Someone would surreptitiously come, ring our doorbell, and then vanish. This would happen at any time of the day. I would go out to see the ‘visitor’ but there was none.
Like anybody else in my area, we are also locked down in our house now for more than two months due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was intriguing that even in the curfew-like atmosphere; somebody was playing mischief with us. It became irritating when the bell rang six-seven times in a day, often at odd hours. I decided to catch the culprit red-handed. And I did.
However, I was shocked to find that it was a little chap from my neighbourhood, eight-year-old Ricky. I could not believe it because he was known to be a much-disciplined boy of simple nature. How come this little boy had turned into a brat? I did not scold him rather I assured that I would not tell his parents. I made friends with him to find out what had transformed the otherwise quiet lad into a nuisance.
While a lockdown and social distancing have become a necessity, the fact remains that the confinement of not only youngsters but also elders is adversely affecting their well-being both mentally and physically.
It turned out that the severe restrictions imposed under the lockdown had virtually crippled an otherwise active boy. And he was not alone. The same was true of other lads in the vicinity. Ricky, along with his friends, used to go to the park for outdoor games.
All this has become a thing of the past. The lush green park has become a deserted place. The grass is hardly green and the main gate is locked with a chain. We do not hear the loud giggles, shouting and heated arguments among these young players anymore. As a matter of fact, the clampdown has forced people of all ages, the regular strollers, particularly, boys and girls, of recreation, the physical exercises so vital for health and growth.
Today, Ricky and his ilk cannot come out of their house without wearing a proper face mask and gloves for the fear of getting hauled up by the vigilant policemen patrolling the area and a reprimand for their parents. “So where do we go?” asked the exasperated boy.
No activity makes Ricky a dull boy
Ricky cribbed that going without any physical activity and confinement at home had turned him into a dull boy. He said he missed making mischief and that ringing doorbell was just giving him some fun.
We both stood at a distance from each other in the gallery outside my house chatting for quite some time. He asked something that took me by surprise, “Uncle, what did you do in your childhood when you had a long vacation like this?”
“In our time, we had three months long summer holidays,” I said naughtily and his jaws dropped. “And how did you kill time?” he asked.
“We did not ‘kill’ time. We invested it to read a lot of comics, participated in kitchen activities like making pickles, sherbets and squashes, made a lot of drawings, climbed trees to pluck mangoes and played outdoors”, I informed him. “Unlike you, we had no access to modern technology, no internet, no computers, no TVs or air conditioning, no mobile phones but we played with real friends, not the ones from the internet.”
“Wow, what a unique generation you were,” he said, wide-eyed.
I replied with a smile, “True, and a limited edition, too.”
He ran back to his house as his mother came looking for him. But this got me thinking.
While a lockdown and social distancing have become a necessity, the fact remains that the confinement of not only youngsters but also elders is adversely affecting their well-being both mentally and physically. It is stunting the growth of the young ones at the age when they should have been bubbling with energy.
Today, they dread hauling up by ‘police uncle’ who are undoubtedly doing a nice job. Both sides have their own compulsions. The law enforcers’ own kids are also craving for freedom of movement in the open as before. However, duty does not allow them to do what their kids want.
— Lalit Raizada is a journalist based in India.