“Summertime, and the living is easy…” Well, it may have been for Ella Fitzgerald, but it’s a different story for Delhi’s kids – and their parents. As the mercury rises so does the pressure to keep the little tots active and interested. No school? So what about: dance class? Skating? Sports? Art classes? Theatre workshops? Make! Paint! Draw! Read! Do stuff!
Childhood these days seems to be a precious time not because of its inherent qualities of innocence and play, but because not a minute of it is to be wasted. Now’s the time when skills can be acquired, information absorbed, things learnt. All too often, small humans in this city are seen as little more than empty vessels into which as much as possible is to be stuffed in the short period between diapers and business suit.
There’s nothing guaranteed to send your own temperature boiling as a kid in the house with nothing to do. “Mu-u-um, I’m bo-r-r-red,” is the dreaded holiday whine. No wonder parents frantically sign up their offspring to any and every activity on offer, in the hopes that at the very least it will burn up some of their excess energy, and if some skill is acquired in the process, well, so much the better.
Necessity, goes the old saying, is the Mother of Invention but speaking as an inventive mother myself, I would contend that there’s nothing quite like a good old dose of boredom to get the creative juices flowing. The trouble with television and computer games is not that they are inherently bad, but that they keep boredom at bay with their incessant stream of visual stimulation. Left to their own devices, children will naturally fill the gap with all manner of creative play. The joys of undirected activity are not to be underestimated. You never know, they might even be driven to pick up a book!
And even if boredom results in nothing more than a lethargic slump, well – so what? At the risk of sounding like an advocate of low-level torture, there’s nothing like a good healthy dose of sensory deprivation. I shall say it loud and proud: hurray for lazing around, hurray for doing absolutely nothing at all. Childhood should be a time to celebrate the twin joys of aimlessness and pointlessness: adults too could do with a healthy dose now and again to remind them of the pleasures of life lie not in being ‘goal driven’ or ‘achievement oriented’.
And as for that abomination, “Holiday Homework”, it should be chucked to the existential dustbin where all such heinous oxymorons are consigned. Vive la chutti! Happy Holidays!
TimeOut Delhi, March 2008