The changing times
By Alan Saldanha
I am told that it was an accepted form of greeting on the Prairie for a pre-teen to address an adult as ``Aunty" or ``Uncle" till the middle of the last century. It reflected a small town upbringing and good manners that came concurrently.
In my childhood if I did not greet an elder thus I would have the back of my head tapped by my mother like Big Ben on the half hour. But when that did happen, it had more to do with my daydreaming.
There was something nice about greeting someone ``Hello Aunty" or ``Hello Uncle." It spoke of a discipline in an age when listening to ones elders was the norm. Either that, or you were going to get it!
I even saw my peers caned by their parents in India in the early fifties and very rarely did one hear those abused children grow up in life to overly criticize their parents for having done so. They simply did likewise to their children and the cycle went on.
Then one day the law stepped in and the word ``abuse" became more pronounced. It was a good thing, for it sought to preclude the possibility of excessive disciplining. By and large, this benign approach works.
But in subsequent decades, we were confronted with what laxity could do at the other end of the spectrum: We now have parents most of who were in turn disciplined by their parents when they were young but now sometimes endure reverse abuse in a literal sense.
In my considered opinion, the impetus to revolt has been facilitated by one single agent of destruction and as much as I might sound like a wet blanket, I think TV has done more harm than disseminate knowledge and information. What has happened is to be expected: Kids don't have time to learn the niceties of interacting with others because they are caught up watching TV. They have little time for anything else.
TV is truly a scheming ``idiot box." It gets a youngster hooked and then like a drug dealer hisses: ' Psst, psst … wanna watch some reality TV?"
Sometimes, TV makes us delusional: We think God is related to Donald Trump and not even vice versa. And then when we approach the climax of a popular program we are given to understand that Simon Cowell is actually a nice person.
In the fifties we made our own entertainment. I rarely handled a coin when I was young. I simply had no pocket money so to speak. Every day I played with abandon for free until one day when I was tipped two annas for buying Mr. Irwin two kites and some ``manjaa"( sharp thread). With that princely sum in my pocket I felt like the son of an oil sheik at the school fete. Those were the days when we played marbles and ran around the building till we were motionless but panting with our hands on our knees.
Once in a rare while, my mother took me to a movie in the Fort area of Bombay and that gave me a chance to wear a pair of loose, chocolate brown, cotton shorts that nearly touched my knees. The length was one way of ensuring that the shorts would last me for at least three years and the color precluded the possibility of dirt showing.
TV came to Bombay when I was 25 years of age. A decade and a half before that, at seven o'clock each day after school I would hear my mother summon me home. Her voice would resonate in the building to inform me it was time for me to have a bath and thereafter study for an hour. Then her summons was followed by a second call, and then, a final one. If I missed that too, I was in for a demonstration of how overgrown, delinquent rabbits are briefly handled.
Today, there is little time for play. When you are a student in school in metropolitan India you had better study six hours per day from the fifth grade onwards. Either that, or you will languish among the ``muffs." You study like your life depended on it and after your doctorate in information technology or applied physics you can attend a short course at a ``Finishing School" to teach you manners and etiquette while attending to outsourced work.
Compare their situation with the children of immigrants in Surrey that are exposed to an overdose of the cartoon channel. They watch TV so intensely that they are very often oblivious of the presence of a visiting elder. Rarely is there a ``Hello Uncleji!" or ``Hello Auntji!" Actually, most of them grow up not knowing how to greet people. But talk about text messaging their peers when they grow older and they will teach you a thing or two.
But come to think of it, they are communicating with each other after all.
The author is an Indo-Canadian freelance writer and was editor of ``Daywatch'' newspaper from 2006 to 2007. Now semi-retired at the age of 61 and in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, he can be reached at email@example.com.