Recently I went for a workshop in Himachal; to a village verging on turning into a small town but not quite there yet. The snow peaks were covered by clouds testing me once more. Pretty valleys surrounded us but wherever I looked, I saw signs of human habitation spreading like an octupus’ tentacles – modern buildings, mobile towers, cars, garbage etc.
My workshop was full of energetic and super enthusiastic youngsters from cities all across the country. It was interesting to observe these youngsters and their behaviour pattern; those from Delhi were hesitant at first in making friends, ones from Chennai were a naturally bubbly lot who though friendly tended to form a group, the students from Bangalore were balanced while the only other girl from Mumbai mingled with everybody like she knew all of them from before.
While the post-sessions time rang out with songs and laughter around a bon-fire, I would sit aside and think back to a time when I was a student like them and yet so different from them. While I used to be totally confused, scared and restless, these youngsters were focussed, confident, knew what they wanted and were well travelled to boot.
I befriended a 24 year old Himachali girl who had just completed her Masters from JNU. She told me how most in her circle of friends were already disillusioned with life. When I probed, she said it was possibly due to so many choices in life or that JNU generally bred disillusionment.
It was during a short interactive session with 12th Std. students from the local government school that it struck me. It was innocence or rather the lack of it. What the local students had, their city bred counterparts lacked a great deal.
One day, our coordinator recounted how he had taken his 6 year old daughter to a river which was almost pristine. When he told her the name of the river, she asked,“ How can it be a river, this one doesn’t stink?”
With no real connect with nature now left, I fear that all innocence will now be gone with this little girl’s generation.