Ranjona Banerji | Folks that make me highly ‘judgmental’

The Asian Age.  | Ranjona Banerji

Opinion, Columnists

The parents, now, are the ones who need help. They need to be cut off. They need to remember times when they were young and rebels


Is being judgmental connected with age?

I assume because I’m approaching a big birthday that I’m now in that total judgmental old person phase.

Grumble grumble grumble.

Young people these days.

Grumble grumble grumble.

Let me count the sins of youth.

One, they cannot eat ordinary Indian food like delicious (as in largely boring) daal and rice or daal and chapatis like we did.

Two, they are so lazy and such social misfits, always on some device.

Three, we never had all these food apps so we were so superior.

Four, they have a high sense of entitlement and no life skills.

Five, more gabba gabba gabba.

The other day. I watched a documentary on the disaster that was the music festival Woodstock 99. I can’t really remember this festival at all. Although in 1999 I was younger than I am now, though not as young as I was during Woodstock 1969.

But the 1969 was a seminal moment for many of us, even us of the generation not old enough to attend but soon young enough to celebrate the music and its peace, love, antiestablishment ethos. A lifetime of Crosby Stills and Nash, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, to name just three, followed.

So this Woodstock 99 tried to recreate a hippie festival 30 years later when most of the hippies had become the establishment.

The documentary told us from the outset that disaster was inevitable. Bad organisation and planning, brainless cost-cutting, excess greed and lack of attention were evident from Day One and by Day Three you had mayhem, death, rape and destruction. And a management that was unaware and unconcerned, caught up in their own bubble of self-declared success.

Lots of blaming went on. Yes, many young people behaved badly and irresponsibly. Yes, the sexual assault was horrible and visible on all the recordings of the time. But the bigger issue was definitely that of the organisers and their lack of planning and inadequate control as things spiraled out of control.

These were young people of the late 1990s. The parents of today’s young people. The children who won’t eat bhindi because they have a food app. I’m the grandparent type.

I force myself to look back. And judge. I would not eat bhindi as a kid and barely manage to eat it as an adult, unless it’s deep fried. I decide what I have to eat everyday and if I decide on daal-vegetable-rice for myself for four days in a row, I have a massive tantrum with myself.

I spend, like everyone who owns some Internet-connected device, inordinate amounts of time on those devices. Like right now. I’m on my laptop. I also have Twitter, Spider Solitaire and Gmail open. I switch between them. It’s just that I’m an adult, so I have the right.

But an 18-year-old adult doesn’t have the same rights?

I use that life skills and entitlement argument myself. The first comes because many of today’s young people prefer to live at home with their parents long after any parent bird would have thrown them out of the nest. Some of us who jumped out of the twig home cannot believe that these young ones are happy being told to eat bhindi and so on. Much as we loved our Mummy-Daddies, we wanted to taste a bit of freedom. Of being responsible for our own mistakes.

Like many others of my time, I suffered living in working women’s hostels, bad food, terrible rules about when you could come home, awful bathrooms and so on, just to have that freedom. No one telling you what to do. Several disasters did ensue. Sometimes parents swooped in to rescue you. Sometimes you wallowed in the muck of your making. Life skills that toughened you up? Maybe.

Or, maybe today’s young just want to make different choices? And there are many who do choose freedom.

One big difference is technology. How can you grow up if for every moment of your waking day, your parent or guardian is on your case? You are 24 years old. They will still ask if you have brushed your teeth, changed your clothes, bathed today, and other such nonsense. If these parents work in an office, they would never ask this of their young colleagues. But this infantilising of their own children is astounding. No wonder people complain these children are entitled. They’ve been given things constantly, nonstop advice keeps coming, why should they behave in any other way but full of expectation?

So I think I’ll switch my age-related grumbling. Am going to let young people off the hook. They have enough problems with their crazy parents dogging every second of their lives.

These parents, now. Hmmm. They are the ones who need help. They need to be cut off. They need to remember the times when they were young and rebelled against their parents. When they wouldn’t eat that bhindi or tinda or various kinds of ghastly gourds.

That music of Woodstock 99 was not really my kind of music, anyway. So I felt fully justified in looking on appalled.

But now the rock stars of my teenage years? Terrible, terrible behaviour. They are the ones who set the standard that these later musicians have copied.

How many nights have my friends and I crawled in home after a night on the town, hammered? We didn’t live with our parents, so no one knew. But I know that parents and my grandparents also lived the good life. I have photographs of one set of grandparents at New Year’s Eve celebrations at various clubs. I have photographs of the other lot on motorcycles in their 20s. Before their children arrived.

No sanctimonious oldies watching judgmentally.

Except me, now. Watching the middle-aged. Judgmentalism pouring out of my ears!