Sunday, January 23, 2011

Make-believe worlds

Here's my article that got published in The Hindu's Magazine today. This is the original link :

Fourteen-year-old Shraddha (name changed on request) has participated in three reality shows. And all this juggling her school and rigorous dance training. “I balance my academics with dance practice. When I have shooting, obviously work load increases, but I make it a point to complete my homework,” she says.
For Neha (name changed on request), another 10-year-old participant of a reality dance show, it has been a hectic schedule of dance classes for the last two years. And it does not end there. “Our practice sessions begin at 6 a.m. and go on till 12 p.m. After a lunch break, we practise till 6 p.m.” “I do not think there is any stress involved. Everyone has to work hard to be on top and I encourage my daughter in every way,” adds her mother.

Huge toll

Children-based reality shows are burgeoning, encouraging them to participate and ‘exhibit' their talent to the world, and unknowingly taking a heavy toll on the young minds. Many schoolchildren are stuck in the daily grind of reality television production, shuttling between school and studios. Naga Raju Goud, creative director of ‘Gharshana' on MAA TV and ‘Dhee' on ETV, says, “Most of the participants hail from middle-class, lower-middle class and financially poor backgrounds. For some, the reality stage becomes a platform for their daily earnings.”

But, reality shows are often just a platform for diminutive gains. Savita Date Menon, a psychologist, feels a child's stress and anxiety levels are accentuated because the competition is in the public glare. The primary concern is to become “something” from “nothing”. The impact is not only on the participants but also on those children who watch the shows. They imitate the participants and think it is ‘ cool'. Such shows kill the excitement and zeal in children making them feel that there is nothing more left to achieve.

Last year, a 13-year-old girl committed suicide because her parents did not allow her to participate in a reality show. “After seeing themselves on screen, a few children are so tempted to retain their image in the public eye that they get diverted easily from their academics. The glitz and glamour attract children,” says, Jagadish P., a parent.

Parents' role

Parents play a critical role in this make-believe reality times. They should be the judge of their child's tolerance capacity rather than using them as a passport to fame. “Parents should first see if their wards can handle the physical and emotional challenges over a long period,” says Sonal Andrews, coordinator at a teacher's training institute.

“Children get hyper, panic and eventually the pressure increases. In such competitions, the one who wins is the one who has the skill and withstands the pressure from all sides. And in this scenario, if the parent provides a lot of negative influences in the growing stage, then the child can break easily,” says Menon.
Some reality shows stray from focusing on talent, and bring out negative emotions like jealousy, anger, depression in children. This compels them to get critical of each other's performances and look at everybody as a threat. For some, it can be a disaster and confuse their sense of identity. Breakdowns are common on the stage, especially when the stakes are high.

Rupak Ronaldson, associate creative head of ‘Gharshana', says “children do not understand the comments of the judges. Sometimes, parents have to be cautious enough to make them understand what is right and what is wrong.”

Negative emotions have a direct impact on children because their character is in the formative stages at that age. Such emotions will have a long lasting impact on the child. So, is all that money worth it? Easy money does come with a price.

Monday, January 10, 2011

As an Observer

Sitting in the shade of a pillar, which I'm unaware of why it is there in the first place, I hear shrill sounds of crows cawing and few other birds squeaking. A long shot of IIJNM is what I see. It stretches from the college auditorium to the faculty members' office. A fence painted in white defines the boundaries of IIJNM nearly 15 steps away from where I sit. The window of a faculty member's office is open, which makes me think I'm being watched.

A cold breeze blows, I can hear scooter speeding off on the road, the grass sways in the direction of the wind. A scuttling of a chameleon that camouflaged and disappeared into the green grass and ruffled leaves give the place a serene feel to it. A black dog peeps with its fractured leg from behind the pillar looks as if I'm invading its comfort zone, and then walks away.

A lot of green all around me is what I see. Trees, herbs, shrubs and green insects. This place can get quite creepy in the night with a lot of snakes around. Thirty steps from where I sit, a Gulmohar Tree stands tall with its red flowers adding colour to milieu. The broken or cut-down trunk of a tree makes me think of a man abandoned on an island looking for some help. I see a yellow butterfly approaching me, but drifts away from me and its wings glisten in the rays of the sun. Many concrete structures covered with asbestos and painted in white are a common sight between a lot of flora around. A bluish black bird flies in the sky all alone which makes me  love nature more.

As I sit in front of this pillar, I think and re-think about how it came into existence. The path that leads me here is like I'm being welcomed by "Mother Nature" to admire its beauty. As I walk, I see pink and white flowers  on the two sides the tiled floor. The brown tiles symbolize a red carpet.

(P.S. As I sit and observe, I realize that I'm being observed by many other people, animals and things.
I had fun observing different things which I'm amazed at and think how we tend to ignore observing the tiniest of the beautiful things around us which make life a lot better.)