must come to see that the well-being of our own individual children is intimately linked to the well-being of all other people’s children. After all when one of our children needs life saving surgery, someone else’s child will perform it; when one of our children is threatened or harmed by violence in the streets, someone else’s child will inflict it. The good life for our own children can only be secured if it is also secured for all other people’s children. But to worry about all other people’s children is not just a practical or strategic matter; it is a moral and ethical one; to strive for the well being of all other people’s children is also right.”
Let’s try, at least try and reduce this great India divide. Any thoughts?