I was walking down the road that leads to my old school the other day. It was good to be back. It had been many years since I last walked that road. The same old potholes, the same quaint stone houses lining both sides, the sun burning down mercilessly on your scalp. Some things just don’t change, do they.
As I passed the ground near the school, I saw an unfamiliar shade of green. Now I am a fond admirer of green locales and though this was a heartening sight, it brought along a disturbing thought. Besides this one, the two other grounds next to it were green too. They were not only green but had two-foot high grass and weeds growing on them.
It led me to the question - where are the kids?
I remember the times of being in school and the few years soon after. The grounds were always barren. This bore no testimony to the fertility of the soil but to the enthusiasm, if I may call it that, of the kids back then. Back then! That really is a surprising phrase to use for a time only five years in the past.
I remember an entire generation of us - used to watching one cartoon in an entire week. Even the advent of Cartoon Network and its successive popularity could not change those habits to an enormous extent. There were always more kids playing cricket on those grounds. Fights broke out to decide which team gets to play on the coveted concrete pitch. While you were fielding, you wouldn’t be too surprised if you got smacked in the back of the head by a ball belted by a batsman from another team playing on a different pitch on the same ground.
Some morons played football. In our later years, we joined the morons’ club with our home ground changing to an enormous ground a few blocks away. Through the years we watched the dwindling population on the ground that we played football on. It was good in a way because we always had more space to play and it was bad because there was no one to throw the ball back to us if it ran out of play.
A new generation has risen in the past five years. A generation that is so dogged by competitive education in India that parents feel the need to pack off their kids to multiple tuition classes, vacation classes, test series and a gamut of other exercises meant purely to breed, succeed and succumb to the genre of competitive education in India.
As we see less kids playing on outdoors, we see less kids going on to chose professions other than engineering and medicine - provided that they have a choice.
Physical fitness is a thing of the past, you ought to have flashy gym memberships to be fit now. The number of kids needing glasses before they finish school is growing. Junk food, crash diets, anorexia, obesity, diet coke - most wouldn’t have heard of these words in the early and mid nineties. It is disheartening to see bright young kids who have never held a cricket bat in their hands and have not knows the feeling of playing cricket in the noon with your merry band of sidekicks with "the sun burning down mercilessly on your scalp". The experience of playing football in the rain with an inch thick layer of mud stuck to your feet, chasing kites across the lanes, running through weeds, fishing in a desolate well by an abandoned farmhouse, climbing fences to retrieve a cricket ball, climbing trees and getting chased for it.
The grass grows greener and taller, the sale of video game consoles sky-rockets, advertising now holds an impenetrable grip on the young mind and television is the erstwhile subdued monster that has gained widespread control.