Life, love, India, world, violence, politics, ice-cream: what’s on their minds
Madhavankutty Pillai Madhavankutty Pillai | 05 Jun, 2009
Life, love, India, world, violence, politics, ice-cream: what’s on their minds
FROM THAT HEIGHT, what do they see? This world that we have created, how do they make sense of it? Why do they appear so different from how we were when we were shorter than the fridge? What are they thinking? What do they want? When that little girl whispers into the phone to a friend, “My parents are so square”, what does she mean? What else aren’t they telling us? We attempted to find out. In five cities, we met children between eight and twelve years of age, boys and girls from vastly different fates, and asked them questions about everything. Here is, in their own words, the world:
tanay chheda, 12, mumbai
(Tanay played young Jamal in Slumdog Millionaire)
“Most of Us Now Take Sex Casually”
Brotherhood. I had a conversation with Ben Kingsley because I played Gandhi in one of my plays. So I was telling him how I had seen his movie some 13 times to be a proper Gandhi. Brad Pitt said I have a bright future ahead. They were all so sweet. And they all saw our film and said they loved it. I don’t think Slumdog made India look bad. It is a happy film. After all, it is a film about unity and brotherhood, and above all, about love.
Fans. One girl from Dubai wanted to be friends with me and I agreed, and then she went and set up a fan site in my name. It was weird. And there were 200 members on the site. I have Googled my name.
Girls and friends. I have friends who are girls but nothing more than that. My cousin went on a school trip recently, and a bunch of girls took my number from her, and I got a call from there and they were like, “We’re so glad you’re coming here!” It’s a bit crazy. At my age, I have a lot of people who love me: my friends, my parents, my family. I don’t need some girl to love me. There are lots of stories about link-ups and break-ups in the movie business. Most of it has to do with the media and what they make up. A guy in the Ahmedabad Times randomly wrote that I have 10 girlfriends!
Casual sex. Drugs, sex, everything, this is the age when everything happens. Most of us now take sex casually. There are 13- to 14-year olds already indulging in it. They think to do it is to become a man. It depends on different people. I think it happens when you’re ignored. You don’t do it if you’re in good care. Parents with a lot of money are busy partying and those without enough money are too busy making a living. All of which means they don’t have enough time for their children. Children shouldn’t be ignored, that’s dangerous. My parents know what I am up to. They say, “Whatever you do, be careful.” I have freedom and they trust me with it.
Cine ambition. I have always wanted to do a film on teenage life and the problems we face. I’ve just finished my script on that subject. One title I am working on right now is 13 Years. I am trying to get Anurag Kashyap’s number so I can get his help on it. He is my favourite director right now because of Gulaal and Dev D.
Spending money. We (friends) once went to play paintball and it was 800 bucks for 45 minutes, so I said next time we won’t go there because it’s expensive, and they were like, “Dude, you earn so much.” I was like, no matter what I do or what I earn, there is a certain value to money. If we can go for a movie to Sterling or Regal then why spend 300 bucks for a ticket at a multiplex? I act because I enjoy it; it’s not about the money. I am crazy about phones, though: I love James Bond phones. My latest one is the Sony Ericsson Titanium SEC 902.
Kasab’s trial. We believe in fair justice, and when Anjali Waghmare agrees to defend Ajmal Kasab, people start throwing stones at her. If he doesn’t have a lawyer, there will be no trial and he’ll just go free anyway. I don’t know why people can’t understand that.
Gujarat’s leadership. I like Narendra Modi. All Gujaratis love him. When Godhra happened, he kept back the security forces and that was a mistake. I dislike him for that and I think he was a bit crazy. But look at what he has achieved—look at Ahmedabad, Surat, Jamnagar with the biggest oil refinery in the world, the Nano plant. Gujarat is developing.
Political choice. I prefer the Congress to the BJP because the BJP has fanatics and they have an anti-Muslim stance, which I don’t agree with. And they don’t speak English properly, their (SMS) messages come in wrong English.
SAIKAT MAZUMDAR, 10, Kolkata
“Impressions Are Very Important”
Living in Kolkata. I’m not at all happy with my city, Kolkata. Given a chance, I’d banish polluting vehicles from this city’s streets and provide cheap housing so that pavement dwellers don’t have to spend their days and nights under the open sky. Apart from being inhuman, the sight of so many pavement dwellers conveys a poor impression of Kolkata. It’s the politicians who are to blame—they don’t have the will to do something good.
Impressions. I think Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is still trying his best to do something for Bengal. But one thing—I wish he wore smart clothes, like formal shirts and trousers, instead of a dhoti-kurta. Especially, when he’s meeting big people like industrialists and foreign delegates or diplomats. I think how one dresses is important, it conveys an impression. Impressions are very important. I have nothing against a dhoti-kurta, but that’s an attire for social and religious occasions, like the Durga Pujas or a marriage, not for office.
Indo-Pak relations. I love my country and would do anything for my motherland. Given a chance, I’ll teach Pakistan a lesson it’ll remember forever for sending terrorists into India. Pakistan is a bad country, it creates trouble for everyone. It has been training terrorists and sending them into Afghanistan and India. These terrorists say they’re acting in the name of Islam, but I know that Islam doesn’t preach hatred or violence. I know some Pakistani cricketers are good. Of course, not as good as Indian cricketers.
Sobriety. I study in a co-ed school and have girls in my class. I’m friendly with many of them, but I hate the ones who are the pestering or nagging sorts, ones who are fussy and dress very flamboyantly. I don’t like girls wearing lipstick or flashy clothes. I like cool girls. Everyone should dress properly and soberly—like Priyanka Chopra. She’s good-looking, sober and behaves so nicely and knows how to dress properly. I like dressing as the occasion demands, but jeans and fitted shirts or T-shirts are my all-time favourites.
Good equations. My favourite subject is maths. I just love figures and calculations, equations and all that. I love reading as well, though it’s only children’s books for me now. I hate people who lie, who are dishonest, who don’t keep promises, and who don’t vacate their seats in a bus for the elderly or women.
Communists. The CPM has ruled for so many years and has done nothing. I have learnt from newspapers—I read one everyday—that the CPM actually drove industrialists out of Bengal in the past. But now that they want the industrialists back, Mamata Banerjee is opposing them. It’s so unfortunate that the Nano is being made elsewhere now.
SEHR SINGH, 9, New Delhi
“Men Should Not Be So Hairy Anymore”
Pub culture. I think that the Sri Ram Sene could come to Delhi and beat up more women. That’s because we have more pubs in Delhi.
Evolution. Between boys and girls, boys have more hair. This is because when we were hunters and gatherers, men used to hunt, so they needed body fur for protection. Women did not need this, since they stayed in warm places and cooked with fire. Men should not be so hairy anymore, but soldiers, sherpas, rafters still have hair. If God had to re-design men and women, then maybe he would not give us the fifth toe. We do not really use it for anything. We could actually use one more finger or another hand, so we could carry more things.
Global warming. Electricity goes away less and less in the summers. And that is good because Delhi is getting hotter. In fact, even in the mountains, there are flowers in winter. Usually, there are flowers in spring. This means that global warming is there.
Needs and non-needs. They are making the Metro to Gurgaon, where my cousins live. It will open in 2010. I am waiting for the Metro, but the trouble now is that during construction there are lots of traffic jams that make me car-sick. So my father takes me through a secret way in the jungle. But when I am at traffic lights, I keep looking out. There are lots of magazines with Michelle Obama on the cover. I see lots of men selling gun toys and helicopter toys. They sell all these things that we do not need.
Charity. My mother gives biscuits to beggars. Two biscuits are equal to one chapatti. I feel very bad for beggars because they get kidnapped, their arms and legs are cut off and they are forced to beg. They are not lazy people, they work really hard to even earn one rupee.
Smartness. I do use Google and Yahoo! but mostly for my projects and for checking my email accounts. I do not understand how people used to manage earlier, they must have had to collect information from lots and lots of magazines and TV news channels. They must have had to ask really clever people everything. We still have to use our brains to Google. If you spell wrongly, Google will tell you that.
ZOYA GOPAL, 8, Mumbai
“I am the Boss in My Gang”
Feeling special. The best day of my life is my birthday. When my birthday gets over, I ask my mom when my birthday will come again. I invite my gang of friends very early. I have a boss in my gang. Her name is Akansha, and we have to do things to keep her happy. If we fight or the boss is katti with any of the people in the gang, then that person will not be invited to my birthday party. If the boss is absent, then my sister (not my real sister but my best friend) Aisvarya becomes the boss. Sometimes we fight to become the boss. My mom makes the invitation in her office. I hide and take it to school, as now my mamma doesn’t allow me to call the whole class and tells me that other kids feel bad when they are not invited. Sometimes my list becomes bigger. Every day I ask my mom when my birthday will come; when Partho’s birthday comes, I know next will be mine. My friends keep asking me what I want for my birthday. Even their mothers ask. I had a Chandni Chowk to China theme for my party. We got a big projector at home. We had popcorn, smileys and noodles. I dressed like a Chinese lady and my mom also let me put make-up (otherwise she gets angry even if I put lipgloss). We got bored after some time, and went down. We were making gangs and playing. Everyone wanted to be in my gang as it was my birthday. Shanaya could not make up her mind on whose gang she should be in.
Purpose. I get very angry when my friends keep touching the cake before I cut it. I gave all my friends a return gift. I wait for everyone to go so I can open my presents.
SONI, 12, Mumbai
(Soni begs in the Marine Drive area)
“Money Isn’t Happiness”
Cash flow. I don’t want to beg anymore. Earlier, things were different. I would earn up to a thousand rupees on good days. Now I barely get a rupee. I don’t actively beg anymore. I feel ashamed. If I manage to get hundred rupees a day, I am satisfied. That is all I need to survive. If somehow I manage to find a thousand rupees, I will make it last for five days. I will also buy chappals, undergarments and a little purse to keep the money.
School fantasy. But money isn’t happiness. Studying, going ahead in life, is happiness. I want to go to boarding. Every night I pray to God to find me a good boarding school. I have only one demand. It shouldn’t be an orphanage. Orphans are people whom nobody loves. But I have people who love me.
Development. When my father was alive, he would often get angry with politicians. They wanted to make Mumbai like Singapur, but have they? I have seen that place in the movie Krrish, and Mumbai is nothing like it. If I met one politician, I would tell them to give houses to those who live in jhopdas (shanties or hutments) and homes to those who live on the streets. I would tell them to take the sick to hospitals. I would also tell them to put more taps.
Terrorism. The most ‘danger’ people are terrorists. They come from Pakistan and other countries I don’t know of. They don’t like our country. I have seen them throw bombs from buildings on TV. But I’m not scared of them. I’m only scared of rabid dogs on the street.
Divinity. I have not seen God yet. I have only seen the fake gods in temples. The real one, the beautiful one, lives in the sky. My friend says there are seven skies, but I feel there’s only one. I also do not believe rains happen when the gods wash their floor. What do you think?
PURAV SHAH, 12, Mumbai
“Poor People Give You Respect You Don’t Deserve”
(Purav is a national level Scrabble Champion)
Co-education. Moving to Dhirubhai Ambani International School from Campion has been a big change. It’s difficult to get used to having girls in class because for almost eight years, it was just guys (Purav has just moved to a co-educational one). And now there are 16 guys, 16 girls, and it can be very complicated. Right now, I don’t really feel the need to talk to girls, but that will change, hopefully. I know people as young as ten or eleven who have girlfriends or boyfriends.
Talking terror. When the terror attacks happened, I was at home. Why did they do it, what for? I know a lot of people who were affected. A friend’s parents were shot in the Taj. And two girls from my class, their parents were in a Taj room—they broke the glass, used a ladder that was held up by the police and firemen, and just managed to get out. One of my sister’s friends, her parents were in the presidential suite and they were killed because of the fire. We do discuss it because of the deaths, and it was on the Internet and on TV. Like my friend who lost his parents, we tried to comfort him because he couldn’t sleep and his little sister was so young she didn’t really understand what happened. He was in a terrible state, though he’s better since. Now we just avoid the topic altogether. We don’t discuss it.
Constitutionalism. Every time we discuss politics, it ends up in a discussion about terrorism because our politics is corrupt, and corruption at the highest levels is a form of terrorism. We are personally shielded from it because we’re kids but we see it on the news, we hear people talk about it, and we study it. We study the Constitution of India and according to the Constitution and what it says about the qualifications to stand in the elections, people like Sanjay Dutt and Navjot Sidhu are clearly not allowed because they have criminal records. But money is the greatest power for them.
Slums. I see the slums of Dharavi when I cross it on my way to school. You see people who are under-nourished, with bad health and no resources. They need help.
Social divisions. There is a class-divide and caste system in India. It’s not a good thing, and you feel the difference when you interact with kids from a poor background. They give you respect you don’t deserve at all. They feel so grateful when you teach them, or give them food. For most of my birthdays, I’ve gone to donate food and talk to the children. Their way of speaking is completely different from ours. They have a very simple life, and what we consider normal life is for them the best way to live.
Economic scenario. The recession is all because of the dollar rate going up. I think we need to be careful about expenditure because one area it affects most is imports. My father imports and exports steel, and with the present prices he’s affected.
AYUSH KHEDEKAR, 9, Mumbai
“God Has Written What Will Happen”
(Played little Jamal in Slumdog Millionaire)
Fame. I never thought I would be so famous… world famous. But God has written all what has happened, what has not happened, and what will happen.
Friendship. After I became famous because of Slumdog Millionaire, many friends rushed to take my autograph. Boys and girls who were not talking to me earlier—I would try to talk to them but they wouldn’t—have become friends now. I have accepted their friendship. But I am very careful about handling fame. If I become more and more and more famous, and I become very proud of what I am, and think that no can do anything like I can, then all the fame will go down, and there will only be emptiness left. As my father sometimes says to me in Marathi, “garvacha ghar khali” (the house of pride is empty).
Aggression. I am a black belt in karate. But I am not willing to pick fights. When someone fights with me, I only block the attack, that’s all. But if he gives me two, then I give him one back, and then he keeps quiet. But now, it has changed. No one comes to fight with me anymore. As an actor, I will do karate movies when I grow big. Going to the Oscars was such a nice experience. We met so many stars. I saw big film stars like Tom Cruise, Daniel Craig and Kate Winslet. They are all foreigners, their skin is so white, it’s like a light.
Education. Though I act, I know that studying is the main thing. This is because without studying, you cannot be anything in life. With studies, you can be an engineer, actor, scientist—whatever you want to be. So that is why education is the most important part of our lives. Once I become 20 years old, and become a scientist… actually, first I will do missile science —dishdishdish—for Pakistan. And then, I will become a scientist.
KEDAR SATYANAND, 11, New Delhi
“What Will Happen if the Trees go?”
Life in the hills. I was born in Delhi, and then I lived in Satoli. It’s a cold place in the Himalayas where it rains a lot. There are lots of plants and trees, places to walk and play games. I was homeschooled in Satoli, then after I was four, I came to Delhi. We keep going back during the holidays. I tell all my friends that they can come to Satoli. They can also bring their parents. In Satoli, I sleep in a sleeping bag, in Delhi I use a bed. Things are changing in the hills. Temperatures used to be 4-5ºC; since the last three years it’s gone up to 6-7ºC. I like being in the forest and collecting pine cones. You can paint them. My friend painted a pine cone for my father on his birthday. When I rub eucalyptus leaves, it makes my skin feels soft and nice. We also have a nice fir tree—it’s pokey and takes a long time to grow, but it looks really pretty when I hang ornaments on it for Christmas.
Boredom. In Delhi, though I have more friends, my life is less active. In Satoli, I play lots of cricket and pithu, I go camping and trekking. Nowadays I get a bit bored because my dog died. Eaten by a leopard.
Deforestation. In Satoli, there are people who cut down trees and people who try to save the trees. The poor people of Satoli live in wooden huts, which get washed away in the rains. They should build solid structures, but that takes money. Outsiders are buying natural land and they cut trees.
Ecology. Sometimes, when I am sitting around I think to myself if the trees go, then what will happen to all the oxygen? There are so many people, after some time I am sure there will hardly be any trees. There will be less rain, the land will go dry and the trees will die off. I don’t know how fast the land is getting bought, but it will go dry by the time I’m in college.
Career. I want to be a multi-job person. A race car driver. Then I want to design rockets so we can learn more about the moon. Then after that, I want to earn money by making battery powered cars.
KYLE REGO, 8, Mumbai
“I Don’t Ever Want to be an Adult”
Eternal childhood. The only thing I like about adults is that they can stay up late and watch Star Movies. I want to be a kid. I don’t ever want to be an adult; they do so much work. The biggest problem with adults is that they do work, work, work, all day long. Our parents have to choose their own way.
Anxiety to Stay Relevant Amit Khanna
Return to Greatness Zakia Soman
‘This Is Not Fusion’ Akhil Sood