Songs of innocence no more

Yesterday while having dinner and flipping channels while at it, I stopped at a Bengali GEC airing a very popular game show hosted by the great Sourav Ganguly. This episode had kid participants. They must have been no more than 8-12 years old. But they betrayed an air of such adulthood that it was difficult to guess if they were really 12 or 21. The girls especially were dressed in off-shoulder dresses, their faces caked in make-up complete with false eyelashes, pageant-like hairdos and ample blush on their chubby cheeks in an effort to give them a sculpted high-cheekboned look. The boys were dressed in trendy T-shirts and ripped denims. But the swagger was unmistakable in their demeanour. Nowhere was the innocence of a child, the playfulness of youth, fresh-faced, chubby cheeks, questioning minds and eager hearts. True they answered the most difficult questions correctly but they did it with unnerving nonchalance. As if to say, “Duh, how bo-o-o-o-ring. Next question please.”

It’s the same with dance shows and gags where toddler participants dance to the latest chartbusters with unutterable lyrics. They dress the part too. Hair extensions, flapper dresses and the like. If it’s a duet, the boy and the girl appropriately emote the most intimate of expressions and gestures. It’s almost as if they know. They just ‘know’. And that there isn’t anything else for them to know. Move on.

I was checking out pictures from a recent beauty hunt where the participants were probably still in the 10th standard. I’m not even getting to the physical part but they just ‘know’ how to look their SEXY best. As if it had been programmed in their brains – ‘suck in your cheeks, pucker your lips, raise one eyebrow, tilt your head to one side, place your body in an angle, square your shoulders, one hand on the hips, one leg slightly forward, tha-a-a-t’s right’.

I’m not getting judgmental but it’s a damn scary thing to happen. I’m wondering what’s to come in the next two decades. Baby shows will have 3 month olds sitting squat in their cribs with puckered lips and cheeks tucked in. While one hand will hold the railing of the crib, the other will be on their non-existent waists. They will look directly at the camera with a lopsided glance, one eyebrow raised and a head full of rudimentary hair or hair-like strands cocked to the side. Maybe they will suck in their tabby tummies too. And thrust their diapered bums in one direction to make that perfect S-curve.

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