The other day, I was sitting in my balcony and having coffee. I saw three little boys who live in my vicinity between ages 5 and 7 playing together. Since I know the name of just one of them and that’s Angad, I would call them Angad and gang. So, Angad and gang had been playing and running around for approximately an hour together and then they decided to go the swing nearby. They ran towards the swing where Manav aged 4 was already sitting. The very first thing Angad did was to pull Manav by his arm and asked him to leave. Succumbed to Angad’s power – already Angad is elder plus he had the power of a group – Manav stood up and started leaving. When I saw this, I interfered and asked Angad not to do so and obviously he did not have much of a choice and had to stop. Meanwhile, Manav left. Luckily for Manav his other (girl) friend, Pihu, had arrived so they both started playing away from Angad and gang. Angad could not hit Manav as I was watching but he bullied Manav by commenting ‘Ye toh ladki hai, ladkiyon ke saath khelta hai.’ Obviously, Manav wasn’t all ears to it and even if he was, he is too small to understand it. This small episode made me think of two things: the fish tendency in children and the awkwardness in playing with the opposite gender.
The Fish Tendency
My husband loves aquariums but I don’t. It’s not that I don’t like pretty fishes, it’s just that I like pets that are more responsive, specifically dogs. And this lack of consensus has led to us not having any pets. It’s not the only reason. The other reason is that we lack dedication that is needed to take care of pets.
Anyways, getting back to the topic. A relative of ours has an aquarium. He once told me that fishes in the aquarium do not accept outside fishes very easily. He told me that whenever he wants to add more fishes to his aquarium, he would take out the existing fishes in a bucket or something and mix those new fishes with them in that new container. And then after sometime, he puts all the fishes together in the aquarium. If he would put new fishes directly in the aquarium, the old and new fishes will fight each other and could harm each other to extent of killing some.
I’ve seen this tendency in children too. Kids who already are in a group tend to bully the one who is an outsider and takes time to accept him. And this tendency is there in not only in kids. When kids grow up and became college students, they do similar things with the new comers/freshers. Then, this skill and trend of bullying is called ‘ragging.’And this ragging might be fun for the seniors but it can’t be fun for that fresher who is ragged on.
I think this habit of bullying is bad and deep rooted in us since the time we’re kids. We must teach our children to be sensitive about other people’s feelings. Kids at the age of Angad and Manav can easily learn to respect each other’s sensibilities because at this age they are still malleable. And this habit of bullying is prevalent more so in boys. If we teach our boys to be sensitive towards other boys and the opposite gender, most social evils and crimes will automatically come down.
Playing with the Opposite Gender
This is something that we as adults and as society have to take the blame on ourselves. We have this deep-rooted belief that playing with girls reduces the machismo of boys. However, contrary to it, if it’s a grown up boy, having more girl friends is considered being surrounded by girls and needless to say it’s ‘cool’!!!
This small incidence made me realise that somehow we as a society are responsible for ‘cultivating’ such a thought since childhood. And we see its full-fledged effect when we grow up. A girl and a boy if walking and talking together will either be tagged as siblings or lovers be it at the workplace, neighbourhood, educational institutions or anywhere else. Since we are not used to having friends of opposite gender, I’ve seen that in many cases whenever married couples get together after exchanging greetings they divide themselves into two groups – males and females. And this happens no matter how ‘advanced’ we think ourselves to be. It is partially because we have always mistook advancement for westernisation, it never meant open-mindedness or progressiveness. And part of it is because men do not feel as free in mixed groups as they feel in an all-boys groups and vice versa.
I think we need to not only give our children branded schooling and toys, we also need to work upon their education and behaviour. Children are not only ‘bhagwan ka roop’ they are our mirrors. They behave the way they see us behaving. Rather, they are our magical mirrors and show us our future world. And we want our world to be a sensitive, caring and progressive world.