Chasing Ephemeral Dreams

This week saw London burn under rioting from her youth going on rampage. In a world connected by television, the images of young children looting and committing crimes of arson were beamed all over the world in high definition. Now if the United Kingdom were a banana republic or a non-democratic nation, we could have added it to the growing list of countries coming under the effect of the Arabian spring. But it would be too easy and very misleading to write this off as the actions of a people unhappy with their government or their lives.

The images on the T.V. show very clearly that the aim of the protests was to loot, to have for themselves that which they could not afford.

We live in a world defined by advertising. Our lives are like the proverbial donkey led by the carrot. There is always another mountain to climb after the one we have just struggled over, just like in the song.  We don’t need to look beyond the shores of our own country to see the changes that have come about in just one generation.

There was a time when an entire village or street, if you happened to live in a city, was happy and got by with just one telephone connection. Today a person carries multiple mobile phones. Mobile phones in themselves are a fantastic example of how things have changed. Earlier a mobile phone allowed you to store numbers, make a phone call and send an SMS. But today a mobile phone costs as much as a computer and does almost everything one can. They have become symbols of cool and everybody wants the latest one. Apple makes a fortune out of pandering to the need of our youth to be cooler than cool.

Thirty years ago an Indian would be over the top to buy a car. There were all of three models available to an Indian when it came to choosing a car. A family would save for years before they thought about buying one. Today a kid walks out of college, into a job and immediately decides to buy a car. Not just that, he has a myriad choices. Within three years he is already bored of it and begins looking around for his next set of wheels.

Clothes are an area where this is seen the most. Gone are the days when tailors abounded at every street corner. Thirty years ago cloth manufacturers ruled the roost. If you were looking for endorsements in India, they were your best bet. Vimal used Ravi Shastri, Gwalior used Suni Gavaskar and Digjam had Shekhar Suman. But today hardly anybody uses tailor-stitched shirts and trousers. Global brands like Wrangler and Levis throw the best-looking and most sexual models at you and make you yearn to look like them.

Bata ruled the roost as the only option for footwear. Today you leave your Bata behind the moment you learn to say “No”.

As we hurtle towards a world where competition doesn’t just mean how well you did in school or sports, or how safe a job you have landed, our children are expected to compete on levels we never had to. They are measured by the clothes they wear, the shoes they use and the accessories they sport. It is up to the parents to step up to the plate and bat. This is one part of their character building and education that cannot be outsourced to school, colleges or the television. We need to keep our children grounded as to what is really important in this life. If not, we will see many more Londons where children have to resort to breaking the law on a mass scale to achieve ephemeral dreams.


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