There used to be a Hindi film oldie “Bachpan ke Din Bhula na Dena”. It is a haunting, lilting melody eulogizing the carefree and innocent days of childhood. That song of course is of another generation and perhaps a song whose time has gone. For as the latest issue of India Today reveals, children and even more so adolescent children are fast tracking into adulthood. Twelve and thirteen year old girls are going for breast implants , ten year olds go for manicures and pedicures and young teenagers get their nose fixed and tummy tucked in ever burgeoning beauty parlors. 100

That we live in hedonistic times is no secret. Flaunting and flashing, be it your toned body or the latest car or the fanciest gizmo that money can buy is in, understatement and simplicity is arcane. The Gandhian concept of simple living and high thinking is for the birds. That which has been true of adults for some time now has now begun to percolate downwards in age so rapidly that it is difficult to now distinguish as to when childhood ends and adulthood begins. Adolescence, that turbulent phase when children metamorphosed gradually into adults is but a blur. Isn’t that worrying? To many, possibly it is.

This tectonic shift is being fuelled both by parents as well as the children. Parents, according to the report are often goading their children into beauty parlors and cosmetic clinics as glamorously turned out children are a “value addition” to the family’s chic value. Children are not being allowed to children any more by over bearing, aggressive and demanding parents and families and are being forced to bear the burdens of adulthood(not the easiest of burdens at the best of times!) far before their bodies and minds are prepared in any way at all.

But it may not be proper to blame the parents alone. Sex and physical attractiveness seems to dominate the thinking of urban adolescents across the board. The magazine report cites the instance of a teenage girl who came in for a breast implant because her boy friend did not find her” hot” enough when she went around in halter tops and tubes. Another girl goes to a gym, not so much to keep fit but to develop a figure so that she could look good in a swim suit. Another girl goes to the parlor three times a month on an average, spending about Rs 1500 per trip.

India Today’s findings need to be juxtaposed against the fact that six of India’s 28 states have suspended a new “adolescence education” programme designed for 15- to 17-year-olds in all state-run schools. conservative forces in India are battling fiercely to resist the swift pace of change, as a new generation of adolescents, particularly in the cities, are brought up on an untested diet of western soap operas, cable television and increasingly globalized values.

While geriatric politicians and hidebound bureaucrats debate about protecting the ethos of Indian culture, that culture itself is changing. possibly changing more rapidly in urban India than rural, but undoubtedly India is changing. And while we squabble over whether a 15-year-old student should be permitted to look at anatomical drawings that illustrate how an adolescent’s body develops into adult form or not, whole generation of adolescents including many of our own sons and daughters are growing up with gaping holes in their ability to discern, make all rounded informed choices and a host of other life skills. And is what is more profoundly disturbing is that some where they are losing their childhood.

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