Thanks for doing this; we hope he doesn’t cause too much of a trouble,” my neighbours repeated for the 10th time. “Kids will be kids, you just need to keep a smiling face and let them be,” I reassured. I was babysitting Ashish (Male, 12 years, wears glasses) for an entire day and this was the least I could do for my neighbours in return of those loud Punjabi songs that I play at 3 am. I was looking forward to spending time with someone from the iGeneration (kids born after 1996) and impart some wisdom. Here is how the day went:
Morning: “What would you like to have? Juice? Milkshake? Bournvita?” I asked as soon as Ashish entered the house. “Just your wi-fi password,” he replied. For the next four hours, he was busy with his tablet watching videos and did not even bother looking elsewhere. He even plugged his earphone which is like the modern version of ‘do not disturb’ sign.
Humans have lost their hunting instincts (alertness, social interaction, fear) thanks to evolution, I thought. I could rob the house or kidnap this kid and he wouldn’t even notice as long as the tablet had enough battery.
Noon: Ashish switched from tablet to kindle. I asked him if he wanted anything to eat to which he replied that he has already ordered food for the both of us through Swiggy (with discount). The adult in me wanted to comment on his dependency on apps but the food was so good, I couldn’t help but appreciate the kid’s choice (he even ordered desserts).
Afternoon: Ashish switched from kindle to his iPhone and I was amazed how privileged these Generation Z kids were. During my childhood, even for buying one toy, we had to listen to the struggles that my Dad went through in his lifetime (on loop). Any luxury item bought was shared between all the siblings and we spent more time fighting about it than using it. Electronic items were protected with an “all plastic shielding” and if you forgot to switch them off after using them, you had to listen to version two of Dad’s struggled life (no electricity, studying under the streetlight bit). There was no iPhone, just the neighbours’ phone that the entire society used as their own.
Evening: Ashish was back to his tablet and I was getting frustrated now. We’ve been sitting together for almost eight hours, but we’ve hardly spoken to each other. It was wisdom time, so I prepared my Oscar worthy monologue in my head:
“You know, this is the problem with your generation. You don’t know how to have fun. You don’t step out, you don’t interact, you don’t play outdoors and you don’t even know that there exists a real world other than the digital world. All you do is order food online, play games on your devices, use GPS to go to the shop next door, facetime with fake friends, read ebooks instead of books and believe that you can experience the wonders of the world sitting on your couch. I’m worried about the future.”
The end, please bring the Oscar.
Before I could deliver my speech out loud, I coughed. Ashish quickly opened WebMD, went to the kitchen and brought me something to drink.
I was sceptical but the potion worked like magic. I felt guilty and asked him if he was up for a chat. He agreed and started asking me questions:
1. Are you doing anything to reduce your carbon footprints?
Me: Not much but I’m trying.
Inner me: My carbon what?
2. What about plastic waste? Anything to reduce that?
Inner me: Should’ve hidden that polythene bag that contains all other polythene bags.
3. You like Van Gogh or Monet?
Inner me: Never heard of them. Which cricket team they play for?
4. Communism or Autocracy, what do you prefer?
Me: I’m ok with anything.
Inner me: I’m not ok with this conversation.
5. Are you religious?
Me: I’m an atheist.
Inner me: Dear Lord, please save me!
I couldn’t take it any longer. What’s wrong with this 12-year-old kid?
Discuss about cartoons, cricket, Bollywood, my friend. Discuss how Tom and Jerry is better than Shin Chan, Kohli better than ABD and Race better than Race 3. Before I could express my opinion, Ashish spoke:
“You know, this is the problem with your generation. You guys don’t talk about the real issues, you don’t lead by example and you don’t even care about the world out there. All you guys did for several years was exploit the mother nature and now thanks to you, we don’t have playgrounds, free space or even fresh air to breathe. You can’t solve our problems and therefore you’ve given us these expensive devices to play with so that we stay indoors while you continue to mess up with the environment. I’m worried about the future.” Kid just stole my Oscar right in front of my eyes.
I had no comeback and thankfully, the doorbell rang. “Thanks for doing this; we hope he didn’t cause too much of a trouble”, my neighbours said while picking up their child. “Kids will be kids, you just need to keep a smiling face and let them be”, I said while wiping the sweat on my forehead.