By Khurram Husain
July 24, 2014
THERE was a time when we, meaning me and my cousins and siblings and friends, looked forward to Eid because all the grownups would give us Eidi. Of course, one would hesitate to actually say it, for fear of sounding too materialistic, but it’s a fact that in our private moments we would all be counting our fortunes in the few days leading up to the blessed occasion. The more the Eidi, the more blessed the day was.
Of course, in those days the custom was that any Eidi given to us was promptly taken away by the parents. I never understood why they did this, but it felt good to hold that crisp new note in my hands even if briefly. At the end of the day, we were all given a fair due of what the parents believed was our just allocation, and only the cheekiest ones complained.
Then somewhere along the way it all changed. Now I’m the one giving the Eidi, and I notice the little ones get to keep it all! Not only that, this entitled generation of youngsters coming up around us is so used to being showered with gifts that a small cash entitlement on this blessed day doesn’t seem to mean much to them. What changed?
Here’s one thing that didn’t change: the use of cash. Last year I wrote about how much demand for cash skyrockets in the days leading up to Eid, so I won’t repeat that theme again. But it’s true. The demand for cash goes up so fast that banks are drained, that the printing presses run by the State Bank work overtime, that bank managers become cash handlers for their clients. Nothing like a crisp new note to bestow one’s blessings with.
Technology today plays such a large role in the lives of the next generation that it’s almost scary.
But the new generation is growing up in a very different world. A few days ago, my brother reminded me that we are probably the last generation in Pakistan that drank tap water (from our social class in any event). Hand-held devices have replaced bicycles. And where we wandered all over our neighbourhood on afternoons when our parents took their nap, ringing doorbells and running away, social media has emerged as the consumer of children’s time.
Where will my measly little sum of money, with a ‘it’s the thought that counts’ smile fit in a youngster’s world where apps need to be purchased every other day and mobile phones have a shorter shelf life than hit songs used to have back then. I remember listening to Nazia Hassan and Boney M tunes for years, where now a song is in today and forgotten tomorrow.
Reality is also a different commodity. It can be recorded in video or audio format, and pictures available at a second’s notice. Snap chat makes sharing moments across continents an instantaneous experience. How many of us have had that moment watching our infants chatting with the grandparents over Skype, where the infant child is more comfortable with the technology than the grandparent?
Technology today plays such a large role in the lives of the next generation that it’s almost scary. I wondered about this watching my one-year-old play with an iPad, where before she could talk she was swishing and swiping away at the screen, unlocking it, then forwarding to the page where the photo album app was to be found, then launching the app and forwarding to her favourite picture without any help. And here I remember my first time watching in wide-eyed wonder the first time I ever saw a colour TV.
With all the tech support required for a contemporary lifestyle, there are costs. It’s Eid, so I won’t go into a calculation of how much it costs to train and educate a child today compared to my time, but expressed as a percentage of your total household disposable income, I’ll bet that amount has gone up considerably. Then comes the real expense: the entertainment. Movie tickets that cost as much as 10 liters of petrol? Imagine that in the early ’80s.
So here’s a hypothesis: kids today are a bigger investment than they’ve ever been before. People have to pour a larger proportion of their disposable family income into keeping their children properly trained in the latest technology, properly educated in the latest techniques, and properly entertained.
As a consequence, kids have become used to seeing money going through them, and past them, in quantities far larger than what you and I ever saw. One result of this has been a diminishing interest in the financial blessings of Eid. It would be optimistic to assume that this diminishment is accompanied by a corresponding increase in the non-tangible blessings of this blessed day, but it’s Eid, so let’s be optimistic.
In any case, the surging demand for cash puts a lot of smiles on a lot of faces this time of year, tailors and shopkeepers and fruit vendors. So here’s my parting thought to all my readers: may the blessings of this day shower upon you and your loved ones long after the currency has spoken. A very hearty Eid Mubarak to everyone!
Khurram Husain is a member of staff.