A happy and rare encounter

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 20 Aug 2017 10:48:22




MEeting the duo was a happy experience of an increasingly rare variety – a father-son twosome, discussing literature and science. The father was in his late forties and the son in his late teens. The two sat at the airport waiting for their flight to arrive. And as they sipped coffee, they talked of literature – English, Marathi, Hindi, Sanskrit. They also detoured to discussing advances in sciences. Out of sheer joy – and also surprise – I approached them. Could I join them in their discussions? – I asked. I also explained that their discussions were very interesting and it was no longer possible for me to be only a distant and impolite eavesdropper. I wanted to participate in the discussion, and also know about them, I said. They agreed, and what followed for the next forty minutes before the delayed arrival of the flight was sheer bliss.

The father was in business, the son a college student. Both talked animatedly about so many issues in literature. No subject was a taboo and their general information-levels were high. As we talked, I realized that their cell-phones did not ring even once. “We treat our cell-phones as necessary evils”, the boy said with a silent pride. The family also did not have much love of watching television. “Very rarely we are seated before the TV – only when there is something very important. When GST was rolled out, all of us sat to watch the midnight event,” the father said.

It was only natural for me to wonder if theirs was not a rare breed! They agreed. The man said, in effect, that they find
better things to do and follow. “Books are an integral part of our culture. Everybody reads a lot. We do watch select movies, but never lose sight of the fact that we have two teenage kids. Both the boys are deeply interested in reading and outdoor sports – football in particular. Chess is another obsession at home, but talking to one another on many subjects is the main pastime,” the man said with a legitimate sense of satisfaction dripping from his words.

Of course, I sought their permission to write about them in this column (which, they said, they read regularly). To find such people is not impossible, of course. Yet, we must admit that finding such persons is becoming an increasing rarity these days when addiction to cell-phones and cheap entertainment has become the norm of the day in most homes. Both of them talked longingly about books and about their discussions. They did not fuss about that, but felt good sharing their ideas and ideals with me.

We were on different flights and parted ways in some time. But the father-son duo lingered on in the mind. Obviously, my mind searched for answers to many issues – about how sad things are turning to be when ever lesser numbers of people are taking to reading, about how cell-phones are taking a heavy toll of our young people’s time and attention, about how intelligent conversation is becoming a rarity in homes …!

These issues have cropped up in this column time and again. Despite that, I will never shy away from raising these issues time and again. For, over time, as I sense an overall decline in genuine intellectual content in family discourse in our society, I have often raised the issue for
public consideration. Today also, I do the same out of my abiding concern. I may be too small a person to suggest ways and means to change things for the better. Yet, I have reasons to insist that our society needs to think very seriously about how to bring back the culture of books and serious discussions in the families so that our youngsters are raised differently.

It is time we started finding solutions to the issues I have often raised. If we sit together, we may be able to launch efforts to re-introduce the culture of books in our homes. This sitting together, however, will have to be done at multiple platforms – homes, schools, colleges, universities …!
It is time also for all of us to wonder how we could reduce the importance of the monster called television in our homes. It is also time for us to think of methods to wean our youngsters away from social media and help them become sensible users of the facility so that they do not become addicts. This is only an appeal – to our good sense!