From my TOI blog : Freeze Frame
‘Here is the dream-catcher,’ he said … ‘Every morning I is going out and snitching new dreams to put in my bottles.’ – BFG, by Roald Dahl.
And all that the BFG, Roald Dahl’s Big Friendly dream-catching Giant, wanted to do with his labelled jars of captured dreams was ‘to blow dreams into the bedrooms of sleeping children. Nice dreams. Lovely golden dreams. Dreams that is giving the dreamers a happy time.’ But all that is possible in a world of the BFG, in a world where dreams are ‘very mysterious things. They is floating around in the air like wispy-misty bubbles. And all the time they is searching for sleeping people.’
In the real world, there are no such big friendly dream-blowing giants who are happy to see happy, dreamy kids. There are only dream-merchants who have made capturing and selling dreams their business. They have been capturing our dreams, labelling them, indexing them and sealing them in glass jars. And while the fictitious BFG is more than happy with sleeping children dreaming happy dreams, the real world dream-catchers run a business of selling these beautiful dreams in colourful packages, to the old and the young alike.
Why do I say so? Read the two conversations I have mentioned below and then decide to agree or disagree with me. These are two of many conversations that I have had with children of various shapes and sizes and snippets that I have overheard in busy malls, supermarkets, shops, grocery stores.
“So how do those boys know that Samantha has a brother called Bosco? And a tattoo?” My daughter, a 10 going on 11, asked me without taking her eyes off the television, “How would they know she wears socks to bed? Look, Ma!” She wanted me to watch the commercial in question and answer her, in details (exactly like my seventh grade Biology teacher). I knew the answer but wasn’t sure how to frame it for her.
“Not sure.” I shrugged. “Why?” I was very curious at her curiosity.
“Just …” her little voice trailed off unenthusiastically as her attention had moved on to the next commercial that promised a fairer and lovelier man, all day long.
Another day, another child. He was dressed to kill, this six year old son of a friend of mine and he insisted he wanted to wear a particular brand of men’s deodorant. I was intrigued.
“Why do you want to wear your dad’s deo?” I asked.
He smiled an impish smile through his missing incisors, “I like the fragrance.”
“And the real reason is?” I probed further.
He lowered his voice to make sure his mother was not listening and told me, “If I wear it, people will come running to me. I saw it on TV.”
The two apparently innocent conversations left me part amused and part worried. What amuses me is how children latch onto ideas and make them their own, much faster than we adults imagine they do. Imagine a little boy of six yearning to wear deo to get the right kind of attention. And what worries me is the impact of the same ideas that trickle down to these nascent and fertile brains. This constant exposure to all things not-so-young, not-quite-innocent and more often adult, I’m sure, have adverse effects on their receptive minds.
Over the years, the real world dream-catchers have sought out mostly the adult variety of dreams and hidden desires, analysed them in labs, chemically tested and tabulated them under various heads to formulate marketing strategies based on their findings. Creative wizards have recreated beautiful images of their findings, frame by frame and sent them back to us via the satellites, from the remotest corners of the earth. These images are nothing but an extension of our secret desires for bigger houses, imported cars, ‘taller, sharper, smarter’ children, blemish-free, wrinkle-free youthful skin, ‘no grays’ bouncy, lustrous hair, fairer men, whiter clothes, cooler acs, slimmer bodies, healthier hearts as well as crystal clear HD TVs. This colourful world of smiling people, beautiful images, catchy phrases, smart jingles is no doubt appealing to all of us. But the children, they love it much more because it is their window into the adult world. The adult world of dreams becomes an extension of the real world for them. But because they cannot differentiate between dreams, desires and reality, they confuse this world with reality. To them both merge and become one.
Add to that confusion the continued bombardment of how to begin a relationship, reasons to continue to believe in relationships, the University of Freshology’s ways of answering unanswerable questions, reasons to agree with parents, how to take parents for a ride, how to continue loving more than one, how to separate the men from the boys, so on and so forth adds more chaos. What we all seem to overlook is that while we, the adults take this carnival of dreams with a pinch of salt, the children lap up everything. The lingo, the body language, the catchy phrases, the jingles all become an integral part of their life.
While most friends I speak to share my concerns, there have been some who tell me not to react to such ‘minor’ things as ‘it is just a passing phase and children will get over them.’ But I still tend to worry. I continue to raise questions.
What I worry about is simple. Are these children suddenly exposed to much more than they are equipped to handle? Instead of the much deserved warm, fuzzy, golden dreams are we crowding their minds with the adult ways of the world, too fast too soon?
And then again, there are smaller mercies that help me keep afloat and keep my faith. My impressionable 10 going on 11 yesterday turned around and said, “I think those boys had a pajama party at Samantha’s house. That’s why they know so much about her, right Ma?”
She had framed the answer, perhaps in her dream. I nodded in the affirmative, happily.