|By Shreeshan V|
The year gone by was very significant for the children of the world. A 17-year old won the Nobel Peace Prize and as if in commemoration of the achievement, hundreds of other children were relinquished of their right to live in this specially messed up world.
Maybe targeting children was a misunderstood gesture of kindness; one born out of guilt. One meant to “save” the kids from an inheritance of rampant mediocrity and magnificent degradation. Read pre-emptive euthanasia. ‘Die Another Day’ is no longer only the name of a mediocre Bond movie, but also the unspoken motif of children’s prayers that transcends geography and linguistics.
A month has passed now since the year-end bang provided by the Taliban in Peshawar where 132 children were massacred and a school teacher was burnt alive in front of her students. Undoubtedly an act for which a special place is being cleared out on the Terrorist Wall of Fame. Terrorists the world over have since struggled to replicate the shock the Taliban so effortlessly evoked.
Indeed, there is no reason for them to dread their year-end appraisals! If there ever was a year-end gala award function held in Raqqa for the most memorable performances of the year, complete with the joyous sounds of grenade explosions and rocket-missile pyrotechnics, Taliban’s landslide victory in the Peshawar school attack would have won accolades for the ‘Nip it in the Bud’ category over fellow nominees- Boko Haram, the Israeli military and the Mexican Drug Cartel.
And any guesses who would walk away with the smuggled gold reproduction of Bin Laden’s beard from Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik? None other than the Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah himself! A slow clap moment indeed!
The media coverage of the Peshawar bloodbath only followed suit. One that turned out to be a combination of aggressive sadness and perverted hubris. Video grabs of an aggrieved and distraught mother, the Taliban doing frog jump training and children on hospital beds were fashioned into loops heady enough to make M.C. Escher dizzy.
But the mourning lasted only a few hours after which a Pakistani court granted Lashkar leader Zakhir ur Rehman Lakhvi bail. This I think is the equivalent of introducing super-sized anal beads in the cluster-f*ck that Pakistan has landed itself in.
The children were promptly forgotten like a mug of stale tea left under the bed. Their 15 minutes of fame were up. In keeping with the festive season, the Tiny Tims of Peshawar were told implicitly to perfect their best sympathy-evoking limps for the photo ops with local politicians before the next elections (which in itself is not the most solid prospect in Pakistan).
I wonder what the world could do to make these kids feel better. Maybe, as a sign of solidarity, we can airdrop an assortment of Nobel Prizes and some Starbucks gift vouchers over the rehabilitation and trauma centres where they are being patched up to re-enter public life in a region that makes the Wild Wild West look like Candyland.
Back home, Indian media’s smug condescension turned to patriotic rage and the discussions turned to “good terrorists” and “bad terrorists” as if terrorism was a lovable but clumsy Great Dane hungry for attention.
Political representatives (loyalties notwithstanding) clutched the lead pipe of anti-Pakistan nationalism with both hands to bash up any Pakistani naive enough to appear on Prime-time Indian news channels. Isn’t it interesting how political unanimity comes naturally when the burden of action lies elsewhere?
Amidst the cacophony of a news debate I heard an interchangeable spokesperson quip “A society can be judged by how it treats its children.”
Words noble and wise indeed but they strike me a tad hypocritical coming from anyone whose own government has to treat the welfare of women and children as a service akin to mining and ship-building. The budget allocations have taken the form of offerings that are supposed to erase the sins of an errant society.
Unlike other noble services, an increase in money allocated to the welfare implies not excellence but decadence in society and our government has steadily been increasing allocations. Isn’t irony an eye-opener?
But let us take a look at how our successful society fares when judged with the same yardstick.
India is affectionately known world-over as the “teen suicide capital of the world.” A country which has soaring suicide rates across demographics of age and sex! What an amazing distinction to have!
However, the high incidence of suicide doesn’t surprise me at all since there is an aspect of bravado in taking that final definitive step when the purpose of life seems to be to show you the illusion of free will.
Scores of children under the age of 14 kill themselves every year in this sone ki chidhiya (golden bird) of a country – kids who have the most redundant concept of life and death want to escape to death even before realizing the storm of illusions that is life.
Eight kids killed themselves each day in 2013 and the number in 2012 according to the National Crimes Record bureau was 2314 comprising 1120 boys and 1194 girls. Finally gender parity has been achieved somewhere, this must be the beginning of a new revolution!
Of the 2314 escapees in 2012, 1319 cases fall under the abstract categories “Causes not known” and “Other causes” in a list of reasons that includes “Impotency/barrenness” and “Property dispute.” Drowning and poisoning are the popular choices among kids.
Imagine that, children preferred drowning and actual toxins to the toxicity of the Indian society while 585 escapees fall under the category “Other means” in a list that broad entries like “Death by machine” and “Death by jumping.” Oh children and their wild imaginations!
And for every kid who is lucky enough to succeed in their life-ending bids, there are reportedly at least 20 others who aren’t.
The structural and emotional violence unloaded by the Indian society on its children can even put the hardened professionals of the Islamic State to shame .The survivors are doomed to live on with shoddy diagnoses and medication and until recently the possibility of legal prosecution.
We don’t even know for sure how many of our children suffer from depression or how many suffer from drug abuse. All we know is that the numbers keep rising year after year. There has been no large-scale study on child-suicides, drug abuse or depression in our country. That’s how supportive and sensitive the Indian society is. Three thousand deaths is no matter, but a 3000-point drop in the stock market is a national emergency.
India has the largest young population in the world. No wonder we like treating our children like disposable parts in a Chinese toy factory- complete with the lead paint.
We seem to have a problem of surplus. Any child that does not fit into the self-perpetuating model of Indian society is useless and disposable and then we immediately want these expendable “resources” in our factories, fields and mines. According to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions we still have about 60 million child labourers in our country who are routinely exploited for their tiny hands and tiny needs.
We don’t see them too much in city restaurants or garages anymore because isn’t it disturbing to watch a child in rags bringing us our tea? We would much rather have them in those removed sweatshops because we love our kids.
Advertisers and marketers- the prophets of the new age content, have said so and it must be true. We love our kids so much that we see them every day on TV selling us banking, insurance, airlines, light bulbs, automobiles, mobile phones, electronics, detergents, bug sprays, paint, footware, cookware, hardware, software, soft drinks, clothes, accessories, toothpaste, shoe polish, petrol, hair oil, engine oil, cooking oil, hair gel, skin creams and hot-air filled dreams.
We see them on “talent shows” swaying and twisting to music entertaining us in our living rooms like courtesans in a Mughal darbar. We are the royalty and we love our kids. There is no question about it- the new-age prophets have said so.
Maybe I’m too cynical and it’s not all bad news. Maybe the suicides and drug abuse are just a part of some natural self-correction that works at a deeper level. Maybe the society is just facilitating this natural process and we are in fact the “good terrorists.” Read premonitory self-termination. In that case, what can I say, I’m a dreamer.