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     Volume 4 Issue 41 | April 8, 2005 |

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Ekram Kabir

Just before the Eid holidays began in Dhaka schools, eight teenaged boys and girls [class seven-eight types] planned to spend some time together outside their homes. They also found a perfect excuse for their parents: a sporting event at a local school. Fortunately, for them, the event didn't take place for an unavoidable reason. So, they went to a friend's house in Banani. Two among them, a boy and a girl, while everyone was engaged in adda went to a different room to spen some time alone.

While these kids were having a good time, hell broke loose in their homes. Their parents started frantically looking for their kids, as they were nowhere to be found till four o'clock in the afternoon. They had gone out at 10 o'clock in the morning.

Coming back to how they spent their time, especially the two who went into a separate room. Questions naturally pop up in mind: why did they go into another room? What were they doing in that room for an hour? The other kids who were watching TV and munching Lays in the drawing room said they didn't know what they were doing. However, they said, their two friends were going out as a couple for quite some time.

One can assume two things from this. One, they simply wanted to talk to each other in isolation; and two, which may sound like a shock to many, they exchanged one or two kisses which obviously is an expression of love and affection. The meaning of spending time alone may go much deeper than just kissing each other; it may mean that they wanted to express their feelings for one another physically, as always, emotional extravaganzas usually have a corporal manifestation. One can't really blame someone for expressing one's passion in this way; it's only a normal human expression. But the question is, in this case, at what age? Do we or should we take the incident of two teenagers having physical relationship as normal?

Now, we've got a real agenda on the table to talk, debate and feel prejudiced and non-prejudiced about.

These two kids are not the only ones who have fallen in love at such a young age. There have been billions like them who have done so in the past and there will be many more who will fall in love in the future. There are a growing number of people, not just teenagers, who go on dates that may end up in physical relationships. As said earlier, going out to have fun and look for partners is something very unnatural, but the trend these days is, according to many parents and elderly people, focus too much on the physical relationship. They say that the focus, unlike in the past, has now shifted to the physical aspects of a relationship. The romantic side of love is quickly fading out.

Agreeing to this observation, one can really say that we don't see any more Debdases [not the character from the Hindi movie], nor do we see any character like Labonya [from Tagore's Shesher Kobita]. It may sound quite unbelievable these days, but characters like these did exist in our society in abundance. This trend has reversed now; one can very easily get over any kind of emotional blows and start a new one.

Arguably, as things change over time, human behaviour and reactions concerning love, passion, relationships and sexuality are also bound to change. For example, no one expects to see a person like Debdas any more, or very few hope to think that two people in love will only go physical only after they get married. One can argue by saying that romanticism requires time; but people these days have very less time for anything; whatever has to be done has to be done very quickly and get over with. Romanticism has certainly become a thing of the past. Having some ephemeral fun seems to be the objective nowadays.

So, the times have changed. We now livin a globalised village where learning about foreign social elements is a matter of seconds. This of course is a blessing of mordenisation. One can easily act and feel like an American or Egyptian without even going to America or Egypt. Well, times may have changed, but have the values changed? Has the value of love and affection changed over time? Is love all about having lunch at a fast-food joint and spending an hour in a locked room?

Now, these questions may seem logical to some and illogical to others. But everyone can see that our society, along with people who make a society, has started to change. People have less time for one another; love is becoming too physical; money is getting more importance than relationships; our children are trying to follow a culture that we cannot cope up with; so on an so forth. But is anyone thinking about this society? Has anyone ever tried to find out who was responsible for our children's seemingly unacceptable attitude? Or whether their attitude to life is at all unacceptable?

Well, yes; there is a lot of table talk on these issues, but not a single official or formal one. Apart from the fact that officially talking about sex and sexual behaviour is taboo, people fear to talk about these issues. Even the TV channels are hesitant to run talk shows on these issues.

But taking the social change in consideration, shouldn't there be research studies on these issues? Shouldn't the questions be raised whether we should allow our children, the future citizens for that matter, to choose a different lifestyle in this changed atmosphere? Shouldn't there be dialogues on the need for sex education, human behaviour that suits Bangladeshi society and culture, whether to raise teenagers' awareness on these issues etc? Shouldn't we all try to analyse whether our children are getting the wrong notions of life and values?

We may certainly disagree or agree on the issue but we will not know that unless we talk about it.


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