My father is an aficionado, the activity for the addiction being newspaper reading. He reads the forty something paged newspaper with a delight incomparable. Being his daughter I believe my genes were crafted just as his when it comes to reading the newspaper, the only difference being I generally prefer a modest scan of the pages containing political news as opposed to my father who reads the minuscule detail! We have a droll argument pertaining to this difference; I call it a gene mutation and my father calls it the generation gap! In his words, “The youngsters today would better flip to Page3 than read the front-page!” I always confront to this statement of his by reminding him how much I love the editorial and that though a youngster I am not a Page3 buff. With a smile on his face he states, “Your generation is more evolved and less involved and so to survive with you we need to slip into your shoes I guess!”
What my father and many intellectuals state as the ‘generation-gap’, I consider it as the ‘generation-portal’. The past and the present generations stand at the two sides of the portal, each not willing to enter the other side. My mother would blast the house with ‘kirtans’ and that would not be noise for her and yet the softest of rock songs playing at the mildest of volumes would be noise-pollution for her. She is unwilling to appreciate my sense of music and I am unwilling to appreciate hers. The scarcity of appreciation for each other’s music sense does not trouble me as much as the surplus of dislikes that keeps mounting for each other’s likes! The other day my mother was thoroughly annoyed at the lyrics from the song of a latest movie. I found it quite hilarious to which I had to bear a sharp look and then a lamentation for ‘the lack of ethics in youngsters.’
The sole motorist of life is change. We all have changed since we were born. We have and we continue to transform each moment, at times very profoundly and at other times not so profoundly; but the fact remains that we transform from the past to the present. Every millisecond that we live goes back to the sands of time and never comes back, bringing about a change that becomes permanent or sometimes temporary. Yet we all are petrified by change and very infrequently we welcome it. This trepidation to change adds the bricks to the generation portal. I do not blame the older generation for it. Perhaps when I grow old I would also behave like them for we all consider ourselves more experienced than the generation younger to us. A slight detour from our way of life and our beliefs is always beheld as an unpleasant affair. I think experience is over-rated at times. Though experience should always be heeded, idiosyncrasy should never take a back-seat. The individualistic thought process that I am referring to pertains to both sides of the generation portal. The old and the new are both free to think as they like. The portal would actually serve as a portal rather a gap if we all could think freely and think differently. For instance my mother and I would be at peace if we both could give each other some space and have an understanding that each of us to is free to make choices in life. I remember a quote from an article in the Times of India that clearly describes the kind of free thinking I am talking about, “In less than 48 hours, US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama captured the hearts of children in a way our desi politicians are unable to. So what’s their secret? The couple fell in step with a group of Mumbai school kids and gamely shook their hips at a dance performance at the Holy Name High School in Colaba, on Sunday morning.” It also describes the ‘slipping into your shoes’ adage that my father mentions. People may argue that our culture is way different from the Americans and some may also point out a few notes of ethics to counter such behavior. That is exactly what free thinking is all about – to be able to accept what is good irrespective of whether it belongs to our culture or not. If our elders can dance with us at a wedding, why can’t a politician do the same with children at a school function?
India has come a long way from the world of taboos and orthodoxies and I believe everyone will agree that this change was for good. However there are still some nuances of beliefs among the older generation that puzzle me and at times infuriate me as well. For example the so-called traditional Indian marriage system treats marriage as an institution, to top it considers age to be a paramount reason for an individual to marry. I have heard people whispering at a wedding that twenty-nine is too late for a girl to marry. I have also witnessed people laughing when they see a forty plus man getting married or a thirty something lady falling for a younger guy. I have had friends who in their adolescence were scared to discuss about their teenage metamorphosis with their parents and friends who shy away from a relationship because their parents wish their marriage to be arranged! Strange are the ways of the world. Well the elder generation also says the similar statement with much ado. Can there ever be reconciliation between the old and the new? I think my father is correct when he said that our generation is more evolved than involved. However I would like to mention that the newer generation is selectively involved, which in my opinion is a good thing. It is better to read the section of the newspaper I relate to the most than quarrying into every bit of detail. My father may not agree with me but he would still not force me to do what he does. This is possible because though we both stand at the opposite sides of the generation doorway none of us pushes into each other’s side, yet there is always space for free flow of thoughts.
The acceptance to change and the effort to think radically starts with the new generation themselves. I cannot change the way my parents think but I can always change the way I think. The old rings out to ring in the new. If I refute to some fact of the present day I should also understand that in the coming years my children will also refute to some fact of their times. Things that are objectionable to me may not be objectionable to them. So, do I need to raise an eyebrow for that? I would say no, I needn’t because change is perpetual and so is learning. As long as I keep changing I will keep learning, for there can be no learning without change. As long as I keep learning I will learn newer ways of life and perhaps better ones! This is the experience I will pass on to the next generation and the gap would thus subside and the portal would serve its true cause – a gateway to exchange ideas and learn from the past. True are the words of Bob Dylan “The line it is drawn, the curse it is cast… The slow one now will later be fast….As the present now will later be past… The order is rapidly fading…. And the first one now will later be last… For the times they are a-changing.”