OK Boomer!

It is the story over generations—the older generation that cannot help lapsing into the “when I was your age…” line, and the younger generation with their hidden smirks and “here they go again” line. This year there are two words that sum up the feelings—OK Boomer!

Who or what are boomers? This is the name that was given to the generation that was born between the mid-1940s and mid-1960s. This was the period marked by a baby boom following World War II. In several parts of the world this generation also enjoyed higher incomes and standards of living as compared to their parents. It was a generation that also had some surplus from their hard earned income to spur a surge in consumerism.

Following the baby boomers was Gen X, the generation that was born in the period between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s. Gen Xers as they were called sometimes called the “latchkey” generation, where both parents either worked, or children of single parents as  more and more women joined the workforce. This generation was perceived by the boomers as being cynical, slackers and drifters.

Then came Gen Y, also called the millennials–a phrase used to generally describe a person who reached adulthood in the early 21st century, and covers the generation of people born between 1980 and 2000.

Now we have Gen Z the generation reaching adulthood in the second decade of the 21st century; in other words those born in the 2000s. A generation also described as iGeneration (iGen), Gen Tech, Gen Wii, Net Gen, Digital Natives, and Plurals.

Today, we often have all the four generations in coexistence and interaction, each with their very distinct histories, experiences and perceptions about life and times. No surprise then that each generation perceives the other very differently, each one articulating the issues of the ‘generation gap’ in their own way. For Gen Z, anyone not in their teens are simply relics from the age of the dinosaurs. For the dinosaurs, the young twenty-somethings are a species apart. The war of opinions and words about the ‘appropriateness’ of attitudes are lifestyles is articulated by the elders in long lectures. But the new Gen needs only two words to sum up their take on this—OK Boomer!  Younger people are calling older people (or anyone who disagrees with their beliefs or are deemed uncool) boomers.

The term “boomer” now represents older people from a different generation that just don’t get it, or anyone who disagrees with their beliefs, or are deemed uncool. A boomer is someone who is intolerant to new ideas and who is ignorant to new ideas.

The term originated as a meme on the social media platform TikTok, and gained popularity throughout 2019. The OK Boomer meme really started out as a fun, light-hearted joke,but soon became viral and was used generally in a humorous and ironic way to describe or dismiss out-of-touch or close-minded opinions associated with the baby boomer generation and older people.

So the next time someone from any Gen preceding Gen Z dares to express concern about the up-and-coming generation as inexperienced or naive, be prepared to have an “OK Boomer” coming at them. And remember that the OK isn’t an endorsement, but just the opposite that means Not OK! Till the next gen takes over!

–Mamata

Year of Moderation—It Was Not!

‘Moderation’, says the dictionary, is the ‘avoidance of excess or extremes, especially in one’s behaviour or political opinions.’ Moderate behaviour is reasonable behaviour.  Synonyms for ‘moderate’ include : Self-restrained, tolerant, balanced, considerate, dispassionate, measured, judicious .

Why this sudden exploration of a vocabulary word? No, not quite a random exercise. Actually, as part of end-of-year exercise, I was checking what 2019 had been ‘Year Of’.  Two I knew about: Year of the Periodic Table, and Year of Indigenous Languages (both covered in the blog). But the third I knew nothing about—that 2019 was supposed to have been the International Year of Moderation. The UN Resolution to mark the Year was moved “to promote moderation as a tool to prevent the rise of extremism and terrorism” and “to promote the values of dialogue, tolerance, understanding and cooperation.” TE202BBC6-BEEB-4844-A799-B9896B8AD33Fhe Year of Moderation was declared in “an effort to amplify the voices of moderation through the promotion of dialogue, tolerance, understanding and cooperation.” The resolution did not pass without huge amount of discussion, debate and dissension. Even at the end, it was not passed unanimously. There were two votes against.

But was it even worth the battle to get the Resolution passed? To begin with, it was the most un-publicized Year ever! And more pertinently, 2019 was anything other than a (let alone ‘The’) Year of Moderation. It was in fact a year of extremes, of polarization, of violence—of thought, word and action. Across the world, governments became more autocratic, and across the world citizens reacted. The world only became more unsafe, less equal and more intolerant.

This was also the 150th Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Another event which has gone by more or less un-observed even in India. The fact that both the anniversaries were ignored is all of a piece. Mahatma Gandhi accepted that people had different points of view and he believed in convincing people through dialogue and discussion. More than anything else, he believed in the fundamental goodness of people, which is the basis of moderation.

Sadly missed opportunities in 2019. Let us see what we make of 2020…

— Meena

 

 

Words of Warning

As an environmental educator, one that did not academically have a ‘science’ background, my own ‘learn as you teach’ education included the building up of a glossary of environment-related terms. As environmental educators, our learning needed to be well-grounded; we had to correctly, but creatively communicate the concepts related to the words. In the early 1990s one of these terms was the Hole in the Ozone Layer. We developed an information and activity package to share the causes and consequences of this aberration to Nature’s way of protecting life on earth.

Over the decades that followed, the same exercise was carried out to communicate the issues of global warming, carbon footprint, unsustainability, and other words and concepts that held within them the frightening story of how humankind, in its race for technological and lifestyle progress was carelessly and callously destroying the very foundations of a sustainable life for all living things on earth.

While we struggled as educators to reach out, speci

climate change.jpeg
https://www.cathywilcox.com.au/

ally to the younger generation with the plea to tread lightly on the earth, the world galloped ahead—consuming more, wasting more, and damaging more, in the race to becoming faster, bigger, and stronger. Nature, overwhelmed, responded with increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters. And scientists introduced, what soon became the ubiquitous  term Climate Change.  This became the blanket word describing the frightening state of the world we live in; the core of international conferences and agreements, and the harbinger of the worse that was still to come. Millions of words were written and spoken on the subject, paying lip service to the concerns about climate change, while actions demonstrated the very opposite.

One way to mark this year that has seen probably the direst impacts of climate change, is the selection of Climate Emergency as the Oxford Word of the Year.  This has been defined as ”a situation in which urgent action is required to reduce or halt climate change and avoid potentially irreversible environmental damage resulting from it.”

The annual Oxford Word of the Year is a word or expression that has attracted a great deal of interest over the past 12 months. Every year, this word is selected from a list as the one that best reflects the ethos, mood, or preoccupations of that particular year, and is perceived to have lasting potential as a word of cultural significance. Surprisingly this year the shortlist was dominated by words related to the environment including ‘climate action’, ‘climate denial’, ‘eco-anxiety’, ‘extinction’ and ‘flight shame’. But the term Climate Emergency stood out like a flashing danger signal.

Interestingly, last year, climate did not feature in the top words typically used in the context of ‘emergency’ which is generally associated with human health, hospital, and family emergencies. The attachment of the word Emergency with Climate reflects, for the first time, the fact that the health of the environment is being viewed with the same sense of urgency as the health of humans. As the editor-in-chief of The Guardian said: ‘We want to ensure that we are being scientifically precise, while also communicating clearly with readers on this very important issue. The phrase “climate change”, for example, sounds rather passive and gentle when what scientists are talking about is a catastrophe for humanity.’

Climate Emergency–Words that warn of impending cataclysm, even as nations and leaders talk and talk at the ongoing UN Climate Change Conference COP 25. Hopefully there will be some words, (and more actions) of wisdom as a fragile world teeters into a new decade.

–Mamata

 

Silent Reading

Remember how in school we were sometimes asked to read aloud a poem or text to rest of the class, and sometimes we were told that we had to do ‘silent reading’ in which each of us was to read silently to ourselves? I recalled this when I recently read about a concept that is apparently becoming popular. The idea of a silent book club!

The name itself is a bit of an oxymoron.  A book club conjures up a picture of a group of bibliophiles earnestly meeting at designated intervals to discuss at length the ‘assigned’ book. Silent reading brings to mind the concentrated academic reading done in a library, or the simple joy of curling up in a favourite chair with a friendly book; and most often this contentment is a solitary pleasure enjoyed in one’s own home.

The Silent Book Club combines the act of reading, surrounded by other people in a common space, with each person engaged in ‘silent reading’ of their own book. The concept was started in 2012 by two friends in San Francisco–Guinevere de la Mare and Laura Gluhanich. While both loved to read, and also enjoyed the idea of having someone with whom to discuss something they had read, they were equally uncomfortable with book clubs and the pressures of assigned readings and presentations. They imagined a situation where friends could meet together, but with each one reading whatever they liked for a designated time; after which the option to mingle and share remained open.

Unexpectedly, this simple idea has started to become global movement with chapters of the Silent Book Clubs opening in towns and cities across the world. The mandate is simple–bringing people and books together once a month to read in companionable silence in what the founders describe as “introvert happy hour!”

I was intrigued when I read about this concept. Even amused when I read that people are willing to pay handsomely for sitting in a café and drinking coffee while browsing through their book. Why? Because they feel that they cannot make the time for this at home, what with the continuous and overbearing demands of their virtual universe, and distractions of Netflix! Imagine having to wean yourself away from social media for just a couple of hours by physically putting yourself in an alternate space! And I wonder, after the designated time, would one be able to put aside a gripping murder mystery book for the next month, without finding out ‘whodunnit’?

Somewhat difficult for me to get wildly excited over! Luckily for me, (or so I believe) I belong to generation where books were as much a part of, and way of life, as eating and sleeping. When reading could happen at anywhere, anytime, without needing to carve out a special time and space for this. And reading was for one’s own pleasure, rather than an activity to be seen and heard being done. I can’t but help feeling a bit sorry for a generation that needs to be lured into ‘switching off’ and opening a physical book for the simple joy or reading. But if that’s what it takes today, I’m all for it!

The words of Hermann Hesse on the magic of books are reassuring, and timeless: “We need not fear a future elimination of the book. On the contrary, the more that certain needs for entertainment and education are satisfied through other inventions, the more the book will win back in dignity and authority. …And for every true reader this endless world of books looks different, everyone seeks and recognizes himself in it… A thousand ways lead through the jungle to a thousand goals, and no goal is the final one; with each step new expanses open.”

–Mamata

 

A Smile A Day

It is the face that launched a thousand (and more) emoticons. It is the ubiquitous SMILEY! Probably one of the most recognizable icons across the world, this simple graphic had humble beginnings, and an interesting history.

The original version was created in 1963 by an American graphic artist and ad man Harvey Ross Ball. He was commissioned by an insurance company that had recently been merged with another, and was facing low employee morale. His brief was to create a visual icon to accompany a morale-boosting ‘friendship campaign’ that the company was planning to launch.

smiley.jpg
The original Smiley face Source https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/

Harvey Ball  picked up a black pen and a yellow piece of paper and started with just a grinning mouth on a perfect circle. Then he realised that this could be easily inverted to send a “frowney” message, and he added the small oval eyes. The left eye was deliberately created slightly smaller than the right, and the right side of the mouth thicker, larger and slightly off centre, in order to humanize the drawing through its imperfection. Thus emerged the world’s first Smiley Face! The design took Harvey ten minutes, and he was paid $45 for it.

 

The company first produced this design on a hundred buttons with a 7/8 inch radius, for its employees. But soon their clients also started requesting these, and the company ordered thousands of buttons. Soon the face started appearing on posters and signs also. It is not known to what extent it boosted morale, but the round yellow graphic made up only of two dots and a lopsided line was an instant hit!

Neither Harvey Ball nor the company had thought of taking a trademark or copyright on the design. With its unanticipated popularity, it was only a matter of time before the immense commercial potential of this was exploited. In the early 1970s, two brothers Bernard and Murray Spain added the tagline ‘Have a happy day’ (later changed to ‘Have a nice day’) and copyrighted the logo/slogan combination in 1971. The Spain brothers sold an estimated 50 million Smiley Face buttons, as well as an avalanche of other Smiley merchandise including coffee mugs, T-shirts, posters and, you name it… Beginning in 1996, Walmart tried to claim ownership of the design which they started using in their stores and TV ads. The disputed case dragged on for 10 years before they lost their claim to the Smiley Face.

Over the years as Harvey Ball saw how his simple idea for sharing a smile had changed. He observed that “Smiley has become so commercialized that its original message of spreading good will and good cheer has all but disappeared. I needed to do something to change that.” In 1999, he announced the formation of the Harvey Ball World Smile Foundation, a charitable trust that supports various children’s causes. Its slogan is “Do an act of kindness – help one person smile!”

Harvey Ball died in 2001 at the age of 79. He never regretted the fact that he did not make a penny more than $45 from the million-dollar industry that his Smiley spawned. He was satisfied that the smiling face, “has gone around the world. It’s reached everybody. Its message is as good as you can get.” Proud to be its creator, he often said, “I made the world smile.”

To spread his message, the first Friday in October is celebrated as World Smile Day. A reminder that a smile can make a difference!

–Mamata

Mary Poppins 2.0

Remember the loveable character of Mary Poppins who could fix messes in homes and families? Don’t we all sometimes wish that Mary Poppins would fly into our lives and set things straight? Someone who could discipline us to set ourselves in order? Believe it or not there is a real new-age Mary Poppins, and her name is Marie Kondo!clutter.jpg

Who is this new Marie and what does she do? Marie Kondo is a Japanese “tidying expert!” She helps people to clear up the clutter in their homes, and guides them towards creating spaces of order and serenity.

Marie was born in Japan in a culture which celebrates beauty in simplicity. Marie grew up with the ingenious origami art of folding, artistic ikebana, beautifully orchestrated tea ceremonies, and the art of creating minimalistic but serene surroundings, as well as an inborn gift for creating order out of chaos. She added to this, a canny entrepreneurial spirit when she started her “tidying consultant” business as a 19-year old university student in Tokyo. Realising the immense need and scope of “tidiness consulting” in an age when people lives were ‘cluttered’ in every which way, she went on to write a best-selling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”

Where Mary Poppins created magic with the wave of her umbrella and a catchy tune on her lips, Marie Kondo starts her process of transformation in a more oriental style by making her clients calmly meditate on how their space is special to them, and to give thanks for this. She then proceeds to gently but firmly get them to review all their possessions, and let go whatever does not “spark joy” in them, after thanking these for their service! She then advises on how to rearrange and reorganise the remaining belongings by category, following the KonMari Method.

Today Marie is a global expert with her own Netflix’s hit show “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, and founder of KonMari Media Inc.

I admire this young woman who has found herself a natty niche, and is smart enough to make a successful enterprise out of it. But I cannot but help thinking of the generations of homemakers who have kept beautifully organised and managed homes with limited resources, but much hard work, care and creativity. For them it was a way of life, into which they were oriented by mothers and mothers-in-law. Today when we have much more of everything, except time and patience, voila, Marie Kondo is at your service!

–Mamata

Ode to the Saree

It is the day of tributes and nationalistic fervour. The news is replete IMG_20190815_101428069.jpgwith people sharing thoughts and feelings about what India means to them. This is my small paean to what, for me, represents the essence of India. It is an ode to the saree!

I wore my first formal saree when I was 16 years old. I still remember it—a magenta-pink Venkatagiri brought by my friend’s mother from Chennai. And I fell in love with sarees. Not just the finished draped version but simply this seemingly endless flow of fabric, with its mind-blowing variety of textures, weaves, designs, and colours. It was the start of an enchanting journey of discovery—learning, over the years, about the unique features of sarees from every part of India. Luckily for me it was the period of rediscovery of the rich heritage of our textiles which manifested in national handloom exhibitions where weavers displayed their wondrous skills. Oh the excitement of adding, one by one, traditional sarees of different states—the stunning kanjeevarams; the intricate ikats; the rustling golden tussars; the vibrant bandhanis and patolas; the summery kotas, and the sturdy handlooms. With every piece was the attempt to know more about the place and people who wove the masterpieces, the dyes and the motifs, the warp and the weft. It was an exploration of my country—its geography and history, culture and tradition, and craft and craftsmanship.

I was already part of a committed saree-wearing cadre when I started my career as an environmental educator. To my delight, one of the early statements by my Director Kartikeya Sarabhai, beautifully summed up the very special features of the saree. “The saree is a designed piece of clothing worn all over India. Over the years very beautiful designs, patterns and textures have been printed and woven into the Indian saree and yet, several thousand years of Indian history has not tried to stitch the saree. It is worn in many ways and fits all sizes. It is equally good for working, dressing up or sleeping in. The final effect is the combined effort of the person who designs the cloth and the person who wears it—of the designer and the user. This is a very different concept from that of designing, say, a well-stitched dress. The garment either fits or doesn’t fit, and where it fits, leaves very little room for the wearer to be innovative in its use.”

I have worn a saree every day of my working life. I have looked forward to choosing the one for the day, and it has become the symbol of my identity. I have worn my saree at home and at work; while travelling and sleeping; rain and shine. I have experienced the joys of putting together my own collection of the multitude of woven flavours of this wonderful country, and revelling in the rich bequest that is ours to savour and share

I am saddened at the ebbing of the saree today. Appalled that it has been reduced to a hashtag; that sarees have become exclusive “designer outfits” with tips on outre ways of draping a saree or, even worse, the stitched saree! I am amused when people think I am an ‘amma from the days of yore’ when I am the only one in a large gathering wearing a saree.  I am disturbed that in our race for globalisation and international Brands, we seem to be losing a crucial common thread of identity.

For me the saree represents the essential spirit of my country—the heritage and the history; the multiplicity and the uniqueness; the weaving of warp and weft to create a strong resilient fabric. It represents a unique common identity which subsumes the incredible diversity of textures and motifs. It represents the magic of being a seamless length of fabric that takes on the individual character of its wearer.

I may not wear my patriotism on my sleeve, but every time I wear my saree I celebrate the wonder that is India!

–Mamata

Two Sides of the Mirror

Time was, not so long ago, when photo albums were treasured family heirlooms.  Looking at old photos was one of the shared activities at a family get-together, with the elders pleasurably sinking into nostalgia, and youngsters playing guessing games at identifying the people in the pictures. There was a special excitement in flipping through the pages and sharing a laugh at “how much hair dear uncle had”, as compared with his bald pate today; or comparing the picture of the slim young girl with the comfortably chubby aunt today!

Photographs recorded the phases of life—the baby pictures taken by fond parents to record milestones; the awkward and self-conscious pictures of the gawky teenage years; the fancy wedding photo album; and the next cycle of young parents, their babies and doting grandparents.

There was a certain charm in seeing these transitions through the captured images. There was also a certain ceremony attached to the process of documenting. In the early years, this took the form of special posed pictures taken by professional photographers. With cameras becoming more user-friendly and available, it brought the process closer to home, but there was still the waiting period between the giving of the film for developing and getting back the prints and the negatives to discover what they revealed! Over time the technology and format of film, cameras and processing changed. The Polaroid camera was magic in a box—click, and voila the photo appears. …And then came the mobile phones with the ease of capturing images in an instant; along with all the many many Apps to do what you wish with the image. And everyone went crazy…every second of every day to be not only recorded, but immediately shared. Followed by the anxiety of how many views and how many likes. A deluge of images, sweeping across the screen of life, fleeting, momentary and, alas not as magical as turning the pages of an album to peruse history.

And now the new rage—FaceApp! The wand that reveals what you will look like when you are OLD! Celebrities across the world are posting pictures of what technology turns them into, projecting into the future. Of course every one of them looks suitably dignified and gracefully old, and feels reassured that “I am going to age well.”

Even more thought provoking is the news that this may also be used for not-as-legit facial recognition purposes. This makes me wonder. One the one hand, for millions of millennials, self-esteem and self- image hinge on being, at all times, visible on social media and “liked”. Then how can this be selective?

I am totally flummoxed by this. Here is a generation of self-obsessed young people living in an age where Image matters most. Here are the celebrities who spend millions on “looking young”. Here are the people who believe that life is in the here and now. Here is the technology which allows you to Photoshop away every trace of wrinkle or sagging skin, every blemish or hint of the passage of time. And yet these same people are clambering on the new high of “looking old.” Sadly, if only they stopped to think, life is more complex than an App, and who can tell what traces the ravages of time and experience will leave on our visage.

As for me, I would rather browse through the passage of time from my photo albums, than fast forward to the future!

–Mamata

It’s Not Easy…Being Parents

This piece is continuing Meena’s recent angst about parenting.

Indeed, parents need counselling more than the children. In many ways it seems that children today are more the receptacles of the parents’ own aspirations and, yes, peer pressures. How does the parent participate in conversations which centre around–What school does your child go to; what does she/he excel at; where did you go for your last family holiday; which are the different types of special coaching your child has… and so on. So the child has to live up to the expectations of not only the parents, but the social circles that they move in. And somewhere in all this circle of “well-meaning concern” the child begins to feel inadequate and undeserving, and there starts slow seeping of confidence, which sadly may end in extreme consequences.

At another level is the insidious guilt of the parents—for being so busy with their work and leisure; for delegating a lot of the traditional parenting tasks to external help; for not giving what they feel may be adequate time and attention; for not giving the child “the best that money can buy, after all what are we working so hard for?” This manifests in the over-concern, over indulgence and over coddling by parents; and a sense of birth right to privilege, self-centredness, and “my parents can set it right for me” on the part of the child. This too may have disastrous consequences should the well-planned map of “how we see our life” go awry.

Every generation of parents feels that the times that they live in are the most challenging, and that they require bespoke answers to child raising.

Interestingly, over 80 years ago, my grandfather Gijubhai Badheka, wrote several volumes on the challenges of parenting, with the apt title It Is Not Easy…Being Parents.  Gijubhai was not trained in child psychology; but his deep concern for the welfare of the child led him to observe, reflect, and note his thoughts. He described the dilemmas faced by both parents, as well as by children, and explored possibilities of how these could be handled.

For me, these simple yet profound notings are as fundamental and relevant even today. Sharing a few excerpts, translated by me from the original in Gujarati.

The young boy strenuously clambers up two rungs of the ladder. As he raises his foot to reach the third rung, the father says, “Come down; you are too young to climb ladders. If you fall you will break your bones.”

The young girl carefully wields a knife to chop vegetables or to sharpen a pencil. The mother scolds, “Put down that knife; you will cut yourself.”

The daughter wants to put the pan of dal on the gas stove. Mother says, “You will get scalded.”

The daughter says “Can I carry the glass of water for the guest?” Mother says, “You will spill it.”

The adults are trying to solve a problem. As they discuss the child offers some suggestions. All say, “Now you don’t try to act too big for your boots.”

Every day in innumerable situations we react in this fashion, unknowingly squashing the confidence of our children. Every time it takes up a task, it hears echoes of its parents’ cautionary warnings, and drops it forthwith, overcome by the fear that it will not be able to successfully accomplish the task. If someone asks it to climb up, carry something or use a tool, it may refuse, or if forced to do so, ends up falling or spilling or hurting itself. The child ends up even more ashamed at its own inadequacy to carry out the task.

By corroding our children’s confidence, we truly do make them unable to perform. In some ways our lack of confidence and trust in our children is a reflection of our own lack of confidence.

We need to have the strength to have confidence in our children. Encouraged by that trust, our children will prove themselves more than worthy of what we have bestowed. A child is human, a human striving to grow. We must enable this growth, the blossoming of its personality.

Removed from all the outer trappings of “success,” ultimately what do we, as parents, wish for our children? I think it should be “the confidence and courage to take on life!”

–Mamata

 

Aspirations

The last few weeks, my newspapers have been full of news about newly-crowned Queens. There is a Miss World, and a Miss Universe, and numerous other regal titles bestowed on young girls. So far so good.

As a passive observer peeping through the window of the pages of my newspaper, over the years I have been noticing how the run-up to such pageants is becoming more and more elaborate and ostentatious. Qualifying rounds are held in different cities, in the most luxurious hotels. Several glossy pages of the paper feature spreads of photographs of the pretty young ladies going through a variety of activities in different settings, clad to the nines in appropriate designer wear. There is an ever-growing list of event partners—dress designers, hair stylists, skin gurus, make-up magicians, tutors to (re)teach the girls how to walk and talk, and so forth. And, of course how can all this work without the sponsors? So you have sponsors for everything from the eyes to the toes–Miss Expressive Eyes, Miss Dazzling Teeth, Miss Scintillating Smile, Miss Satin Skin, Miss Shining Hair—and on till there is nothing left to miss!

Possibly thousands of girls apply for these pageants with these very visions becoming the stuff of their dreams. I suspect that even as they start the process, so much time and hard-earned money is spent in preparing the portfolios to enter the race. For those “lucky” ones who make it through the various rounds, the metamorphosis begins as they are taken through the paces. But behind the scenes? A bunch of still naive girls living in close proximity, in a fiercely competitive environment–I cannot begin to imagine what the atmosphere will be like—the anxieties, the hostilities, the petty politics, the pressures. As murky as the intrigues in the court of a royal family!

The newspapers kindly give us ‘”the underprivileged outsiders” glimpses into the culminating moments of the qualifying events. The full spread pictures of an array of pretty girls with similar hairstyles, smiles and dresses makes it difficult to tell the difference between them. Until voila—we have the coronation of the Queens. Usually the brouhaha ends there. This year there has been a follow up. We also had the privilege of following the Queens as they visited their “native places”—the town or village that their family hailed from. We saw pictures of cheering crowds, motor cavalcades, cameramen and interviews and family and village elders welcoming their local girl who became Queen.

And I think—Is this the role model for all the young girls in the small towns and villages? Is this what it means to have “arrived?” Is this what parents dream of for their daughters from the day that they are born? Aspirations!

It is a very worrying trend. One observes young girls (almost children) being accompanied to beauty parlours for a host of grooming and beauty treatments. Parents spend much money on consulting nutritionists and dieticians, trainers and gyms, and of course the latest fashion in clothes. “Looking good” becomes the end all and be all. Aspirations!

An even more frightening extension of this is the pushing of young children into the numerous reality shows. I am appalled at the occasional glimpse of children cavorting to Bollywood numbers dressed in vulgar outfits and plastered with make-up. A recent piece about a five-year old girl who won a dance show talked about her childhood in a slum of Kolkata, and how she has made her parents so proud. Her dream is to live in all all-pink fairy tale house. Aspirations!

How disturbing. How sad that in a country where we are still talking about Save Our Daughters, Educate Our Daughters, we seem to be building aspirations that promote superficial showmanship, branding, and objectification of our daughters.

–Mamata