Friday, December 6, 2013

Born On The Cusp - The children of the 60's

In astrology a cusp is a transitional point or time between 2 astrological signs – it is a time when one sign ends and the other begins. For the 20th century, 60’s were the cusp decade. It was a decade when the world didn’t simply slide into change, but jolted itself on a new cultural level.  The staid modest world was left behind forever as the mini skirted world set its sight on space. Although each generation has its own challenges, triumphs and disappointments. As a 60’s child, I feel that possibly the biggest chunk of disillusionment fell in our laps and the Pakistani 60’s child was probably hit the hardest.

We were born in a decade when the first human landed on the moon. What an elation that was. We were perhaps too young to remember the details but many of us do remember the excitement and the total awe of that event. As we grew up our expectations of the future were in part formed by the ‘Jetsons’. We expected that the world we would grow up in would definitely be a wondrous, super convenient, space exploring paradise. Little did we know that by the time we hit middle age our country would actually be in the Middle Ages. Forget about fantastic gadgets which would make life easy, we would not even have electricity to run the most basic appliances. We certainly never thought that gas would ever run out and many would be forced to use oil and wood burning stoves to cook their meals in the winters.

When my generation started going to school, we were taught about our country’s fabulous 5 year plans. Its mind boggling to think that by the time we grew up our country would become incapable of forming the simplest of policies on the most trivial of matters. What happened to us?

We are a generation whose grandparents had witnessed the Partition first hand and their memories were as vivid as when it was happening. They had lived through the British Raj and for us it was almost as if they were talking about the Moghul Era, after all anything we read in the history books had to be ancient. Talking to them made us realize how much he world had changed, our present was so much better and of course our future had to be brilliant. If only we had known that the days of the Raj never really went away. Somewhere during that time was a group of children who were listening to the same stories and were dreaming of bringing back those days and they did!

Many of our parents remember living in old houses without electricity and even those with electricity didn’t really use much of it because our grandparents were mostly afraid of switching on the lights lest they got electrocuted. But surprisingly these were people who even if they were illiterate, were highly educated because throughout the ages wisdom has been passed orally through stories, songs and fables. However there is a requirement for this tradition to continue – 2 people willing to talk and listen. We have now stepped into the communication age, anything we want to learn about, all knowledge is now a click away. We are now connected with everyone we know, and many we have never met, through social networking sites, but you will have to really search long and hard to find really educated people. Literate, yes but educated? Not really.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”…these words aptly describe the political scenario we witnessed in our growing up years. We went from total admiration and respect for our Armed Forces during the 1965 war with India to almost a pathological hatred of the same during the Zia regime. We went from utter dejection and national depression after the fall of Dhaka to feverish motivation during the 1974 Islamic Summit. Little did we know that our national emotions would flat-line to constant stae of frustration by the time we reached the 21st century.

We thought rather naively that wars were only fought with enemies and it meant air raids and soldiers fighting to keep the borders safe. We could never have imagined that every time we would step out of our homes we would be walking out on the battle field. We were stupid enough to think that the value of every innocent human life was the same – how were we to know that every single human from the Western world would be important while thousands of us would end up being collateral damage.

Some might say we are lucky that our lives have been so rich and I agree we have been blessed to have witnessed a changing world first hand. But I wish that this richness of experience was because our expectations were met rather than the disappointments which seem to define us.