New Delhi: My sister looked worried when she came to drop her kids at my place for the weekly sojourn. We keep getting away from our progeny once in a while, to allow us to breathe deep and understand, truly grasp the enormity of a thing called life. Otherwise, it’s just a churn; wake up, brush, clean, cook, get ready, but I am not here today to cry hoarse over my routine-ridden life but to talk about a crucial issue.
I tried to ignore, overlook, deride, dismiss and plead, but had to put my arms down seeing her distraught. My sister was worried about her son over what she suspected was a secret affair he was having over his phone. An online friendship. (Yeah, an epidemic today).
I tried to laugh it off. What’s the big deal?
(Secretly I imagined my son in that situation and felt sick worried.)
According to the reports, my nephew would be engaged in night-long sojourns over his phone with the lady. (We both hoped she were a she, otherwise in MTimes you never know what will be served to you next, at the instant you stop to gather your collective breath.) Further investigations confirmed our hopes and we heaved a big sigh of relief. Now the real quest began:
Sister: “You should talk to him about this.”
Me: (trying to escape responsibility as always) “Why? What is the harm?”
(I wanted to say, why should I talk to him, he is your son, you talk to him, but as it is obvious to my wise readers, in maintaining relationships you can’t behave Ekta Kapoor-esque outrageous.)
Sister: “No harm? (she looked puzzled.) He is on his phone every waking moment of his day.”
Me: “All kids today are.”
Sister: “He takes his phone even to the wash room.”
Me: “yeah, common.”
Sister: (now losing her patience) “Do you want to help me, like a sister does?”
I tried to smell sarcasm but didn’t, it was a genuine remark.
Me: “You want me to do a sisterly act, then I would try to instigate that girl to visit your home (I was trying to laugh nervously).”
Sister: “Talk to him.”
Kids these days run through a gamut of emotions within fractions of a Nano second. Leave alone advising, even suggesting as simple a thing like wrapping the strings of their shoulder sacks, earns you scorn and a sonorous loud huh.
And online friendships? We all know the truth about it.
To my lot, I had to convince a rash brash bubbling-with-hormones teenager of not using phone ‘too’ much (This qualifying adjective of too! How much is too much, by the way, I started dreading his questions).
Before my conversation could begin, I was given a complete overhaul of all the latest gadgets in general and the chat apps in particular available today to ‘connect, reconnect and re-reconnect ‘with friends whom you leave at school at four and want to connect on reaching home or even in the middle of the way.
Muddling heads, muddling ways.
My dull elucidations on the dangers of the long exposures to bright screens, the blue rays, were dismissed with a shrug. I felt like thanking him for not giving me a ‘cold’ shoulder. After that, I focused on his musings and tried to intervene again, with boring stuff like harm to our eyes, along with ears, brains…I was about to say it also affects our internal organs kidneys, esophagus but he raised his hand Erdogan style and asked,
“So you won’t be using your phones anymore?”
Er…the advice was for him, as all such advice is / should be, and the ‘device’ for me. But the teenager gentleman had dragged this elder into his clever net. Seeing the guns turning on myself, I beat a hasty retreat and took the bull by its locks that stood up like small soft horns on the broad forehead of my nephew.
Me: “You see, Seemein ( my sister) is worried about your overuse of phone.”
Him: “Huh, she is always worried about something or the other.”
Such instant dismissals by our progeny are normal.
Me: (trying to become bolder) “She feels you are into talks with a girl.”
Me: “I guess she is Samiya.” (trying not to laugh nervously, Samiya is their cute neighbor)
Him: “Nope. Her name is Mehroze.”
Me: “Oh! Acha? (Trying to hide my being bowled over at the first ball) But you know, you know well how Seemein is against such conversations. Such online activities are a waste of time and emotionally draining.”
Him: (looking closely at me) “What are you against? My using phone? My supposedly ‘overuse’ of phones. (He smirked, I swear.) Or my talking to the girls?”
Me: “Well, it’s not me but her.” (My attempts at shrugging the shoulders act missed the mark)
(Such interrogation always makes me nervous so I decided to give up and came straight to the point) “Well, (I tried to take a hard look at him) Seemein, says, I mean it is her who feels, it is wrong to talk to girls, all night long. It is morally corrupting influence.”
(The effort to keep it friendly while conveying the message at the same time, was taking its toll on me.)
Me: “You agree?” (almost complaining)
Me: “What do you mean?”
Him: “I mean, why are you not concerned about other things?”
Him: “Like why am I talking to Mehroze now.”
Me: “Excuse me? So you accept, you…”
Him: “Look, Khala, your generation was different. It was difficult for Khalujaan to take you out for dinner even after you both were engaged.”
Me: “But that was how…”
Him: “Wait, I am not finished yet. Earlier Grandpa would ride the same bus as granny would be travelling in, and that was their date”
The monster laughed sonorously.
“And you, Khala? The only date you had was while breaking your Ramzan fast.”
Now we both burst into guffaws that lasted a few seconds, much to the chagrin of my sister who had just dropped in from the other room.
He was talking about his urgent move from Samiya to Mehroze. Our cover for the conversation, the complaint of the overuse of phones had been blown away. Also we all stood in the dock. We all were monster users of these life sapping phones.
But we didn’t want to appear ‘uncool’ by asking him, not to talk to the girls. Oh, not to talk to girls?! How he would laugh at us. But hadn’t we all grown listening to these parental bombardments, “Don’t talk to boys, Don’t talk to girls?”
My sister was gnashing her teeth while the teenager was looking all serious and tried to explain how things were different in his time.
Me: “Proceed, I am listening.” (ignoring the sound of gnashing teeth of my sister and her hmm…what are you doing—kind of expressions)
Him: “So basically, we are pragmatic. If Samiya gets out of my life (i.e. blocks him from her Snapchat Instagram) there is always a Mehroze waiting for you.”
Me: “And an Abbas or Fouzan waiting for her.”
Perhaps my smile appeared sarcastic to him. So he turns around with a sage-like exhortation.
Him: (shaking his head in disappointment) “You guys, you old guys, Aunty. Actually we take life too seriously to care for such daily occurring.”
We both: “Seriously?”
Him: “And unlike you, we maintain casual ties long after break up.”
Me: “hain, possible?”
Him: (with a stoic smile) “You won’t understand.”
He was serious.So, that is how he sees it! Casual. Cool. Practical.
When a child utters these prophetic words, it’s time for their elders to know, their time is up and about. The child has grown up in his own eyes.
After this abrupt end, another conversation began in my head. What makes love, love? Is it giving one’s whole undivided attention? One’s time? Has the definition of love changed? Have we changed the ways in which we loved? Have our kids found new perceptions of love? The differences make these peculiar dilemmas all the more difficult. Has love changed colours? Are the words of the Bard no longer true?
“Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds.”
Today’s Shakespeare shakes his head from side to side and utters, And love alters when it alteration(s) finds.
Is moving on, from one person to another as easy, deserving of our derision or should be taken as pragmatic, practical? Should it indicate the gung-ho attitude about live and let live?
Kids these days are in and out of relationships like you once changed the book covers. Despite the flimsiness of it all, I find these kids quite mature: on their own terms. An entirely new or say, ’cool’ level of understanding that betrays the old fashioned common sense, turns the tables on traditional perceptions; in brief, it *confumuses us.