Thursday, October 2, 2008

Gandhi and Children's T.V. serials

“Mamma, what do I watch? There is Ben 10 on Cartoon Network, but that is not allowed. Ninja Hatorri on Nick, but that is not allowed. Animax is not allowed. Can I watch Power Rangers on Jetix?”
“Jetix is not allowed either. What about Pogo? What is on Pogo?”
“Fighting wala serial – also not allowed. Mamma, please, please can I watch Power Rangers? I switched off the TV when Ben 10 came on Cartoon Network. Please can I watch Power Rangers S.P.D.?”
“Okay. You can watch Power Rangers. But only this time, and only because you were a good boy and turned off the T.V. when the serial that was not allowed came on.”

A one-off conversation? No way - variations of this take place every single day at home. More than half a dozen channels dedicated to children, but between 8 and 9 pm when the kids are allowed to watch T.V., you cannot find a single channel that broadcasts anything even reasonably appropriate for kids.
If it is not the Power Rangers bashing up their enemies, it is Ben 10 fighting with his. Animax always seems to have amine characters blowing up each other, and those dubbed Japanese serials on Nick don’t even have the minor saving grace of dialogues in English.
Brought up as they are on a staple diet of pure unadulterated violence passing itself off as entertainment, is it any wonder that ‘fighting’ seems to be the favourite pastime of today’s kids? Not fighting for a cause, or fighting with someone because they did something to annoy you – fighting as in the noun, “fighting karega?” -
Older brother to younger brother – “Fighting karega?”
Younger brother to older brother – “Haan!”
My boys dispense pushes, punches, and kicks the way I would hugs and kisses. Pulling each other’s hair and pinching each other is all in a day’s work. Declining to buy them guns doesn’t prevent them from playing with them – they just borrow spare guns from their friends.

Are these the values we want our children to grow up with? Sure, the T.V. serials always have the good guys bashing up the bad ones – we know that, but can children tell the difference? To them, the equation is simple – Spiderman is good, Spiderman bashes up the bad guys, therefore it is good to bash up the bad guys. And who is the bad guy – the kid you were playing with till a minute back becomes a bad guy the moment he refuses to let you hold his new battery operated gun, and he needs to be bashed up.

Today, while trying to explain the relevance of Gandhi-ji to our lives, I was repeatedly reminded of his famous words – “an eye for an eye, and the world would go blind.” I told the kids the story of how Gandhi-ji found them fighting with each other –

Gandhi-ji – “Why did you push your older brother?”
Younger brother – “Because he pushed me.”
Gandhi-ji – “And why did you push your younger brother?”
Older brother – “Because he pushed me first.”
Gandhi-ji – “When you push him, what happens? He pushes you back. And then you push him, and he pushes you again. And eventually who gets hurt? Both of you.”
Older brother – “So?”
Gandhi-ji – “So, when either of you pushes the other, and the other pushes back, both of you end up getting hurt. I am sure you do not like that at all. So, the next time someone pushes you, just say ‘I forgive you’, and walk away. Fighting is no fun unless the other person fights back, so after awhile, the other person stop bothering you. Why don’t you just try that and see?”

As a bedtime story, the kids loved it, but I am not at all sanguine about it making a significant different to the quantum or quality of the ‘fighting’ they do.

But if the T.V. Channels start applying some of Gandhi’s standards while selecting programmes for children, maybe we would gradually start seeing a change?

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