Matters India |Wednesday, November 22, 2017
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‘Blue Whale’ a new wrecker of society? 

Dr. George Jacob

Kochi: Recent media reports about youth committing suicide, as part of taking part in an online game called ‘Blue Whale, have left parents terrified, and society bewildered.

In this game, the player is assigned an administrator who provides him a daily task to complete for 50 days. He must send a photographic proof of completion of each task. Initially the tasks will be simple like watching a horror movie.

Later, the tasks demand harming oneself. On the 50th day, he will be asked to kill himself. Backtrackers are threatened with dire consequences. Is there a more macabre consequence than ending one’s life?

It almost looks certain that Blue Whale has joined other competitors in wrecking sanity, order and poise within society, and more importantly, respect and value for one’s own life, which is a veritable gift from God. Lives these days are already being torn asunder by a lifestyle, characterized by weird and often strange traits bordering on seeming insanity.

Blue Whale joins other seemingly innocuous and innocent competitors, out to satisfy the ‘convenience’ of the ‘new-gen’, as the present generation loves to call itself, leaving the older one, to which I belong to,(which I will refer to as the ‘old-gen’), entirely bewildered and confused.

The most prominent among them is the Smartphone, which, apart from being a phone is a computer. It takes photographs, downloads information from the internet and sends it at speed faster than thought (if the local network cooperates) to wherever one wants to, through platforms like WhatsApp and face book.

It helps to pay bills instantaneously. It helps to book film tickets and pay bills on the go. In other words, it makes living ‘convenient’ and less cumbersome. Life without the Smartphone, or its poorer cousin the mobile phone is unthinkable for the ‘new-gen’.

Yet, it is one of the most lethal things one could possibly gift a youth, given its gross potential for misuse. I use a Smartphone. But, I am not sure how far I can entrust my children with it. Apart from the ‘conveniences’ it promises, it’s potential for misuse has been the undoing of many a youth.

This convenient piece of equipment is a portal through which blue whales and destructive sharks gain access to the psyche of the naïve and the impressionable.

The ‘newgen’ plays games on the phone, listens to music through earphones, which renders the listener completely removed from their surroundings. They are oblivious to the honking in the thick of traffic, and has their concentration on the roads entirely distracted, exposing them to mortal danger.

One wonders if these gizmos are really essential. Have they rendered the so-called ‘newgen’ smarter than the ‘oldgen’?

Well, there used to be a time when those belonging to the ‘old-gen’ like me used to stand in serpentine queues to pay bills, and to buy a movie ticket. Yet, the world was never slow as a result. Life moved on just like it does in these ‘fast times’, with time to spare to plant a kiss on one’s grandparents’ soft cheeks!

Those were days when letters and postcards used to be dropped into the red letterbox, entrusting the khaki-clad postman to deliver it to a friend, lover, parent, or a relative. The ‘old-gen’ had comics to kill time.

The phantom, or ‘the ghost who walks’, Mandrake the gentle magician, accompanied by his man Friday, the muscular Lothar, who together combined wizardry and brawn to quell evil, Bahadur the cop who dared to stand up to dacoits sowing fear, death and burglary among the ravines of the Indian cow belt, making their living by looting and murdering local population and passersby, and Amar Chitra Katha, which were almost moral science textbooks provided the ‘oldgen’ an engaging means to ‘kill time’.

They needed no Smartphones to play games. Comics kept them, including me company on long journeys and spare time. They helped one simply to while away time lazily over weekends and holidays. I had a huge collection of comics collected over years, which were bound into convenient small volumes.

Smartphones have for competition, mall culture, which has the ‘newgen’ spend time in those huge noisy, concrete structures called malls, taking voyeurism and ogling to new heights as ‘pastimes’.

Malls also inducted into the ‘newgen’ a culture of spending spree and splurging, which neither demonetization nor GST failed to shackle. Gone are the days when the ‘oldgen’ used to frequent parks and beaches, lapping up the sun and the wind, adding to their Vitamin D stores, and their bone health in the process.

Parks and beaches provided ample ambiance for innocent and delicate romance to blossom back then!

The ‘newgen’, as if more eccentricities are required to contribute to their weirdness, resort to hairdos that closely resemble nuclear explosion on their heads, adorns outlandish garments that defies decency, appropriateness and render differentiation of gender impossible. Critics, which include my brothers ask me, ‘what’s your beef about what others wear or how they turn out!’.

My contention is that the vagaries, bordering on eccentricities the ‘new-gen’ exhibits, or thrives in, is representative of a larger decay below the surface. It represents scant respect for one’s life, elders and social sobriety.

Then there are the superbikes, which tear through roads ill-equipped for them, putting paid to young lives in the process. Fast-food culture, which has the new-gen fall to lifestyle diseases and cancer that has the new-gen in their grip at much younger age than the old-gen got to fall to.

All these have joined hands to give birth to the peculiar subspecies of Homo Sapiens, called the ‘nexgen’. I can almost sense my newgen compatriots sniding behind my back and picking up stones to stone this guy belonging to the ‘oldgen’, mouthing the unutterable from the rooftop, or closely resembling a priest read from the Book of Lamentations from the pulpit during a Sunday church service!

I confidently boast that, without smartphone, malls, outlandish attires and fast-food, this old man’s process of growing up has never been wanting in terms of adventure, happiness and contentment. No one ended his/her life for being denied an ice-cream or a bike, or for having failed in an examination back then.

And my generation was smart too, in fact much smarter than the present one, more equipped to cushion the blows life had in store for us, by no means menial, and more daring to take the wind and the sun on our faces, more willing to respect ourselves, our elders, teachers and our parents, much to their happiness, and with prayer in our hearts and lips, were, and still are willing to thank the Providence for small mercies and silver linings that invariably border the dark clouds that hover over us.

There was give and take within families, and marriages lasted longer than they do these days. We valued our lives and no blue whale or shark was allowed to tear it away from us. Life, as was taught to us, by our ‘oldergen’, was handled with gratitude and care that it deserved. Every day and every breath was God-given grace, which we thankfully reciprocated through wholesome living, and we still do!

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