Saturday, February 12, 2005

Care better than cure
Reeta Sharma

My morning or evening walks are bringing more despair than pleasure. Increasingly, I have been seeing parks littered with empty bottles of cough syrups. These syrups have a high alcohol content. Recently, I counted 21 such bottles in Bougainvillea Park. Similar bottles can also be seen outside a number of schools. This indicates that an increasing number of youngsters is getting hooked to drugs.

I often ask myself that what could have changed in our surroundings that more and more young are getting drawn towards alcohol and drugs. Compared to the older generation, the options before the young have increased tremendously. The quality of life in material terms too has improved to some extent in each class of the society. Yet, a majority of the youth today is aimless and directionless.

Social scientists have reeled out reasons for this destructive environment. They say it is the onslaught of TV, mindless watching of Hindi or regional films, growing consumerism and glorification of smoking, alcohol, etc. There is no denying the fact that such stimuli can affect impressionable minds but there are also ways of keeping the youth away from such addictions.

My first presentation is the Namdhari sect, in Bhaini Sahib village near Ludhiana . The present Namdhari Guru, Jagjit Singh, has succeeded in influencing the minds of his followers, who run into lakhs. These followers neither smoke nor consume alcohol. They wear white clothes and the majority of them by choice do not watch TV or films.

If you think this has made them backward in any way, you are mistaken. The majority of their youth is pursuing higher academic degrees as well as invading the IT industry. Namdharis also marry off their daughters in a simple ceremony. There are no property disputes between daughters and sons because both are treated as equals.

The second example is of a Sikh school in England, which I have written about earlier too. The students' grooming into Sikh religion has ensured that they do not grow into fundamentalists, as there is enough exposure to other religions in the school syllabus. The parents are thankful that there are not hooked to smoking, alcohol or drugs.

I know of parents who have taken a considered decision to allow their children only select viewing of TV and films. They have even blocked destructive sites on the Internet to ensure that their children do not get hooked on to them. Incidentally, pornographic sites on the Internet are rated to be the fourth most common addiction in the world after smoking, alcohol and consumption of drugs.

I met a young couple from Kolkata with three children. They said that their children have purposely not been exposed to markets. "We also do not roam about in markets, as we do not wish to inculcate in them the habit of buying stuff at a whim. When the children go to the market with their parents, they naturally get attracted to the goodies displayed attractively. We want to protect our children from developing consumerist tendencies. Their needs are well taken care of at home. Both of us are computer engineers but my wife works and I am a househusband because she was offered more salary than me. We had decided that we would not leave our children at a crèche or in the care of maids. Because one of us is with the children all the time, it has helped in the all-round growth of our children. My youngest son, who is only three years, has already learnt to open the site of cartoons on the Internet."

I also strongly feel that those children, whose parents have spent time with them, will certainly become responsible youth. No peer group pressures, environment or the surroundings can ever succeed in destroying such a youth. For all ills among youth of today, a major share of the blame lies at the door of parents and teachers who consider teaching as just a job to earn their livelihood.