Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Life lessons from little people


Sometimes children say and do the darndest things. And help you learn something new about life and living....

When little man was just over a year old, he ate a cockroach egg. Or at least, he tried to.
But my husband noticed and hurriedly got it out. Baby probably had a taste, though. Ugh.

Why did he think he could eat something like that? I realised children don’t subscribe to our notions of ‘good’, ‘bad’ and utterly yuck--till we actually (like I did), have a mini meltdown and yell that they absolutely cannot just pick up shiny, brown objects, just because said objects look interesting!

But then children are so open in their approach to life. So trusting, for one thing. For a long time, when he was a baby, he would happily exclaim "Ajja" or ‘Ajji’ (Kannada for ‘grandfather/grandmother') whenever he spotted a white-haired gentleman or lady. He would hold his arms out with a winsome smile. The recipients would coo and respond in kind. Till, my husband and I, with fear in our hearts and thoughts of child abusers on the prowl, very strictly told him, that no, he must not run after strange white-haired people; that they can be ‘very very bad’ people too. Even as we did that, I knew that in our 'adult'ness, we are changing his view of the world. In our adulthood, unlike him, we’ve lost the capacity to trust infinitely and innocently.

Mundane magic
Little man is growing up now. But he sees something magical where I only see the mundane. One evening, he and I were walking on a quiet lane beside our home in Bangalore. Singing nonsense songs and skipping along, he suddenly bowed and said hello to a vehicle parked outside a home.

“Why are you doing that,” I said, “...cars don’t talk”, I proclaimed, secure in my infinite wisdom. “But cars in cartoons do,” he pointed out.

A little way down that same road, we passed by another home where a German Shepherd barked stridently at us. “Why is that dog barking,” little man asked.
“Because he’s a guard dog and he’s actually asking us ‘who are you', I replied.
Immediately, he went back, stood in front of the dog, and said loudly: “I’m Ishayu and this is my mom!”

The dog looked rather taken aback and titled his shaggy head to one side the way dogs do when they are puzzled. And what did I do? Looked on nonplussed, feeling my heart melt inside, bursting with the love I feel for this child who makes me see and experience the world differently.

One morning, just after he’d woken up, he rubbed his sleepy eyes, and held out his hand to his father.
“What is that,” asked dad.
“It’s sleepy dust,” said little man.
He’d picked out the grit from the corner of his eyes! Once again, he showed us how wonderful the ordinary can be.

Ishayu is nearly five now. He is a naughty little chap and often gets into trouble with me. Yet even if I whack him or rant and rave at his doings, he takes it all in his stride. Then, through his tears, he holds his hands out to me for comfort, crying “Amma”. He doesn't hold grudges. And that is when my pettiness makes me feel miserable and small. Just like that cockroach egg.

One of his most favourite things is to hear stories of what he did as a baby. He smiles sheepishly then (in a “Did I really do that?!” fashion). And did I mention that he also loves to watch adults squirm when we tell them the story of the cockroach egg.

These stories belong to our family treasure house of memories. We tell them over and over again, to remind ourselves we must embrace life too; that we can discover a different world, if only we look at it differently. 

NB: I wrote this originally for my college magazine (Providence Womens' College in Calicut (Kozhikode), Kerala, is my Alma Mater)