Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 5 Issue 96 | May 26, 2006 |

   Cover Story
   Straight Talk
   Slice of Life
   View from the Bottom
   Dhaka Diary
   Book Review
   New Flicks
   Write to Mita

   SWM Home


Adulthood at Stake!

Mustafa Zaman

True adulthood does not begin until 30, writes an American journalist. But he also points out that there are some people who resist falling into that category even in their 40s. That is true of the American baby boomers, who were born right after the World War II. Here, in Bangladesh, perhaps at the first attempt, one will be hard put to underline a particular generation that resisted being catagorised as adults as late as in their 40s. However, that does not mean that we are lacking in our own stock of grownups who act like children. In fact most of ours grew up to become politicians and their cohorts.

Although while assessing the competence of our past generations we tend to overlook their worst representatives; as we turn away from the vast pool of lawmakers and lawbreakers, we really accept for fact that the past seems to have produced more balanced personalities than mentally distraught cry babies. It is the cry babies who fail to act their age throughout their lives; they are the perfect example of overgrown children. Our generation, the men and women who spent their childhood in the 1970s, are replete with such abominable creatures.

Though there are exceptions, most people of my father's generation, who were born in the 1940s, seemed to have no problem in growing up and facing the world as responsible adults. In fact they grew into adulthood pretty fast, perhaps without even being aware of it. Most of them got married in their twenties, had numerous children without taking into consideration a future when having too many children would seem like a crime. In their time having children was one crucial feature of accepting adulthood. And this generation that brought us into this world never had to worry about overpopulation. Though failing to envisage the Dhaka that we now face on a daily basis, where streets and places are always swarming with people, they fared well in the world of adults where they roamed with ease as well as courage. They had their priorities straight. In their time having a lot of children had not only seemed natural but also a process of proclaiming adulthood. The ability to feed a number of mouths was one aspect that they took seriously. In our parent's generation starting a family was of greater importance and it is for this reason that they made headway into the job market much earlier than many a dithering soul belonging to my generation. As for their personalities, most of them certainly showed more poise and level headedness in confronting life on a daily basis compared to the generation that they brought into the world.

For my generation, the bunch that grew up in the tumultuous political backdrop of the 1970s, real life was never enough. Weaned as we were on the imported TV series like 'Star Trek', 'The Land of the Giants' and 'Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea', our eyes were set on an outstretched horizon that even we could not fully scan if we wanted to. All dreams were farfetched; to attain them meant stretching the boundary of reality. As Dhaka turned into a hub of commercial boom in the late 1980s and in the 1990s, our dreams even reached a gargantuan height. With the traditional pattern of marrying in the twenties and starting a family early on and being contented with less effaced from our sight the only remaining option was either to join the rat race or to "drop out". In this world governed by this binary principle tranquility of mind was the first casualty. Perhaps this is one reason that my generation have a fair share of cry babies -- people who are not satisfied with what they are getting and are always complaining but are unwilling to do anything about it.

We all know that the accepted demarcation point of reaching adulthood is 21, but can this be applied to the ones who have grown in size but not not necessarily in 'depth'? One of my friends argues that there used to be a lesser number of cry babies in the olden times, 'because they had faced with the prospect of parenthood at an early age. Today the race for a better career has pushed the age of marriage and parenthood beyond thirty for men and sometimes even for women, and this plays havoc with the psyche of men and women reaching adulthood. They remain the fragile grown ups without any sign of maturity of the minds.' I do not necessarily feel inclined to buy his proposition, yet I am forced to give it a second thought and accept it as one of the reasons that had made people feel like kids trapped inside the bodies of adult men or women. The argument that runs counter to such a claim also looms at the back of one's mind. One cane never overlook the fact that getting married and having children are not the criteria of considering oneself an adult. A single human can live his or her life without starting a family and show enough maturity of mind that would put many married lots to shame.

In my generation there are ample examples of cry babies who are both married and unmarried. Yet, it is the married ones with children who show more poise in wading through the adversities of life.

We know for a fact that over the last fifty years things have changed for the worse, and today we are less equipped to face the world that is more and more slipping out of our grip. We live in a world which is more chaotic and where the risk of not reaching one's goals is higher. Most married men and women are lucky to have narrowed down their horizon. For most of them the family comes first, and this makes them immune to the anxiety of aiming for high and even for the impossible. In fact they show more pragmatism in setting their goals. So it seems that it is the bachelors' prerogative to aim for the impossible.

Though it is not bachelorhood that makes us set unclear goals. It is the other way around. We remain unmarried to pursue our dreams that are disproportionately large and are not in tune with our abilities or existing reality. And it is for the men and women of larger goals that pursuing a career precedes all other responsibilities that adulthood brings forth. For most of such materialistic dreamers, taking on the world on one's own terms as an adult boils down to one and only thing, -- landing a job that pays the world or do things that leads to accretion of wealth. In our quest for happiness we have curtailed the duration of our family life, both by starting our family at a later stage and by spending less time with our family members. Perhaps it is the present reality dominated by uncertainty that forced upon us a life pattern so remote from that of our forefathers'. Perhaps it is us who wanted to deviate from the traditional paradigm where marriage and family tops the list of priorities. As today's competition for happiness hinges on the most part on our ability to amass wealth, it is in this rat race that we have lost not only the old rhythm of life, but also the strength of mind to face the world like a grown up.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2006