[This is the unedited version of my column published 11 Nov 2012 in the Asian Age & Deccan Chronicle]
Pre-Diwali spring cleaning was in full swing at home, when my dad handed me a stack of spotless cotton dhotis. “For donation”, he said, “Nowadays, I am preferring to wear these 3/4th pants at home. Very practical, fashionable also. Can we go to the mall to buy more?” It didn’t hit me then, but this morning, when I went to the local park, I noticed that all the uncles over 55 were wearing 3/4th pants or shorts, with socks pulled all the way up, and big sports shoes. In fact, all the aunties had hitched their sarees or salwars up high so that they could show off their Nikes and Reeboks, plus they were wearing caps. Caps! I realised in that instant how appalling the state of affairs is. Yes, fellow Indians, the Ghor Kalyug we have been fearing is upon us! Indian elders are starting to forget our glorious culture and are blindly aping the West!
In the olden days, elders were so elegantly dressed. So what if it required the skills of an origami artist to tie the old-style sari or a dhoti, they still did it every day. And, yes, it was hard to go to the loo without a diploma in advanced gymnastics, but that is the beauty of our Indian culture. It teaches you to take life seriously by making simple things complicated. Today’s elders are far too casual. They just don’t appreciate what it means to sacrifice comfort for the sake of tradition.
One of the biggest problems with older Indians today is the amount of time they spend in front of a screen. It all started with email. Now, this is a perfectly acceptable means of communication but elders tend to misuse it. It is a cause for concern when your neighbour uncle sends you emails with titles like “FW: IMPORTANT: FW: FW: FW: RE: FW: RE: Toothpaste in coffee can cure baldness, certified by NASA!!!!!?!” If that wasn’t enough, they’ve latched on to mediums like Facebook and Twitter. It’s not like we want to restrict elders from this, but it takes a certain amount of online experience, some internet maturity to use these mediums properly. Elders should listen to us young people when we tell them this. But no, they just go ahead and sign up for accounts, and before you know it, they are sending friend requests to the fake Hema Malini profile, retweeting Shashi Tharoor and sharing photoshopped pictures of baby pandas. It’s enough to make any child worry.
If it’s not the internet, it’s the idiot box. Game shows, I agree, are suitable viewing for elders. TV serials, well, you can’t really restrict those, because they will feel left out if they cannot discuss important incidents in Saravanan-Meenatchi or Bade Achhe Lagte Hain. But I draw the line when it comes to movies. Senior citizens are at an age where they get unduly disturbed even if the characters say “I love you” to each other, just imagine their plight on being shown an item song, or a fight scene! They are at an age where they are both curious and disgusted by such theatrics, so it is wise to protect them from such movies. I strongly request that the censor board consider this a pressing social issue and certify films that are suitable for viewing by senior citizens. An “S” certificate may be issued for films with no sex or violence, and an “S (Y)” certificate for films that require a young person’s guidance.
Of course, restricting screen time may have other repercussions. If they go to bed early, they will also rise early, which means the peace of the neighbourhood will be disturbed by their religious music. You see, many elders like to hang out with their peers at early morning temple sessions or play religious songs at home. Now, I reluctantly tolerate this kind of extreme lifestyle, but must it come with such noise pollution? Many youngsters work late nights. Is it not inconsiderate to play such loud music at the ungodly hour of 6am?
All these problems are just symptomatic of a larger malaise spreading among elders. How do we arrest this? Well, we youngsters can start by keeping a close watch on the lifestyles of our elders and interfering in their lives as much as possible. They will hate you for it, but remember, it is for their own good.