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कृण्वन्तो विश्वमार्यम्

BRIDGING THE GENERATION GAP

TALKING TO TEENAGERS

- By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant, VSM
The ever green generation gap is growing and growing. The teenagers and the senior citizens apparently do not have much in common. The generation in between, that is, parents of teenagers have a lot to do with their teenaged sons and daughters and it is equally true the other way round. However, the proverbial communication gap is now too fashionable to go away. In fact it has almost become a fad and is being nursed. However, if one looks at the future of human society one will indeed be concerned about the ill health of the society as such. The society rests on the youth, middle aged and the aged. If these three segments of the society do not find anything in common among them, what are they going to converse . Even talking about the weather will be of little interest under the prevailing circumstances. The global warming too will fail to break the ice between the teenagers and the parents, parents and the grandparents.

Talking to teenagers is not a difficult proposition. It is not a piece of cake either. A deliberate attempt is needed on the part of the parents and grandparents to bring the teenagers in line. The values of society have to be transmitted to teenagers in such a way that they comprehend them, assimilate them and live by them. Let us first talk about the basic values of life to be introduced to teenagers so that they voluntarily accept them and practice them.

The basic values of social life comprise independence of thought and expression, liberty, equality and fraternity, individual and community action to achieve results and enhance social efficiency. By and large all major religions incorporate them and expect their followers to live by these tenets. The Vedas, the most ancient scriptures in the library of mankind have summed up the aim of social efficiency for the youth in one word ``Manurbhav,’’ that is become good human beings. If the teenagers take to this voluntarily and practice what the teachers teach, many ills of the present day society will ipso facto disappear. At first sight this may appear to be a Utopian dream which may not be realized but on a close examination it will be crystal clear that making a good human being out of the basic material called man is a pragmatic idea. Idea is fine but how do we go about implementing it?

The aged citizens or the senior citizens will find it more convenient to communicate with the youth provided they avoid the pitfall of narrating their own ancient experiences to Generation Next. Besides taking the help of teachers in classrooms from nursery to university, it is the senior citizens on whose shoulders will fall the onerous responsibility of talking to teenagers and keeping them within the fold. After all the senior citizens have already discharged their personal duties of bringing up their own children and should now bring up not only their own grand children but grandchildren of others too. Of course, the primary job will be that of capturing the imagination and bringing about a meeting of minds of generations which are almost half a century apart.

The most effective tool of this task is a four letter word called LOVE. The senior citizens should not only love teenagers as their own kith and kin but also let them feel the love. In due course of time it will be two- way traffic. Talking to the teenagers will pay rich dividends and the teenagers will confide in the senior citizens to the extent of discussing their sweet hearts. When love and trust rise to this high level, the ground is ready for sowing the seeds of human values which senior citizens wish to pass on to generation next.

An atmosphere of intensive receptivity in the two distinctly different age groups is to be created after the foundation of love is laid. Togetherness is an important tool to achieve this. Who has the time, one may ask. Well, you get nothing for nothing. To achieve something you have to give something. If you cannot give time to teenagers how are you going to talk to them and help them imbibe human values which are so basic to the smooth running of the civilized social order. Indeed these human values are the foundation of the civilized society. If the dialogue between the teenagers and senior citizens breaks down for good, the civilized society will return to the state of complete chaos. Men and women will start behaving like primitives. No one will show any respect for human life, what to say of property. Do we want to revert to that chaotic state? If not let us get down to business of attracting the youth by talking to them and helping them imbibe human values.

Sometimes, some cynics talk of transmission of values through text books alone and feel this all can be done in class rooms . Little do they realize that a class of boys and girls is not like a herd of animals that can be driven through brute force. Each boy or girl should be treated as an individual. Individual differences in physical and mental make up should be recognized and addressed too. Even the spiritual needs should be attended to in order to help teenagers develop well rounded personalities.

Reverting to the role of a teacher in a classroom, he or she will complement the efforts of the parents and the grandparents at home. The Shatpath Brahman has elucidated it beautifully in just one sentence: Matriman Pitriman Acharyavan Purusho Ved. The parents, even the grandparents or a senior citizen in the form of a vanprasthi or a sanyasi (those who have started treating the entire world as their own family and care for the entire humanity) and of course the Acharya, that is, the teacher who becomes a role model for teenagers are the pivots on whom the life of the youth will be shaped. Thus talking to teenagers is not the job of a single individual but all those individuals who are close to them and have acquired meaningful experience of life which can be passed on to generation next.

Let us now take a look at the process and the tools which will be helpful in talking to teenagers. To my mind, music takes precedence over everything else. One need not be a Mozart or a Beethoven to be in love with music. One should know the ABC of music so that the assembly of teenagers and senior citizens as well as middle aged men and women can sing a chorus together. While out on hikes, treks and picnic ,singing together brings in emotional cohesion. When the spirits are down in the dumps, an appropriate note of music is helpful in raising the spirits again. Shakespeare had said in a different context: If music be the food of love, play on. Irrespective of the change of context music should and can still be played on to bring different generations together emotionally.

A short while ago a reference was made to creating an atmosphere for interior receptivity. This can be done not only by words alone but by action. Showing concern for each other’s health in the form of advice, medication and tender loving care (TLC) go a long way in bringing different generations together. Playing simple games is always helpful. Of course, age of the players has to be taken into consideration.

Spiritual togetherness, that is, reciting a Ved mantra or delivering a simple sermon ,without sermonizing, will help in imbibing virtues like fearlessness, honesty, compassion and becoming humane. A family that prays together stays together. Let it be a non denominational prayer to steel ones own nerves without giving rise to bickering. After all talking to teenagers is not as difficult a task as it looks initially. It is indeed achievable. We must achieve the aim to let the human social order survive and flourish.
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