As I stood there at the counter, for my order (yes, I was at the local mocktail shop again, waiting for the regular pineapple shake with mint), a group of teenagers walking in caught my eye. They looked like any other gang of carefree teenagers, with excited voices and wearing denims, casual T’s with puny funny quotes on them that mostly hung out at ‘Slurps’, our next door, air-conditioned, mocktail shop. It was actually an ‘Adda’ for high-school and college kids wanting to chill out on that occasional Saturday (when they wouldn’t be out partying after the hard week’s schedule) with peeps! I would come here with my bunch of friends too, but today I was is one of those ‘moods’. If you asked someone who knew me, they’d tell you that it was one of those rare days when the extroverted Sneha would go into, what they called ‘her shell’. The gang of teens, consisting of three girls and four guys, sat at a nearby table, and debated upon what to order. I caught one’s eye and immediately looked away; I know that was a dumb move. On any other day, I would have passed a smile and maybe noted how one of the girl’s had done her hair, but today wasn’t any other day, I was in one of those ‘moods’. I didn’t look back then, as I didn’t really want to make them feel like I was stalking them, instead I got back to fiddling with my keychain and waiting for the pineapple shake. Suddenly my ears picked up something that disturbed my chain of fantasies. “Aaj-kal ke bachhe”, translating, “these kids today” came a retort followed by a disapproval and a sigh from an aunty draped in a magenta saree, who happened to sit right next to the counter. She spoke to her companion, referring to the teen gang mentioned above as ‘aaj kal ke bachhe’ her pot-bellied companion simply nodded and dismissed the topic, by saying that the kids had no ‘conduct’, were a bunch of ‘shallow, immature louts’ who had no idea of what ‘responsibility’ was. I was shocked, listing to their tiny bit of conversation. The first thought that came into my mind was why they had come out if all they wanted to do was grumble. I hadn’t meant to eavesdrop but this, I couldn’t help over hearing. The second thought that followed was, how could these women judge those kids with just a look, without even knowing them, their potential, and their lives. It seemed to me like; the happy faces of the teens bothered the two women. They couldn’t stand a bunch of kids having fun. Neither was their music turned up too loud, nor did they speak in anything above loud whispers, and yet here were two random strangers criticising them on grounds that either did not exist or were oblivious to me. Not that I had come across this cliché for the first time, as a matter of fact, my own mother used it often in reference to my messy room or me having earphones on at the family dinner. I had in fact come across this term so often in society that I had grown used to it. As a matter of fact, none of us actually bothered being referred to as ‘aaj kal ke Bache’ in the most disapproving of tones. We took pride in ourselves. On any ordinary day, I wouldn’t have let this ruin my day but once again, today wasn’t any other day, I was in one of those ‘moods’. It did affect me though. I glanced at the faces of the teen gang and remembered the outing my friends and I had had at ‘Slurps’, they had always been full of poking around fun, laughing till our stomachs hut, and unwinding the pressure society put on us kids. They did nothing which seemed ‘irresponsible’ or ‘immature’ in the literal meaning of the terms. I mean what was wrong with having a good time? ‘Here is your drink ma’am,” came the waiter’s voice, disturbing my chain of thoughts for the second time. I took the pineapple shake and sat at the corner of the room, thinking about the cliché, that I had just come across. I thought and considered the facts once more, now here were a group of nice looking kids, enjoying themselves and there were these middle aged women, who seemed frustrated with life, discussing the kids and their bad virtues even without knowing them. I quickly sipped my drink and walked out, trust me; pineapple shake had never tasted that flavourless before. I walked home, fighting off the hot summer’s loo, thinking about the events that had recently occurred once again. I thought about what it meant to be a teenager in today’s world. The difficulties we had to face right from peer pressure to the demands of parents and rest of the society. Being a teenager, is so much more than what everyone predicts, today, it is above Linkin Park and Metallica, it is more than denims and converse, and it is way more than funky hairstyles and wanting to be wanted. Being a teenage, in the developing Indian society today, is all about keeping your identity with a billion distracters eluding you to lose it. It is about waking up in the morning, to a new today and in spite of all that you would have to face, still knowing that life is worth living and saying to yourself, ‘Carpe Diem’ being a teenager, you face physical, mental and emotional changes. Some wise guy, once said, ‘fear is afraid of change’ and he was pretty right. It is the fear in teens today that make them rebellious at times, fear of losing that identity to one of those billion eluding distracters. Fear, of not being able to meet people’s expectations and fear of people not understanding them. Ironically, at this stage of semi-craziness, the one person who doesn’t understand you the maximum is you, yourself. Society and parents should give their teenagers and children support instead of judging them and putting expectations on them. I know it is you, who brought them into this world, and you who cared for them and provided them everything they wanted, well almost everything, but you should let them live their own way now, of course guiding them but letting them take his own decisions and supporting them in those decisions. If you love something, let it go. Trust me, being a child in the Indian society is not an adult’s play. It is about a struggle for believing in yourself. It does have a lot to do with self esteem and how you see yourself. Being a teen is about discovering the true you, and what you stand for. Loud music, brands, denims and facebook do not define teens. Being a teen is so much more than that. It is my plea to society to not generalize us. Being a teen can be a frustrating and excruciating experience, but these are also the most fun-filled years of our lives. Give us a chance to have our bit of fun, the chance to prove ourselves, discover ourselves, make friends, stand up for ourselves and those we love. Give us a chance to make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and polish ourselves from them. Give us a chance to ‘breathe’.
Teenagers Today-The Cliche
June 19, 2011