Image courtesy Tony Payne Online

On the first look, this blogpost might come across as an essay on horticulture (particularly on the part of a plant which is under the ground, and which feeds the plant and keeps it rooted to its spot), but it is not. Yes, this blogpost is about roots, but of another kind: a kind which, like the horticultural roots, may lead to their "plant's" decay and collapse, if left untended.

Two things made me think of this issue, one from the past and the other, fairly recent.

The thing from the past was a quote from Alex Haley’s 1976 best seller Roots: “In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.”

As for the recent event: the other day, when I was coming back from work, I got stuck in traffic, which was heavy for Islamabad’s standards. I heard plenty of screeching and honking behind me and, fearing the worst, I glanced at my car's rear-view mirror and saw a black sedan careening madly. As the car whizzed past, narrowly missing my left side mirror, I got a look at the driver... my suspicion was confirmed – it was a kid, barely out of his teens, driving a BMW 5 series sedan. No regard for traffic, sensibility or any such subtle niceties of life.

This compelled me to think about the state – or the lack thereof – of our generation's parenting of our children.

For me, anyone born after June 1948 is a first generation Pakistani (my elders vehemently differ with the notion, saying that since they gave up their life in India to have a new life here in Pakistan, they are the first generation of Pakistanis).

Anyhow, we are the ones whose progeny today comprises over sixty-two percent of our population, i.e., the segment who grew up post 1971 (an epoch in our history that we have gone into denial about as a nation!)

This sixty-two percent of the population is also the segment of society whom we, their elders, have not succeeded in grooming well. For, we, in the quest to provide them comforts and unnecessary necessities, did not inculcate in them the morals of our societal and cultural milieu. This, in turn, lead to the fragmentation of the moral fabric of the family.

The swooshing BMW also brought me face-to-face with one question: how, even with a salary of a hundred thousand rupees per month, can one afford a car for his son that costs 65 or more salaries?

And this started me on a chain of thought, oscillating between what we have not given our children and what they have missed out on. The family holidays, the family outings, family relationships developed by sharing and caring, friendships among cousins and elders and children that last a lifetime; all gelling together and working around a four letter word – time!

Our parents gave us time, and we started to give our children everything but time. Money, latest gadgets, designer items and accessories, the internet, the Wi-Fi and the iPods, and, the plight of plights, the fast food.

Growing up, were lucky to be a two radio house: one for the father and BBC news, the other for the mother and Radio Ceylon. There was no TV, and when we did get it, the programs were telecast only for a few hours in the evening. And there was no choice, just the staple family soap, and even that was a luxury.

Where has time gone? I ask myself this question often, but find no answer. There still are sixty seconds to a minute and sixty minutes to the hour, twenty four hours to a day, seven hours to a week, and fifty two weeks to the year. Where does our time go, that we do not have time to give to our kids?

Soul-searching, introspection, retrospection did not give me the answer, and I almost gave up blaming it all on a greater design. And then, like a bolt of lightning I was stuck by a thought – maybe time is not going anywhere, it is us who have lost track of what we want; what we have to do; what values, norms, morals do we really need to inculcate in the children?

We have ignored the fine line that separates the teachings of the first teacher and relegated all to the teachers in schools, conveniently forgetting that they too are a product of the same confused state of mind and scattered aims that we have been unable to target!

And therein lies the rub.