Round-the-clock TV channels had already turned homes into virtual theatres. Children, as young as 2-year old, could be seen mimicking dialogues and singing and dancing to the tunes of Bollywood numbers. Reality TV programmes opened up a Pandora’s Box by providing young artistes with a platform for the outlet of their inherent talent, while igniting the urge to perform among hundreds of thousands others.

Talent hunt has led sundry musicians and choreographers to TV studios posing as good Samaritans for the youngsters. Some of the discoveries of the reality shows have made it big in the film industry bagging some worthwhile singing and dancing and even acting assignments, while others settled for recognition in the society.

The dreams that are fulfilled through these reality shows are miniscule in comparison to thousands of dreams broken. Still bigger is number of those who do not reach to the stage of performing, let alone getting recognition for their inborn talent. Yet, there is no let-up in dreaming. Children still dream. They dream of making it big in the show biz at the cost of their studies oblivious of the fact that they are just following a mirage.

Still worse is the plight of the children who get recognition and are in the reckoning for their raw talent. At an age when life for children means all fun and frolic, they are made to sweat it out day in and day out in the quest for fame and mega bucks at the instance of their parents. How is it different from child labour?

These children become pawns at the hands of unscrupulous parents who do not want to wait till their children grow up. Ask them if they are not forcing them into something which their mind and body is not prepared for. Their answer would be: “The children are doing so out of their own free will”.

Free ‘will’? What that means to innocent children? How do they know what is good and bad for them. Is it not the duty of the parents to choose what is best for them and their childhood.

In their eagerness to see their wards perform on stage and corner the glory, al beit momentarily, which they themselves could not in their lifetime, these parents push them into the grind of auditions-takes-and-re-takes unmindful of its adverse effects on their psyche. By doing this they even put their studies at stake and jeopardising their academic career. For them, education seems to be secondary.

How can a child, burdened with the strain to perform do justice to his/her studies? The pressure, not only to perform but to maintain a level of performance that brings laurels and recognition, is so enormous that leave alone a child even adults can’t handle it.

While education system is switching from the marks to grading system with a view to rid the children of the unhealthy strain of competition early in life, it is being imposed on them in the name of entertainment. It is sheer exploitation, but who cares?

The fact that parents, whose responsibility it is to ensure physical and mental well-being of their offspring, are behind this exploitation makes the sin all the more heinous. Recently, legislation has been passed to rescue animals such as monkeys and bears from the clutches of madaris. It would be in the fitness of things to bring a new law to save children and secure their childhood from these greedy parents.

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The opinion expressed in the article is of the writer. Writer is a freelance journalist/journalist based in Delhi

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