India had never before been in so much love! And because I was such an Aunty my mind went to the parents of these lovelorn pairs. What were they told about their children’s coordinates? Did they think their kids were at college or some coaching class? They looked too carefree to be employed anywhere. The earth seemed to have come to a stop for them. They were entirely and wholly in the moment.
There is something else palpable and alien, rearing, and growing up in our schools. It is the increasingly acknowledged phenomenon of dating. An entirely new and unfamiliar frontier for all concerned, this high school culture is cocking a huge snook at the hitherto acceptable definitions and parameters of teen discipline, safety, and security.
What in our collective mind, for instance, is the millennial’s vulnerable spot? Their famed burnout! Now is it a cover for entitled laziness or is it just plain old common fatigue brought on by a long to-do list? Depending on the view we take, the advice is likely to sound prescriptive. One, stop being so lazy and two, do less, why don’t you? The clear presumption is that humans are in complete command of their bodies and minds and it is therefore merely a matter of exercising the right choices. It is inconceivable for a boomer to appreciate that some forces larger than us might be at play around the millennials.
Isolation. Apocalypse. I have heard these words from my children. One of them has felt caged during the lockdown, not being able to cross interstate borders on drives. But I do believe that in the zoomers, the millennials have met more than a match in stubbornness. Here is a generation as bent upon, if not more, on not compromising on their aspirations to match the much touted notions of reality. Their smartphones are their umbilical cords and their Snapchat is chill. For this wired generation real world friendships begin with social media profiling. The online world does seem far more significant to them than the physical world and there is none of the older generation’s skepticism. They also do not appear to be as smitten by celebrities as those gone before. Their own individuality is important to them.
Godfather, Lolita, and the odd Playboy magazine comprised the entire spectrum of sex education for the Baby Boomers. Mandakini in Ram Teri Ganga Maili and Zeenat Aman in Satyam Shivam Sundaram would have seared many a triggered mind. Reams were written on the bold scenes of Rehana Sultan in films like Chetna and Dastak. And who can forget Lakshmi as the lush Julie against Vikram as the fervid Shashi Bhattacharya. Then comes Bobby in her ascendent dress and dewdrop face. Those were the “gapoochi gapoochi gum gum” days. So much was “Khel Khel Mein”. It took a simple finger on a fainting woman’s pulse to confirm pregnancy. Shame shrouded both private and public life like New Delhi’s asphyxiating pollution.
Along with this shift in gender dynamics, we are in the midst of dialogues about the definition and meaning of masculinity. Toxic masculinity has begun to be examined and derided. There is an acknowledgment of the sometimes invisible and unspoken negative effects it can wield, not just societally, but on women in particular.
It is such a leap from my grandfather who expressed his love by acquiring farming land and buying the family a white-colored Ambassador MK III with the license plate PUK 1100. He barely spoke with his daughters, my aunts. The only physical display of affection was a quick and awkward, gaze averted, ruffle on the head! We graduated to a shoulder hug with my father from there. And today, it is perfectly permissible for fathers to bring their gentleness, their loving and demonstrative caring to this next generation. Not only do they get to model the strength that comes with kindness and vulnerability for their boys, they also get to guide their girls to look out for these qualities in their partners.
These are heartbreaking times. Youth was supposed to be the spring of life, a time of promise and vitality looking ahead with eyes of wonder. Instead, you have zoomers aged 14 on medication protocol for anxiety. Those young bodies have already seen enough. These are spirits that are perplexed at the chaotic waves of misinformation, polarizing views, and poorly researched opinions crashing against their weary minds. It is not unusual to have a zoomer share, “There is nothing to look forward to.” And this if you are honored enough to be privy to the workings of their inner minds. For the rest of us, it is withdrawal, disconnect, even dissonance. Families are no longer able to keep up with their young, that space has been taken over by friends, therapists, YouTube, and Google.