‘When I was a child I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face’.
Old Testament: Corinthians (13:11)
The short story competition organized by The Illustrated Weekly of India seems to have proved an interesting exercise. It is obvious that young talent in the country is an enormous, unexplored field. The facility of expression and the standard of English displayed in these writings of ten to fourteen year olds is perhaps an indication that in the years to come, English, far from dying an unnatural death, will live on enriched by a new idiom suited to the expression of ideas Indian.
On the debit side, the short stories finally selected for prizes throw into relief some disquieting features. Conducted on an all-India scale and having received over 2000 entries, one may be forgiven for assuming that prize-winning entries are probably a fair indication of the general development of the young in India. The first powerful impression created by all the six stories is of a much ‘older’ attitude of mind than the age of their youthful writers could warrant. Adolescence is no doubt a painful ladder to adulthood, coupled with inexplicable pangs for a fast-receding childhood. Idealism goes hand in hand with much soul-searching for the meaning of life. All of this is no doubt reflected in these short stories. But what cannot be easily explained away is the intense morbidity which surfaces in practically all of them. The use of expressions like ‘fate’ which figure prominently, are, again, too adult and if it is not merely a youthful imitation of their elders’ vocabulary, we had better take a serious iook at what our children are learning.
The uneasy feeling that in India, we are in too much of a hurry to have our children grow up cannot be banished. Superimposed upon the fine sensitivity of the young mind are premature pressures of the grown-up world. In the process, the joy of living that should rightfully be theirs is lost to the young. A little less effort at a conscious imitation of their elders (and not necessarily betters), and a little more interest in the world of nature and beauty surrounding them would go a long way towards making the writings of these youngsters more refreshing. There is time to spare to put on the dark glasses of adulthood.
(Vol. III Nos. 5-6 May/June 1979)