Tuesday, January 11, 2011
The Reappearance of Innocence
There’s R and his sister T.
And then, there’s Me.
I dislike kids in general. There, I said it. Now judge me if you want. But I really dislike children. I do not know what to say to them or what to do with them. They make me feel clumsier still, and ancient; and they make it a point to remind me that I was born at a wrong time in a wrong planet, when children-of-the-world got busy with all those complex technological things I can never get a hang of, and used them as substitutes for books and dolls and a sundry other things that I had always associated with childhood.
Of course, it goes without saying, that the feeling is mutual.
I am very friendly with RG, R and T’s mother, and could well have been their ‘Aunty’. Nevertheless, exciting though it seems, the kids wouldn’t have it. So I have been elevated to being their Didi, as if being 13 and 15 years older to them (respectively), I could easily pass off as their older sister. Needless to say, I have never been very excited about R and T. Though of course, T did have my sympathies, but I was never remotely interested in their pursuits.
It was R’s birthday, and I didn’t know about it. When I accidentally did, I was amused to see that he shared my repulsion towards birthdays. Looking very much in pain wearing those colourful, comically-conical birthday hats, he won my heart that night, putting up a brave front and cutting the chocolate cake. On being asked what would his ideal birthday present be, he replied, “I love reading books”. Finding the right Enid Blyton for him has been an adventure, and so has watching his little fingers open the wrapping paper, and his expression change to that of utter thrill on holding the pages; waving back to T and answering her high-pitched, loud call when I come home every evening, is an epiphany in itself; and watching R read the year old resolution I had pasted on my favourite book-cupboard (“I will not let a bunch of s-e-x-u-a-…”) my biggest laugh. Since then, T’s shy imploring of her mother to be allowed to drop into my house makes me feel important and loved.
I had moved to this new neighbourhood from the old one. They showed me around, their house, the neighbours, their playground, their games. They introduced me to their friends. I watched them play, I heard them sing, I saw them dance. They listened to my English, my German, my Bengali, my broken French. They heard snippets about my shoddy plans. They asked questions, I answered. They played, they waved, they burst crackers, they watched TV, we shared chocolates. “Time went by, time flew and everything seemed so easy, so simple, so free, so new, so unique.” They laughed, they cried, I read out, sometimes for no reason, or for a reason. Yes, sometimes for a reason. I brought them home, I studied for my exams, I listened to their hobbies, to their aims, to their interests. They listened to mine. We were close, so close, ever so close. They played, sometimes for a reason and sometimes without. Time went by, time flew. I brought them home, I studied for my exams. They played, sometimes for a reason. Time went by for no reason. They played for no reason. I studied for my exams, my exams, my exams. Time went by, they played, they played, they played. I watched movies.
Then there’s a movie, Children of Heaven (1998). In Ali’s large eyes lies R’s innocence. In Zahra’s love for Ali, lies T’s affection for R. Childhood is sacred and lonely. R and T haven't changed my notions about children in general, but they have certainly changed my feelings towards them. It has been ages since I returned their waves and goodbyes when they come home from school. Guess I’ll surprise them with a visit tomorrow.