My last blog created a lot interest among my friends, prompting many of them to take a nostalgic trip down memory lane, stirring themselves to relive evocative moments of their school days. They flashbacked to a time when their childhood was a phantasmagoric fable written in ingenuousness, with dollops of tomfoolery associated with those days. Many also reminisced on how they tried to live up to their parents’ untenable expectations of doing better than their contemporaries (alternately, neighbour / distant relative’s progeny).

As I have pointed out in many of my earlier blogs, our parents had a lot of expectations from us during our childhood. Some of these were dreams that they must have nurtured during their youth, which due to the existing circumstances prevailing during those days, may not have been fulfilled. Most of the parents I know tried to live their unfulfilled dreams through their offspring. Many (including mine) wanted their children to only take up vocations that would ultimately prove lucrative for them in the future (viz. Doctors, Engineers or Chartered Accountants). But in between us living proxy lives, and battling travails of adolescence, we had fun and enjoyed our school days. But I see an extremely disturbing trend among some of today’s kids. I was watching the promo of an ongoing dance reality show featuring kids, and the behaviour of the participants distressed me. I saw a child, who could not have been a day older than 6 years, discussing things like her mother being a shrew and pinching money from her father’s purse. To top it, the celebrity “judges” rather than discouraging such abhorrent comportment, kept encouraging such tots to spill more such dirty secrets. Some of the dance moves were definitely vulgar and not befitting a child, but was being obnoxiously lapped up by the judges and audience alike. At the time when these kids should be in school getting their basic education, we see them participating in such gratuitous and demeaning reality shows.

I have seen many such kids whose parents actually encourage them to participate in such shows, in the futile hope that they would win and earn some much wanted moolah for the family. They are made to skip school and miss out on classes, just so that they can practice for such shows. I can understand parents of economically backward families from the hinterlands doing this, but educated, city-bred parents making their child chase such unattainable dreams shock me. Having seen the reality behind such “reality” shows from close quarters, I can assure you that the only people making money out of such shows are the producers and the so-called “judges”. And thanks to the inane system of voting by SMS (if you want the common man to judge such shows, why have judges at all), the telecom providers also laugh all the way to the bank. Think of any past “winner” of such celebrity shows – as expected, “instant” recall is not so instant after all. Except for a few exceptions, public memory being as short as it is, none of these winners are remembered for more than a few days after such a show ends. Most of the promises made by the TV channels, celebrity judges and movie stars (who invariably come to promote their upcoming movies), are never kept (again there exists a few exceptions, which are few and far between). If you remember there was a non-entity called Abhijeet Sawant who was the winner of the first Indian Idol. During the show hosannas were heaped on his singing abilities (though he was just about average), and lots of promises were made to him, but no one remembers him these days. He gets an odd song here and there, but he never became the trendy singer he would have aspired to be when he won the competition. Surprisingly, Arijit Singh, who is one of the current flavors of music directors, lost in the finals of one such singing program – just goes to prove how facile and vacuous such reality shows are. At a time when these youngsters should be laying down their educational bedrock, are walking blindly or are being pushed into the mirage-like glitz and glamour of our hollow entertainment world.

It is good for children to have idols they can look up to, and such thoughts should be encouraged by parents but with a rider that every child is a unique individual, and that he or she does not need an idol to emulate. As parents we need to instill into them a sense of self-confidence that they are capable enough to set their own path. Like a good teacher, parents can only point the way, but whether they want to pave their path with uneven paver blocks or smooth concrete, should be left to them. A child aspiring to look up to celebrities as role models is appropriate provided it is a P V Sindhu, but disquieting if it is a Salman Khan, and definitely creepy if it is a Rakhi Sawant!


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