Its a bright, brilliant Sunday. My nephew, who is all of seven years, is up and about. As I slip on the running shoes, he wants to smell the outdoors with me. ‘Lets walk’. He says. It isn’t often that such privileges nudge me. I agree in a flash
His seven year old legs are growing stronger. I notice. His limbs are slim. His hair in one irreverent lock that is bouncy and chirpy. Just like him. ‘How long are we going to walk?’, he asks, a few steps into our walk. As our incessant chatter steals a march over the energy expended on the walk.
Soon, I realise, like all of us he too has several windows to the world. His school. His friends and of course, his dad’s tablet.
Today, he paints a ‘I am a super hero’ picture to me. As you can imagine, I am remarkably pleased. Its been ages since anyone has tried to impress me. I let him know how impressed I was. We walk another fifty meters and I think he is slowing down.
‘Are you tired?’, I ask.
‘No’. He says. With the same singular chirpiness. ‘It is now 99’ he adds. My brain scrambles to assemble some sleepy resources to figure what the ’99’ is all about. After a bit of silence, I ask him, ‘err..but what is this 99?’
There are points in time, when kids lose all their respect in an adult’s prowess. The taller the pedestal they put the adult on, the harder the adult falls. When that moment comes, its not a pleasant feeling. This was that moment, when the push from the pedestal happened. He stopped walking. Put his hands on his hips. An expression that left something like ‘You didn’t know this….?’, largely unnecessary. He merely says, ‘My battery’. (Pronounced BAH-TTERY. With suitable emphasis for effect). “My body battery, when we started out from home it was 100. Now it is 99′.
Of course the ‘battery draining’ and ‘recharging’ have established themselves as common everyday living and lingua that are well woven into modern day language. But this quantified expression from this 7 year old, hands me a knock out punch.
We carry on with our walk. Speaking of other things. He with some of his questions and me with mine. The words he uses reveal the depth of his questions and the rich texture of his worlds . We speak of his sports day and the medals that his track running got him. The super hero in him emerges. Again. ‘I beat them all’. ‘By a lot of distance’. He says.
‘A lot of distance?’ I ask. Sensing an opportunity for a lesson in English grammar.
‘Yes. yes.’ He says. Vehemently. With a flourish, he adds, ‘They haven’t upgraded their bodies’, he says. I smile. Now that is profound, I think. I drop the idea of English grammar. I pursue this ‘upgrade’ line of thought. Having lost all of my respect on the battery front, I can afford to play dumb.
‘What does that mean?’, I ask. ‘Upgraded their bodies’?
In a seamless flow, he begins. “They are not becoming stronger, faster. And they don’t come upto me and say, ‘ I will beat you in the race’ ” That is what is ‘updgrade‘ is” he says. This is getting profound!
Our talk meanders on a straight road. Gradually the topic drifts to ‘what is the one most interesting thing that you can spend hours on end doing?’
‘I like cars’. He says. Almost impatient to allow me to complete my sentence. I too was greatly fascinated by cars in days of carefree boyhood. Perhaps it runs in the family, I think. I tentatively ask him, ‘Which cars?’ thinking that I would hear the the likes of BMW or an Audi!
He takes off.
“There are 183 different types”. He then rattles of a names that to me sound like random assemblages of vowels and consonants. Finally, resting on, “and sometimes, the ‘Dodge Viper.’ “
Thats the only car I am familiar with from his list. His dad had gifted a scaled down model to me many years ago. A model that sits on my desk to date. It was my dream car for a long while, until someone educated me on how many arms and legs I would have to give up to turn the wheels of something like that!
Today, I hold onto the Dodge Viper. And ask him, ‘Dodge Viper? But where have you seen the Dodge Viper?’
In ‘Asphalt 8’. He says. With a shrug of his shoulder. With a ‘I hope you know where that is’, look on his face. Hesitatingly adding, ‘I am sure you have seen it there’.
I am lost. I say, ‘Hmm’. Like an amateur boxer who is recuperating in his corner bleeding from three cuts that a friendly jab of a professional boxer caused.
Of course, ‘Asphalt 8’, ‘Need for speed Most Wanted’, are all video games. I am blissfully unaware of an entire ecosystem that is powering the world of my own nephew! He is unstoppable now. ‘There is Henessey Venom GT’ he says. And speaks about how fast it can go, how good looking that is and how expensive it is too. The prices he quotes are the prices of the video games. He seems confident.
Here is a guy who doesn’t like to sit in a real car, yet someone who prefers to play with them via a window. Me and brother were very different. We had to see them. I used to go to friends houses, because their neighbour had bought a new car. Touching the new car, just lying down and checking out the undersides and rushing to scarce books to read up more seemed so worth every passing second.
We have covered significant distance. 3-4 kilometers. I ask him, ‘Are you tired?’ It takes a while before he answers, ‘NOooo’.
The obvious and most common narrative that emerges from the previous generation talking to a younger generation, is often about how glorious the past was! And as a natural extension, how broken the present is. To see the present as a lament would be to view it through the lens of a time that is gone by.
The greater chance of living a fulfilled, productive, joyous life is to embrace the change and start off by speaking a different language. The onus is not on the newer generation to change. It is for the older generation to reach out and embrace the new. To make sense of the what is coming and to help the new flow well, learning from the mistakes of the old!
The world will belong to the new. In a short while! The first change perhaps is in how I think. Maybe language is a good point of synthesis. I ask my nephew, ‘Is the battery about 48?’ I ask.
Hmm. ‘Noooo. Its about 30′ He says. Ah. Thats a lesson learnt well. The next time, I wont ask him ‘Are you tired?’
The wheels of change. They keep spinning. If we need to get somewhere, we need to keep steering! We walk for a bit in silence. He drifting, perhaps, into his world of cars. I drifting into the world of change and how much more I have to! Bringing about substantial change within, is after all no walk in the park!