Changing Generation And The Making Of Twinkling Stars: The Uncut Indian Version

Posted on December 28, 2011 in Society

By Arunabh Saikia:

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.

When Jane Taylor, in the early nineteenth century, on a clear English evening, must have composed her poem ‘The Star’, the opening verses of which are quoted above, I can say with surety (the extreme kind which always deserts me these days in vivas and tests), she would not have fathomed in a million light years (we’re talking about stars and things heavenly you see!) that more than two centuries later and five thousand miles away in India, for kids who can’t even answer nature’s calls on their own, being able to recite her poem would be the first step towards becoming a bright shining star (like a diamond that is) in life.

My cousin had given birth to a baby boy and by the time I got to see him after two and a half years I realized that the just-chilling period was already over for him. My cousin and her husband both are working and so when my cousin’s maternity leave came to an end, off went our baby boy to a kindergarten. After all, in a country where you have to score hundred percent marks to get into your desired college, it is always better to start early. All fine till there. But, with the kindergarten came the first onus of performance on our baby boy. Records of cute little nursery rhymes about sheep and stars played in the tape in the children’s garden – that’s what a kindergarten literally means (Germans and their fancy names!!)- Which fuelled up his teacher’s and parents’ imagination more than his. And it was decided, our baby boy had to learn to recite at least one of the rhymes, preferably one about the stars (Probably because it has the highest mass appeal, I guess).

I am the guest of honour but our baby boy is just not in the mood today. No amount of cajoling would coerce him to recite this poem about twinkling stars. The parents are embarrassed. Mother feels let down; fine it’s just me today but imagine what would have happened if one of her colleagues had come home and our baby boy just refused to give a performance. Mrs. Sharma’s three-year-old daughter could, after all, recite not one but three full-length poems; one about the stars, the other about this mischievous little boy Johnny and of course, the one about the black sheep. “I don’t know what’s wrong today; he does it so well on other days you know. Ms. Nidhi, his language teacher even gave him an A+”, my cousin tries to explain in the defense of our baby boy, who is now happy at being finally let off to ride his tricycle.

Our country is full of such baby boys, and girls too with overzealous parents. Well, we Indians are smart people in general as is evident from the scores of white-collared professionals we have all over the world, and riding on that bit of awareness, parents tend to push their kids a tad toohard, resulting in all the originality and imaginativeness being sapped out of our little ones even before they could actually start using it. For instance, a kid who is forced to memorise and recite a poem he is not old enough to understand and appreciate will develop an aversion to poetry without ever having known the joy and beauty of it.

When a Delhi University college announced 100% cutoffs for a certain course, it sent not only students (more like parents I suppose) into a tizzy but the media also went overdrive with talk shows and articles analyzing the root of all of it. And as it always is in India, the Chief Culprit was unanimously agreed upon as the System. The System is always conveniently present to put all the blame on. No one is directly accountable and we can happily keep playing our national sport of blame game. Hunky dory for one and all and, of course, it’s the government’s job to do something, no? (The leftists have just found another leverage point in the inflation issue) We shall never acknowledge that it is us who are responsible for the mayhem. Instead of putting in lakhs of capitation fees to private institutions (the donation colleges, as they are known in the middle class) to buy a seat for their baby boy (well, he’s still a baby for his parents) in a course he wasn’t good enough to get into on merit, parents should realize that their baby boy is just not meant for that course and he might as well do something he is genuinely interested in and is good at. For too long now our parents have been deciding what colour collar we wear in life and we end up wearing their misfit clothes.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
I shall be there one day where you are.
Up above the world so high,
And keep writing and writing till I die!