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March 06, 2018 Tuesday 03:46:15 PM IST


Guest Column

My Grandson Aswin brought his friend Niranjan to me. Both are in Class XI. English medium. CBSE. Famous school.


Fairly pricey, but not exorbitant. Good teachers, good facilities. They were on the school team which had participated in a short-film making competition in Kochi and their work got some special mention by the jury. Now they wanted to make a short film of their own. Could I suggest any thread to some new and interesting storyline?


Appooppa (grandpa), no soft porn, please. A mystery story maybe. Ghost. Murder. Accident. Detective. A bit of animation OK. If you don’t have any idea, don’t worry. We will manage. But if you have it ready, please tell us.”


I did not quite like my grandson’s condescending style, but he is my grandson…65 years ago I was his age. So, I have to accept him.


“But Aswin, you have your exams coming. Then your tuitions. And you are after this filmmaking?”


I didn’t add the words ‘wasting your time’, which come automatically to we elders at this juncture. At his age, I was at the University College in Trivandrum, now Thiruvananthapuram, and never worried about anything except table tennis, English movies at Sreekumar and Hindi at Central Talkies, kathakali and radio, and, of course, the impending and inevitable Chinese-type communist revolution!


“Appooppa, no problem. We will handle it.”


“So, you both want to become film men?”


“No no. We have not yet decided.”


“Good. You have started taking tuitions for JEE (Joint Entrance Examinations) now, right?”


“No… no… no. That is only to reduce our parents’ tension. Appooppa, look at this Niran. His mother wants him to become a doctor and his father wants him to  be an engineer. You know what.hey quarrelled for three years and now they have reached a compromise and Niran agreed to prepare for IIT entrance to keep them happy.”


“And actually, what does he want to become?”


“Cinema or hospitality. Or rocket science. Not decided. He is Gujarati. So finally, he may, I don’t know, become a stock broker or Prime Minister. Who knows?”


“But what about the parents?”


Appooppa, you have to live with them. You can’t choose your parents. They can’t come out of their shells. But old people, parents, and teachers are not against us. They are basically nice. Only thing is you should know how to handle them.”


“You mean?”


“Praise them. Never point out their follies. It is common sense, Appooppa,” he blurted out.


“Don’t tell these to our parents.”


The attitude was hardly different. I remembered. I also did the same thing with my parents. My friends also did the same thing in our time. But we had limitations. Caste and tradition. Social, political, and economic set-up that laid down clear divisions and types of activities one was allowed to do.


The most brilliant political genius in Indian history, Kautilya, better known as Chanakya could never become a King. He could at best become Chief Adviser to the King. Perunthachan was the best architect in Kerala’s history and his son could never aspire to become anything but a better architect. Kulathozhil — the work assigned to a caste — breaking the Berlin Wall was unthinkable.


But that has changed although the change itself is recent — from the time of Indian Independence roughly. Now every child can aspire to become a leader in his or her chosen field. It is universal and the momentum was created by technology.


Today we are in a period of transition in world history where the market economy, propelled by the grand sweep of scientific and technological advances, has brought the world to a stage where the old prejudices of race, language, and colour have almost been wiped out and a stage has come when the existing equations in philosophy, sociology, politics, economics, and every other social science have become meaningless and have to be recast.


Now we are all converts or are in the process of being converted to a new religion. The religion of Consumerism. Forced by their survival instincts, even politics and religions are absorbing the rituals and philosophy of consumerism and nobody can stop it. But it has created a social and emotional turmoil which really speaking, very few of us understand or accept.


Let us trace the origins of it all. Adam and Eve had few problems, but plenty of food, no work, and all play. The garden had everything. But for their progenies, it was different. Play OK. But you have got to work for your food. Your roti, kapda and makaan (food, clothing, shelter). God was aware of it and He prescribed a schedule. Work for six days in a week and on the seventh day, you pray, relax, and enjoy.


Now science and technology has ushered in unimaginable prosperity and a less-work, more play syndrome. Back then, there was no need to work for all six days. God was not particularly adamant. So, He found that a five-day week was fine. Today, in the wake of further inventions and innovations, believe it or not a four day week is in the offing. Perhaps a little later, work for three days and relax and enjoy for four days a week? Who knows!


So, the roti-kapda-makaan based structure of society is undergoing a change. The future will be more play-based and all the major industries, financial priorities, and enterprises will, in all probability, focus on providing relaxation and enjoyment. Travel, health, festivals, sport.


Twenty-first century is smashing everything and virtual dreams are becoming realities. Look around. The new gods are advertisers such as an Uber that doesn’t own a single car, a Byju’s App that teaches without a teacher and school, and a Paytm that banks without an office! So, you have transport, education, and banking at your fingertips. In other news, robots are taking over most of the boring and laborious tasks that we carried out until recently even as the concept of the family is undergoing a shock treatment.


Pope Francis identified the two real major problems of the current world: the loneliness of the old and the anxiety of the young.


The anxiety of our young is about their future. How to choose and what to choose? How to find out what you are? Can we, elders do something to help our young to reduce their anxiety and make them happy?


Very difficult. But let us try without inhibition.

K . L. Mohana Varma

Kochi-based novelist, short story writer and columnist.
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