Today is the 16th birthday of my daughter, Geetanjali (whom we call Anjali, or just “brat” for short .
In 1978, when I was 16, I was a year away from meeting the girl who would eventually become my wife, already knew what I wanted to do in the future (my facination with electronics, and eventually computers, was already very strong then) and was hell-bent on learning the guitar, so that I could perform on stage. The next two years were probably the most important and formative ones in my life.
Today, 16 years after that squalling, screaming, bright red bundle of humanity (we nicknamed her “tomato”) appeared on this planet, Anjali is on the verge of completing her 10th standard, and will be looking at the same important two years of her life.
But how different things are for her!
She lives in a world that has opportunities and facilities that my generation could have only dreamt of (and for the record, we did). Computers (or more correctly “the internet”) give her access to information, cultures and even people that were impossible to get at even a few years ago.
The challenges she faces are not those of getting the information, but being able to sift through it, understand it and use it. The challenge is not *how* to reach someone, but *whom* to reach and *why* – given today’s technology, it is as easy for her to communicate with her grandmother in Germany, as with her friend next door.
Schools don’t rely on textbooks anymore – homework assignments assume internet access. Classmates don’t meet in study groups anymore – they chat on instant messenger, never leaving their homes.
And yet, for her, the most enjoyable part of her birthday was not the greetings and the shoutouts she was getting online, but the sleep-over she had with some of her closest friends – face to face, real human contact.
This is probably one of the greatest challenge she will face as she goes on – how to create and maintain the humanity in relationships, in a world that makes it possible to never leave your home or meet someone in real life to stay in touch.
And there is another important lesson she must never forget:
No matter what your chronological age is – to your parents, you are always 8 years old.
Happy Birthday, Anjali
And no, you can’t have the car keys.