Children’s Day is observed the world over on different days of the year, and for a myriad of reasons. In recorded history, Children’s Day was first initiated to be celebrated on the second Sunday of June, in the year 1856, by Reverend Dr. Charles Leonard, the pastor of a church in Chelsea Massachusetts, where he held a service dedicated to children.
Of importance is also Universal Children’s Day. It is observed on November 20th every year as recommended by the United Nations. This day is observed to remind the world about the rights of children. The United Nations has a very well defined and comprehensive list of children’s rights in their Convention of Rights. Some of them being as basic as survival and development, which most of us take for granted. The UNICEF website has an elaborate detail of all the Rights of Children.
In India, as we all know, Children’s Day is nationally observed with much fervour on the birthday of the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. It is also known by its Hindi name, Bal Diwas, in a lot of Hindi speaking states in India. It was first observed in 1964, after the death of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, to commemorate his birthday. Pandit Nehru, also lovingly addressed as Chacha Nehru by children from when he was alive, and till date, was a huge proponent of the provision of proper nurture to children, particularly in terms of love and affection. He envisaged children as the future of the nation, and hence pioneered the establishment of premiere, cutting edge, and world class educational institutions such as All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Indian Institutes of Technology, and Indian Institutes of Management. It is hence appropriate that Children’s Day be observed in India in honour of his birthday.
In celebrating Children’s Day, there are many activities that schools all over India plan and implement. Sweets are distributed to children, and in many schools children are commended for their achievements.
Like it happens with a lot of things, the essence of why Children’s Day is observed in India has deviated somewhat from why it was originally initiated to be observed. As Pandit Nehru very correctly envisaged, children are the future, and hold a lot of power to affect a positive change for the future. It is a good thing to have cultural activities to entertain the children, and to distribute sweets to them on their day, but it is equally, or even more important to acknowledge the true meaning of why Children’s Day is observed. In the evolution of it, seemingly the true essence of why it is observed has eroded over the years.
In today’s day and age, where children are exposed to, and bombarded with many different kinds of media and information, it is very important to nurture them and guide them to use technology and information responsibly. The constant and high velocity evolution of technology has a positive impact, wherein it has resulted in the availability of many different kinds of opportunities, ranging from fashion design to space exploration. It hence is very important to guide and channelize the children, the future of the nation, to properly utilize their talents.
In the spirit of nurturing, children are exposed to several emotional dilemmas in the age of social media and hyper self-advertising. It is an important responsibility for mentors and parents to recognize this, and ensure that the children are being moulded and raised to be well grounded adults. For only then a nation can achieve greatness, if its many citizens are collectively great.
Our country has a lot of privileged children, who are provided the right kind of nurture and opportunities to succeed. The flip side of the coin, there are millions of children in this great nation that are highly under privileged and do not have even the basic amenities of life, let alone opportunities, that most of us take as a norm, and for granted. Would it not be nice to see Chacha Nehru’s vision encompass those under privileged?
On that note, I leave you, the reader, with some food for thought!