Bikram Vohra, Gulf Today
When we were kids (yes, it is one of those stories) we used to give simple birthday gifts and get little post party giveaways. A friend of mine sent his kids to a party the other day and they came back with little TV sets. One of the prizes for a party game was a DVD player.
Those simple days
We used to get a twist of coloured paper containing sweets, a toffee, one lollipop and a lucky pencil with a rubber end that made it special. The luckier ones got a couple of balloons and a face mask that had a torn end where the string comes through. The more affluent parents would throw in a little sharpener or a hooter or one of those little magic tricks where the egg disappears and reappears and we would fight about ownership rights and end up breaking the toy.
Parents would have the party in their homes and put up little signs and half inflated balloons and tinsel and move the sofas and we would dress up all slick and smart and wait with bated breath for the kids to arrive and check out their gifts. Children who brought sensible gifts like clothes and ties (????) were given short shrift and sneered at while those who brought lunch boxes and packets of biscuits were never forgiven. There were always three or four eats, one birthday cake which mostly fell to the floor and lots of potato chips. And lemonade.
Now a Circus of a birthday
Now, parents hire whole restaurants and they have catered meals and theme parties and they compete with other parents and no one would be surprised if someone hired a circus to perform for the children. The next parent would just hire the Icecapades and get a temporary rink organised. One day some rich kid will bid for the Olympics and win.
Whatever happened to simple things. Like we didn't fall apart without Playstations and computers and things that do our thinking for us. We innovated and we exercised the one element that today's kids don't employ.
I remember turning little pebbles into toy soldiers and creating a fort out of sand and rock and tying a matchbox to a pencil and a ruler and turning into a super bomber, the smaller version with the stub converting into a fighter aircraft. It was great fun and some royal battles were fought with gravel from the driveway as the ammunition.
Imagination in short supply
Today's kids would be ashamed to do that. I remember trading a dinky toy (the best thing a kid could have) of a Spitfire with one wheel missing and it was the crowning glory of my toy collection and I would hold it in my hand and bring it down out of the sun loaded with little gravel bits in my clenched palm and then drop them on houses built of cards in a great and daring strafing sortie, making ratatat sounds as I played.
These days they watch TV and they play video games with real sounds out of five speakers and go on line and chat to strangers or listen to endless rap.
And they are bored. Bored to distraction.
We never knew what bored meant. Our parents never saw it as a condition and no one ever asked us if we were bored or teed off or not in a mood. These are techno-age excuses for a rusty imagination and couch potato laziness.
As a result, children are jaded at 10. Seen it, been there, done that, ho hum, isn't there something new.
Imagination would offend
I was just thinking what if I walked up to this kid and said, look I know you got a DVD player as a gift at a party but have you ever thought of creating a flight of imagination and making a plane out of an empty box of matches and your ruler with a wound rubber band for thrust.
His father would probably offended and say, oh I just got my son a 32 to 1 scale model of a Typhoon Eurofighter and now I am buying him a remote control version that can fly and you talk about rubber bands.
I haven't even got a DVD, sir but I still have my Spitfire.