Whose hobby is it anyway
Allowing children to choose a hobby that they would like to cultivate has taken a backseat as enthusiastic parents often go on an overdrive

Free play, besides allowing quality time, helps children to forge a bond with the environment at a pace that is comfortable.
Free play, besides allowing quality time, helps children to forge a bond with the environment at a pace that is comfortable. photo: thinkstock

We grew up choosing our hobbies. The process was not only interesting but also exploratory in nature. With technology not on our side, we grew up without Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp. Good for us, it gave us the time to explore our interests and our surroundings. So it was a ritual for the kids in the neighbourhood to come together to play. During this playtime, hobbies and interests were discussed. Collecting stamps, coins and first-day covers issued by the Postal Department depicting the rich history of India were the interests that occupied the children.

A hobby was chosen by the child and was bn itself, a learning process. No longer so. Hobby, by choice, has taken a back seat and parents have stepped into this arena which was supposed to be the domain of the children. Is it fair? Are the children happy with this role reversal? Himani, an advocate and mother to Ishaana and Gaurika, says, "I believe that rushing children from one activity to another saps away at their energy levels. The children come home tired after school and they are herded from one class to another. The entire day of the child is regimented with clock-work precision. It's being harsh on the children."

Parents take up a sport which is fashionable. The children cannot sustain the activities imposed on them. Once in higher classes as studies become a priority, the activities are suspended mid-way and the child is told to concentrate 24X7 on studies. However, Alipt Sandhu believes that she owes her present position as Consultant for Team Tennis India Private Limited, Delhi, to her rigorous playing schedule throughout her formative years in Chandigarh. She feels that, "It is a matter of tuning yourself mentally as well as physically to any kind of hard work. And universities are giving extra credit for these activities that help you in getting seats in institutes of higher learning." But can all children pack up all this in 24 hours? Mehtab Deol differs, "Pushing children into these activities without their consent is unfair and unjust. The children come home tired from school, braving traffic jams and within an hour they are back on the roads amidst pollution." The kids slog it out on the ground dreading the time when they have to go back home and complete their homework. A senior citizen, on condition of anonymity says, "I see the younger generation in my house carting their children from one class to another. This puts undue pressure on children. Our generation also raised children and we did a pretty good job. We did not get into this mad race. Children played and grew up playing with other kids in the block. Mind you, we did not trust our household help with our children's food. These days, mothers are happy driving the children from one activity to another but shirk from packing tiffin boxes for their children. Is this right?" A mother discovers an activity, the others just rush to enroll without asking their children. Why should there be this herd- mentality? Just because women have cars at their disposal, can drive and have money, they need to be out of the homes. The children are given no time to identify their hobby or choose an activity of their liking.

Dr Rohini, a psychologist, believes that children who indulge in, "free play," do better than those who go in for classes where everything is planned. By "free play," she means children getting together for an hour in the neighbourhood and playing games decided on the spur of the moment. Another senior citizen adds, "This generation of mothers have got educated women as their mothers- in -law who are more accommodating. Our mothers-in-law, probably, would not have allowed us to pressurise the children to such an extent. Their idea was to let the child play in the nearby park and at the end of the day tell them stories . This ensured spending quality time with the children." The children are exhausted, rushing to meet deadlines for projects with no time left to spend with the family for a relaxed cozy evening.

In the present times, the hobby which their parents have chosen for them are not meant for relaxation but are activities in which one has to excel because these activities now involve lots of money. ( Calculate the fees, uniform, the fuel) and, of course, prestige of the parents.

So if it is grades in school that decide how happy you make your parents, it is medals that make your parents feel proud of you in the evening classes. Keep proving yourself, kids, your parents are paying an exorbitant sum for a hobby in which you are supposed to excel but is of their choice.