Over the last two years of my stay in the Delhi-NCR region, I have, along with my friends from my native state, been overwhelmed by the differences in culture that exist between the two regions. The difference is sometimes surprising and at other times shocking. One of the many conflicts that succeeded in evoking “shock” in me is definitely ‘parenting’. Although I have literally no access to any of the households in my current neighborhood, the observations on the road or the playground, to an extent, enable me to sum up the attitude of the young parents of this generation.
Every evening, when I return from office, I see parents- the father and/or the mother (in most case, a mother) - pushing their children around in a perambulator. Certainly, while the gentle breeze in the evening is the closest today’s children get to, to be part of Nature and the temperature at dusk might just be conducive to the baby’s health, there is something else that worries me. Consider a couple of scenes from my daily observation:
1. The mother chats with her friend over the mobile-phone, while driving the carriage around. She is not to be blamed because pushing a carriage around for an hour or a half isn’t the most interesting job in the world; ennui drives her to play with the keys of her smart-phone. She might as well stop to talk to a neighbor physically- a welcome break in the baby-carriage marathon!
2. The lady is lucky to have her husband with her, while pushing the child around; so, she has someone to talk to by her side. The couple enjoys a nice evening-walk, while also taking care of the ever-widening waist size. Dual purpose served! Other purposes might also include buying grocery.
Now, in each of the above scenarios, I haven’t talked about the baby- who should have been our prime focus. What does the little thing do all this time? Doesn’t it get bored? Does it “learn” all this while? Does it ‘evolve’? How does it react to the external world i.e. outside of his/her family?
I get a feeling that these are not important questions for the young parents of today. Educated that they are, MS-Excel troubleshooting allures them more.
Recently, I saw a couple traveling in a rickshaw (i.e. a tricycle). For those who don’t know, rickshaws here have a front seat that accommodates two people and faces in the direction of travel; there is another seat at the back which faces the opposite direction. The couple I am referring to was sitting on the front seat and the child was made to sit at the back, which essentially means that the couple was sitting with their backs facing the back of the child. The kid was definitely not more than four years old. The father was holding his son with one hand; all the while busy gossiping with his wife as the child precariously held a rod to support him, while questioning my gaze!
If I compare the situation with the kind of parenting I have received or observed in the area I come from, the difference is a wide gulf. A pram is something I rarely see there, one of the many things I don’t miss. The advantage of living in a simple middle-class neighborhood is that mothers do not need to worry about spoiling the paint on the face and can keep their babies close to the bosom. That way, I believe, albeit not supported by any scientific study, babies feel safe and comfy. And comfort partly is a result of this safety. After all, you won’t feel comfortable sitting in a BMW, with a gun held against your head!
Moreover, the child learns from it being in the parent’s arms more than it would in a lonely well-decorated carriage. This is precisely because it can now observe more closely with its cute little eyes, try to comprehend the way parents talk, react to a situation or laugh at a joke. Certainly, the baby might not be cognizant of all these aspects and emotions, but unconsciously acquires ‘experiences’ from the world, continuously adding to its kitty bricks that are vital to the building of a human being. The kind of perambulators used here prevents eye-contact between the child and the parent for most of the time. The touch of a parent’s skin is always the most assuring one; they constantly nourish me with courage and confidence and propel me to strive to reach the zenith to this day. Surely the babies of today miss them!
The attachment between parents and children is extremely important in deciding what the child grows to be. To strengthen this bond, my view is: parents, especially mothers, should care less often about whether the baby would wet the clothes or louse up her make-up; instead she should pick the little-one up in her arms, throw it up in the air and catch it back while it falls, to make it realize where refuge exactly resides. Also, it’s always a better idea not to bore the child because it still can’t indulge in philosophy; instead one should let him/her participate, laugh at the innocent toothless giggles and respond to him/her. And although the parents might be doing that at home, there’s no reason why they should behave differently when outside!