Read this extract from THE HINDU (16 July, 2007 Metro Plus [Chennai Edition])

When Shruti Kamal Hassan asked Arjun Vignesh (one of the ten finalists in the Chennai leg of the Horlicks Wiz Kids 2007 competition) "What is better – having a girlfriend or a wife? And why?", the boy blushed but was not out of his depth. All of 11 years, Arjun preferred a wife to a girlfriend. Reason: girlfriend means impermanence, but a wife is forever. He said “A girlfriend can dump you anytime, but a wife won’t” to thunderous applause. Guess who clapped? An auditorium (Kalaivanar Arangam) full of school students.

Just one paragraph and I don't know what irks me most.

1. The fact that it seemed appropriate for an adult - a 21-year old is considered an adult - to ask THIS question to a child of 11.

2. the fact that a 11-year old child answered in THIS particular manner.

3. The fact that an auditorium full of children applauded this answer.

4. The fact that Prince Frederick, the author of this piece, thought this charade worth reporting.

If I'm a prude, so be it; but in the world I knew it wasnt okay to ask a child if he/she preferred a girlfriend/boyfriend to a spouse. The question is loaded. Not because of the manner in which it is asked or because the person who asked it was an adult, but in content of the question itself. are we seriously expecting our children to be able to, at the age of ELEVEN, decide whether they want a relationship or a marriage?

If there is anything worse than the question itself, it is the answer! I think there is something horribly wrong in the way we look at the concept of trust if a boy finds himself able to question the need for commitment in a relationship. The boy's logic might be infallible but the assumption that a wife is bound by a social construct to not abandon her husband, begs the question, "Why did the woman want to dump him?". The boy's logic seems to insist that he either does not care about the reason for the woman wanting to dump the man in her life, or does not believe that the woman can have a valid reason for dumping a man. all the boy cares about is that one option does not give the woman the freedom to do something she wants, and hence (as far as he is concerned) THAT is the better option. But frankly can you or I fault the boy? All he is doing is reflecting a view that he has (doubtlessly) heard an older male voice. And how does the boy know that this answer is a good one? Everytime someone has made a statement like this, the statement has been recieved with much fanfare and merriment. It disgusts me, this mirth at the portrayal of a wife as one bound to her husband - a slave, a playtoy, a prisoner.

But what really hurts is that THIS is the kind of thing that our newspapers report. Does no one find it offensive? Am I ultra-sensitive or is the rest of the world immune? How can it be that a man can report this charade and report it as a story and nothing else? Does a journalist cease to be a human being with a sense of judgement?

The reporter goes on to say,
"Their answers were sweet because their innocence shone through them."

It wasn't their innocence that shone through. It was the conditioning that shone through. The conditioning that makes us prejudiced. The conditioning that makes us unthinking. The conditioning that makes us mock at guys who learn an art form like dancing for being sissies. The conditioning that makes us teach our young to dress like bollywood actresses.

I'm sorry, but if THIS is innocence, then I don't think I want my child to be innocent.