Thursday, December 1, 2011


Often a thought comes to my mind, particularly when I interact with my wee school going cousin. How does she go about choosing her friends? What is the criteria? Is there a criteria at all? I believe every kid has a wall built around him / her and he / she is very picky as to who gets in and who clearly stays out. It fascinates me when I think about this selection and elimination procedure more so when I know my cousin is not easy to convince or win over. She surely has her mum very much within the wall and their interface is quite open and comprehensive.

Some kids have no say as to who he or she can be friends with because their parents choose friends for them and I'm not getting into the details of these poor kids lives.

I am keen about this family that recently moved into the neighbourhood possibly imaginary. The father gets transferred to a posh locality and days before the family of 3 settle down an invitation from the neighbour takes them by surprise. 'The BIRTHDAY BASH of my daughter' reads the card with flowers angels pink things and such! The father passes the card over to the mum and lets her take a call so when he gets back from work they either attend it or go out for dinner!

The mum and daughter have a look at the card and the kid is visibly nervous but the mum is trying to cheer her up with the fact that there's a dress code and they could do some shopping before father gets home! The card reads "angel from barbies's paradise" under the dress code heading. Making ideas along the journey the mum and daughter set off to the nearby store albeit the kid is still quite apprehensive about what lies ahead of her this evening. Convinced with the ideas and the shopping they head back home to prepare for the party!

When the father returns home and sees the other two are already dressed up for the party, he gently smiles, pats the kid's head and rushes in to get ready! The only person the father knows from the invitee's family is obviously the father of the birthday baby, his colleague. Hoping his daughter and he'd make some friends he puts on his best clothes and they arrive at the party place!

The daughter is now absolutely nervous but manages a smile and has her hand safely within her mum's, swinging it nervously while walking in. The father spots his colleague where the family's introduction takes place. The birthday girl "makes an entrance" and our kid's clasp tightens!! Mum gently bends over, kisses her cheek and says "why don't you introduce yourself and wish the girl a happy birthday?" as she passes a gift box to her. She takes a heavy breath and walks forward "Hi, err .... I am Khushi err.... Happy Birthday!!" and passes the gift box to the girl. She does a double take, says "Hi, thanks" and turns around to her other friends. "Soo... what's you name?" says Khushi. "Its Miss Aparna Gupta! Sorry but my friends are calling me, see you!" and the girl scoots to her mum leaving Khushi all alone in a very awkward position. But Khushi decides to scan the room and tries to break the awkwardness. As she walks around, she notices girls with angel frocks, crowns, magic wands running around, playing with each other oblivious of Khushi's presence. She goes around the whole room to see if there's ANYONE to acknowledge her existence and turns out she isn't the face one would like to make friends with. As she almost completes a full trip around the hall dejected, looks for her mum at the same place where her mum asked her to speak to the birthday girl. Khushi suddenly realises the familiar clasp and it hits her that mum went around with her all along. As her hand almost got numb, she lets go of her hand and says, "err .. Aparna was busy so i went looking for some water around the hall maa! sooo shall we go home and get some water?"

Overwhelmed, Khushi and her mum hug each other for a few moments. And the mum smiles with moist eyes and says, "Aparna seems free now, why don't you go try again?"..

She hesitates for sometime, looks around her and says "OK maa, i will try again!"

"Hi Aparna, hope you are free now. How about opening the gift box now!?"
Aparna pauses for a second - looks around - thinks - then says "What happened to your face?"

The familiar clasp again, as Khushi hears her mom say, "She has just been operated as she had upper cleft palate, and what you see are the marks which will vanish in a few months. So Aparna did you know Khushi loves barbies too?"

Aparna shouts "Really!!!?" as Khushi insists she opens the gift and break the surprise. Aparna smiles, takes Khushi's hand and playfully giggling run towards the gift box...

This is not a social message or an awareness campaign. Its the outcome of a sudden fascination to probe into a child's mind. I believe children bond unconditionally and totally depend on their intuitions alone. If parents are more open and outspoken about a lot of so called social taboos and not cook up stories to corrupt the innocent minds of children, growing up surely is fun !!

1 comment:

Sachi Mohanty said...

Very creative with a twist in the story too.

Children clearly are not born with any sort of prejudices including religious and the usual other kinds.

It's the parents who unfortunately inculcate that us-vs-them mentality in the kids and as kids — particularly, say, in small town or rural India — have those prejudices endlessly reinforced by repetition, the kids, tragically, can't but internalize those parochial values.

It's too much to expect the average person in India to have been exposed or be exposed to diverse points of views — indeed, even people in the developed nations do have very many pet misconceptions about people who belong to cultures that are radically different than their own; it's just that here people being more educated are mostly able to hide whatever parochial concepts they may have — and therefore by the time the kids become young adults, these mindsets are deeply ossified and I have witnessed in my own life people who are 30 years old or older and who I would have assumed would have an open mind and attitude unfortunately start sliding back into that well of ignorance inside which they had been kept by their parents during childhood.

It's all too sad to see people who are perhaps a decade younger than oneself already starting to grow old mentally and choose a path that will make them no more civilized than the old folks I see who have zero knowledge, zero outlook, vast reservoir of nonsense rituals, etc. When I measure the value of the lives of such old people, I can scarcely find one single reason to admire them.

But that's a whole different and long story.