Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Addictions

It was a beautiful day. The time was about 7 in the evening. The breeze was soothing and gentle. The whiff of the air was relaxing. The Sun had not set still and there was sufficient light for us to see from our 3rd floor apartment balcony the ducks and a dozen ducklings wading through the pleasant community stream. The ducks and ducklings gave tremendous joy each evening. It was now a family ritual to take in an eyeful of them each evening while we sat on the balcony for a few minutes. It was astonishing – and in a way disappointing - to see how fast the ducklings grew.

To enjoy this serene beauty, my wife and I called out to our 3 year-old daughter who was slumped on the couch with the iPad. I remembered that conversation I had overheard about someone’s grandson teaching his wife about how to use Kindle and how apprehensive I myself was then about Tontu not being able to do that because she didn't even have access to the gadgets. Well, she was now quite an expert with iPad and would have taught my mom quite a lot indeed! But alas, my call-out when unheeded. The game on that hand-held digital device was much more addictive to her than the natural beauty surrounding us in the balcony.

Now, who is to blame – if indeed someone needs to be blamed. Is it us parents, who have made these digital devices handy in the living room or is it her who has submitted her senses wholeheartedly to the digital world?

The iPad in our house is the most sought-after device. Sometimes I have felt like having 3 of them so that each of us in the house could use it at the same time! There was this one time when it fell down from about 3 feet and the screen went all black. It was like a full stop in the ease of access to the digital world! But when I googled, I came across this link and boy, were we grateful. A few pats on the back, and lo and behold, it was back in action. Then a few weeks later, on a hot day on our birthday we had visited a nearby attraction and kept the iPad inside the parked car and when we came back, it was all black again! I then read this article and was shocked to hear at the Genius Bar that I needed to spend $250 to get it replaced! I remember how we mourned for the loss of all those great pics still in the iPad gallery which were not backed up. The loss was unbearable. It just showed how attached we had become to it in less than 30 months. In 2012 we didn't even own it and life was still beautiful. So, just when we thought all was over, I came across this seemingly brilliant thread and again, lo and behold, after a few kneeling sessions on the iPad, it was back in action! So much for the “Genius Bar”!

Anyways. Back to our discussion in the balcony. It just got my thinking back to our own childhood lives and how we used to handle the outburst of technology. In the mid-90s, the Cable TV had started booming. I was in my High School and my brother was just getting into college. I must really appreciate my parents for being bold enough to go with the Cable TV plunge despite us just getting to the turning point of our academic life. I mean, it would have been a big decision for them at that point of time. Us being kids would not have thought much but now that I am a parent I am sure what must have gone through them then. They would have thought of spending that Rs 200 more every month and at the same time, it was more like a candy for the children than anything for themselves. After all, it was more Star TV with English soaps then than the regional ones that we have now. And at the same time, it was such an addiction that could have seriously hampered our education. And yet they went ahead and got it installed, with great confidence in us.

Even now I remember that day in April 1998 when SachinTendulkar was going ballistic against the Australians in Sharjah and I was sitting for my Board exams – an important turning point exam of my life. I could hardly concentrate on the studies when I knew such an important match was going right in the living room TV. And it was just not that instance. There were these Steffi Graf Tennis matches, umpteen just-released movies, MTV, WWF, Fashion TV and what not! My parents could have so easily got the Cable TV cut-off just so as to ensure I could not be distracted, just the way many of our relatives had done.

Many of our relatives had gone the off-air route for years now just so that their children can be rid off the TV addiction. What a great sacrifice from parents’ perspective! This was in mid-2000s and at this time there were great many really interesting regional episodes, something which used to make the then parents themselves addicted and yet, they had gone ahead and switched off the TV for good, for the sake of their children’s education.

So, which route is better?

As a parent, keep the ‘addictions’ near your kids and have enough confidence on your children so as to make them good judges themselves to know when to stop and when to use
OR
Keep the house completely devoid of ‘addictions’ whatsoever without even wanting to test if the children can exercise a good control on themselves.

I guess the answer becomes evident when the question is taken to the next level: When house is the world and ‘addictions’ are anything in this world to which a man can get addicted to…