“I’m not afraid to die.”
The proclamation was met with a somewhat apathetic gaze and the rather comforting sound of chicken being masticated. You see, coming from some hardened veteran of war or a tough captain of the people, such a declaration wouldn’t have drawn so lukewarm a reaction. People would have cheered, clapped, agreed, nodded in agreement, or looked in wonder at the speaker, marveling at his/her indomitable soul. But as the speaker in the aforementioned situation was a 15 year old kid who’d barely grown a moustache, and the biggest hardship in whose life at that point was his prelim exams, I saw fit to respond as such. Kinder, better men than me might have indulged said preposterous statement with some small talk; but since the kid in question was my own brother, concern for his mental well-being had overridden all other more appropriate responses at my disposal.
The key takeaway in the above interaction is that my brother, like many before him and many hence, is 15 years old. And kids that age have issues by default. Bodies changing, hormones raging, a distinct self-obsession and latent tendencies to emo behaviour are clearly visible amongst said demographic. Not too far behind are grand ideas about doing something awesome with their lives that no one has ever thought of before. Those less cynical than me would call it “out-of-box-thinking” and “children shall shape our future”. However, sharing a house with one of these creatures has brought me clarity and some perspective on the matter, and I can arrive without hesitation at a much simpler conclusion.
Teenagers are dumbasses. (borrowed from the esteemed Red Forman)
Much fanfare is made of this section of society. They’re supposed to be undergoing a “difficult change”, a “transitional phase” and they apparently need “nurturing” and “careful understanding without intruding on their personal space”. So naturally, everybody ties themselves up into knots trying to please them. Teachers can’t scold them or tell them off because they’re “sensitive to criticism” and “impressionable”. Parents can’t do jack-shit because the snot nosed brat threatens to run away from home (“Log kya kahenge?”), or locks herself up in her room dying her hair purple and chanting Fall Out Boy songs (This used to be Greenday or Linkin Park. Oh, how times have changed). And any figure of authority is dismissed with an unpleasant sneer and a snide remark. So what’s the poor academia to do when the these demons vandalize classrooms and hold competitions about who can drive staff to hysterics the fastest? What are parents to resort to when the kid attempts to play death metal (poorly), deludes himself that he’s in a band, kills the neighbour’s grandma by sheer guitar volume, and then flunks Geometry?
What they do need, in my not-so-humble and barely-learned opinion is a kick in the keister, and the occasional friendly reminder to get their heads out of their collective asses. Beneath all the anti-establishment facade and the bad hair and the awkwardness, there’s a huge, thrumming pool of energy. And courtesy pop culture, it’s usually channelized into the wrong activity. While I’m one of the biggest fans of F.R.I.E.N.D.S, I genuinely believe that watching the series as a teenager effectively ruins any sense of direction or purpose in life. All that manic physical, mental, hormonal energy that should be kicking out on the field, in a classroom, in a lab, on bicycles, on treks… is ruined by sitting in someone’s basement watching endless reruns of mindless sitcoms, laughing along with the laughter tape.
As all these thoughts flashed through my head at lightspeed, I conclude that compared to the sample set, my brother is in fact a good kid. So I proceeded to indulge him as any good, kind man would. And while the resulting conversation did give me the exact aneurysm I was expecting, I still believe that he will outgrow this ridiculous phase and become a reasonably functioning member of the society. Like most teenagers inevitably do.
They’re all dumbasses though. True story.