Extended network

Extended network

Unfinished homework and general irritability are only natural by-products.

‘Har ek friend zaroori hota hai!’ goes the catchy, hummable jingle, starring groups of young people engaged in an infectious display of camaraderie.

Predictably, it became an instant hit with its target audience. My just-turned-sixteen daughter has some wonderful friends, some of whom have been her classmates since they were all in playschool. Some have been her tiffin-box buddies – we catered to their tastes while wrapping food in silver foil into her Powerpuff Girls lunch box. Birthday parties always closed with a group picture of excited friends in various comic poses, wanting to freeze that perfect ‘friendship moment’ for themselves and posterity.

Such images are common in many homes, for children are naturals at making friends and relating to them according to the mores of the group. Thanks to email and social networking sites, they even have an efficient way of managing their friendships – no need for those maroon rexine-covered pocket address books that we guarded zealously when we ourselves were teenagers. With photographic reminders on Facebook each time they receive or send a post, there is no likelihood of fumbling awkwardly because you forgot a face.

My generation of liberal individuals who were brought up by strict parents understandably wants to be fair and even generous with its offspring. Cheerfully and uncomplainingly, we’ve ferried our children to and from activities and social events, even stifling a pang of hurt over, “Mom, can you plee-ee-ze not hang around after dropping me off!” Our own parents exercised the veto: ‘no need to go to birthday parties’. My contemporaries give their children socialising options – movies, picnics, mall trips or meals out with a parent or two playing chaperone, escort, chauffeur and general facilitator by rotation.

Having a lively group of friends is fine for young teens, but extended networks involving ‘friends of friends’ are a danger area. Permitting your child to befriend strangers, even if they are friends of their good friends, is something parents are quite uncomfortable with. Even at its most innocuous, this is such a colossal waste of precious time when career-building is a simultaneous compulsion.

Talking of time, it took me a while to drill into my daughter’s head the fact that teenagers have the same amount of time at their disposal as everyone else – 24 hours a day.
Those aggressively promoted SMS ‘packs’ come in thousands and are addictive, to say the least. Greetings, forwards, poems, quotes and what-nots –multiply them by several friends – and add to that the replies that your child might feel compelled to text through her own SMS pack. Electronic ‘friends’ end up swamping entire inboxes and all available hours.

Unfinished homework and general irritability are only natural by-products. Some serious discussions, many angry tears, a deactivated Facebook account and a utilitarian, no-frills cellphone connection later, we’ve come to an agreement: In real life, ‘har ek friend zaroori nahin hota hai’ : be selective and cherish close friends – the rest are acquaintances! 

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