It’s Sunday afternoon and hubbyji and I are making our way to the neighborhood park, with a picnic basket dangling from my hand.
Its a gorgeous day and for the first time this season, the weather app shows the temperature to be 25 degrees. I want to take a snapshot of it, blow it up as a gigantic poster, frame it and hang it on my bedroom wall. The weather is simply glorious! It’s the season of high ponytails, chilled water bottles in the refrigerator, buzzing bees and late sunsets. My own hibernation is also ending. Going outside no longer requires me wearing a slightly-altered sleeping bag. The couch and the bed, the cozy blankets, the digital streaming: everything suddenly seems to have lost its appeal. Instead, I’m craving color, light, and sound. I want to step out of the house, find a quiet corner full of sunshine and write or read.
This park is my favorite place to visit on a nice day to collect my thoughts and just watch the world go by. I come here alone on sunny weekdays when hubbyji is at work and I lie on my back, watching the large puffy white clouds slowly moving in the sky above me. It’s so soothing that it feels like a massage. I like looking at the squirrels running up and down the tall tree and dogs of all sizes unsuccessfully chasing after them. There’s a little pond where I like to sit cross-legged and feed pieces of bread to the friendly ducks. The chirping of birds sounds like music to my ears and there’s always some good-natured person fishing, who is eager to have a lively chat.
As we enter the gates, we come across a bunch of kids who are enacting a scene from ‘Game of thrones’ I immediately stop and watch them. What fun they are having in their imaginary world, with their card-board swords and paper crowns. Their enthusiasm is contagious. I hear them discussing that they are one short of a dragon and I am seriously thinking of volunteering when hubbyji drags me away.
“Whaaat???!!” I say “How I’d love to play with them. Seriously. Maybe they will swap me for the ‘Khaleesi’ instead of that little pig-tailed girl who is ruining the scene. Look at her with missing front teeth and a doll in her hand. I mean, really??”
“Yeah, I bet they’ll love having one who is double their size and wearing purple spectacles” hubbyji says, sarcastically “I think that you will be more well-suited to play the giant. There is one in the series isn’t it? Hooter or something”
“It’s Hodor and he is not the giant. I envy those children, I really do” I say, flopping down under a tree’s shade and pulling out the blanket to spread on the grass.
“Don’t we all!” hubbyji says, sprawling on the blanket.
“What do you want to do for dinner tonight?” I ask him, fishing out an apple from the basket and taking a bite off it.
“We can go out. Maybe to that new spanish place we tried last month. Food was good, wasn’t it?” he says.
“Yeah, it was but..” I look at him and make a face “I thought that place was too fancy for me. All it did was make me angry at all of the thin people eating at the tables beside me. They all looked as if they have stepped off a runway. I felt guilty for wolfing down my tapas and also, for having worn my sneakers”
“Wait. You felt guilty for eating?” hubbyji grins “that’s a first”
“I know, right?” I sigh “You know what I am really craving? My mum’s crispy dosas but not with sambhar. With heaps of butter instead. Yummmmmmmmmmm! I used to have them like that all the time when I was little. It’s like heaven in every mouthful!”
“What are you, five?” he sniggers “Grow up!”
“I REALLY REALLY don’t want to” I say “Why do we have to grow up really? We all keep wishing that there was some way to go back to our childhood days. You ever wonder why that is?”
“No!” he says, yawning “but I have a feeling that you are going to tell me”
“Yeah, I am” I say “We miss our childhood because adulthood comes with all these imaginary boundaries that we have built around ourselves. As adults, we fear everything! We fear love, loneliness, failure, growing old, getting fat, being sick, dying…everything. We are supposed to be the superior race, right? In my opinion we are far from it. Animals fear an immediate danger that is happening right now but we humans constantly fear something that might happen, that isn’t even happening that moment. We have made for ourselves a fabricated cage that signifies adulthood. We all follow the same path, like cattle in a herd. Are you getting what I am trying to say?”
“No!” hubbyji says “As usual!”
“I hate being an adult more and more each day” I say, throwing the apple core away and unwrapping a sandwich.
“Are you planning on sharing some of that food with me or is that me asking too much?” hubbyji asks.
“I am hungry!” I say, defensively “There’s lots for you left. Here, have at it. I walk so much everyday. It increases my appetite”
“Breathing increases your appetite” he snorts “and you only walk because I threaten you with taking away your pizza privileges”
“What privileges?” I scowl “I have been banned by you to have a pizza for months now”
“You mean after the last time when you gulped down a massive order all by yourself and ended up in the emergency room?” he says.
“For the thousand time- I told you there was something wrong with that food!!!!” I shout “It tasted funny from the beginning”
“…and yet you felt the need to finish it all!” he says, grinning.
“How mean are you!” I retort “Attacking a lady about her eating”
“Lady? Where?” hubbyji pretends to look around him and moves back when I take a pear out of the basket and throw it at him.
“You know when we were little” I say “There was this tiny bakery at the corner of the street that used to sell these little pizzas for Rs 11 each. It was nothing fancy like Dominos or Pizzahut but those pizzas were out of the world. The taste still clings to my tongue. What I’d do to go back to those days. You miss things like that about your childhood?”
“Ofcourse” hubby says “I guess every generation misses their childhood days because of how simpler the things were. I remember we used to have an old fashioned telephone tethered to the wall in the living room of our home, for everyone’s common use. If you were on the phone, there was nothing else you could do except look down at your knees. You could not take it into the bedroom with you and have long conversations with friends. You talked with the whole household listening to your talks. It’s a whole different world today”
“Yeah!” I smile “I miss the simple b’day parties that we used to throw for friends back then. A humble little get together at home and every party had a standard menu of samosas, some wafers and a piece of cake. What fun those days were. Also you remember on our b’day, we would choose a best friend at school to accompany us to different classes for distributing sweets. What an honor it used to be to be chosen. Now if you think about it, what was the role of that escort? I fail to understand”
We laugh and hubbyji says “I bet you were always that kid at parties who pushes the b’day girl or boy aside in aspiration of cutting the cake and blowing the candles”
“Very funny!” I shove him and say “And the games we used to play? Hide and seek, Blind man’s buff, Rock-paper-scissors. They were the best. I remember we used to hunt for little flat stones from the street for playing hopscotch all the time. No worries about germs or getting dirty. During my last visit home, I suggested to some kids from the locality that I teach them the game and they looked at me like I was mad. I think one boy’s exact words were- you know that stray dogs pee on the street all the time, right?”
“He has a point. Times change and people change accordingly” hubbyji says, putting his hands behind his head and closing his eyes “We can’t expect things to stay the same but coming back to the discussion we started with, I think we all miss our childhood because that’s the only time when we live our life without a care in the world, period. Zero responsibility. That ought to feel good”
“You know, that was so accurately put” I murmer, staring into space and pondering over his words “Well done!”
With a wide grin, I turn to look at hubbyji and realise that he is already snoring softly.
I lie on my stomach besides him and watch all the people enjoying the sunny day at the park. I especially like to see all the sweet kids do the healthiest thing kids can do: running and climbing and getting lots of exercise that tires them out. I am constantly amazed at how therapeutic watching these kids play always makes me feel.
Children have an incredible sense of wonder. The simplest things are mesmerizing to them. They see the world as we should always see it. Staring at stars. Smelling flowers. Crying when they are hurt. Not a worry in the world, no fears, no insecurities, no competition and no goals. Children live in bliss of ignorance. While we crib about soiled clothes and gloomy weather, kids enjoy monsoons making tiny paper boats and simply watching them float on water. It is a time of enjoyment, playfulness, innocence and exploration. You can give your child a roll of yarn and he/she will quickly create some game out of it. It will keep them busy for hours.
As we get older, somehow we lose that sense of wonder. We get jaded. I don’t know when it happens exactly, but I think it’s sometime around our first heart-break. Like the time you find out that Santa doesn’t exist. When you are a child, every dream seems realizable but once you grow up, you gradually discover that you are highly limited by your physical capabilities and social norms. It is then that we find out that world isn’t as perfect as we would like it to be. For example, you can’t be the world-class soccer player you imagined yourself to be as a kid.
In essence, we miss our childhood because adulthood comes with all kinds of limitations.
That’s why it’s so refreshing for me to be around my five year old niece. Ever since she has arrived in this world, every new moment brings for her, a new adventure. She is constantly discovering new things and her excitement at learning about them is contagious. We sit in front of the mirror and I let her do my hair and apply a concoction of lotions and talc on my face which make me look like ‘the joker’ from the batman movie. To look ghastly and have a child clap her little hands in delight and say to you “you look so pretty” is invigorating. To be able to just step aside for one second, from the race to look your best, to behave your best and to be able to sit there looking absolutely comical, feels strangely meditative. I wish that’s how simple life was. I miss not caring what I looked like. I miss doing whatever I wanted without being judged. I miss the time when I thought everything was within my reach. As kids, we were so busy being imaginative that reality didn’t take as much importance.
Life has become an extremely intense grind nowadays. We are never fully present in the now, because unconsciously, we constantly believe that the next moment would be more important than the current one. We walk by beautiful flowers and trees every day without looking at them. We teach our children to greet everyone politely but we ourselves rush through our day without even greeting most of the people we see. At work, it’s expected that we’ll be uber productive and take on more and more responsibilities. Even at home, there’s a never ending to-do list of things that need maintained, fixed or upgraded. The little time we have left after doing all these things, we spend it worrying about our old age and sunset years. What will happen to us? Who is going to take care of us?
There’s just no rest; no sense of completion. Ever. As if the natural progression of humankind is to become the most efficient life form on earth and we go on living as if there’s nothing wrong with this system.
This craziness can end when we embrace the alternative: slowing down. It’s when we resign from the herd and think of ourselves. Stretching yourself too thin will always rob you of the joy. Take time to do nothing, be lazy with some friends, go to the park and hangout or simply watch a worm inch its way across the sidewalk. Our striving to be perfect is eating away at us from the inside. Making it impossible to find a reason to smile or be joyful or just enjoying the beautiful present we are living in. Inhabit your moments. Don’t rent them out to tomorrow.
Laugh. Laugh as much as you can. Laugh until you cry. Cry until you laugh. It shows that you are thinking and feeling. Communicate. Sharing secrets, fears, and hopes with another human is the surest way to slow down and enjoy life. Liberate yourself. HAVE YOUR OWN OPINION. Find you own voice. Find out who you are and figure out what you believe in. Even if it’s different from what your neighbors believe in and different from what your parents believe in. Stay true to yourself. Break stereotypes. Don’t worry about what people say about you or think about you. They will eventually grow tired of talking.
Society will silently pressurize you to mourn the things that are missing in your life. I plead you to celebrate what you do have. That will give you the real joy and this world needs joy more than anything right now.
Make a list of your favorite things that make you happy in your daily life. If nothing else, it’s sure to make you smile. Here’s my list-
- Getting into a bed with freshly ironed sheets.
- Seeing an old couple holding hands.
- Reveling in a good book.
- Smell of freshly cut grass.
- Getting a bargain.
- Enjoying a great meal when I am starving.
- When my favorite song comes on the radio.
- Having a good hair day.
- Perfectly toasted toast with loads of melted butter.
…I can go on and on…..
I have a cousin who has a delightful little six year old daughter. One day, she packed a nice lunch and some games, got herself, her hubbyji and her baby girl ready for an outing and off they went to have a nice picnic out…….to the garden of their building’s compound! She posted pictures of that day on her facebook: three of them lying together on a blanket spread out on the grass and reading stories to each other, munching on sandwiches and crisps and preparing instant ‘Tang’ juice to form a lovely outdoor lunch, playing with a frisbee and making sand-castles in the sand pit, collecting loose flowers and adorning their hair with them…. basically having an absolutely gala time together. I thought it was such a wonderful idea! Simple and yet, spot on. It taught me that it’s not necessary that you wait for a vacation or a day out to have an unusual and refreshing family time together. There are no fixed guidelines to make ourselves happy. Happiness lies in all the little things, one just has to think out of the box.
Life is not built of days, it is built of moments. These moments in life hold a special kind of sweetness and they are the ones that are truly precious. The ones that make you smile. Like that time when your macho hubby got scared of a spider. When your child said something incredible deep and moving. When you saw a duck carrying a piece of bread all the way across the pond to feed her ducklings, instead of eating it herself. The moments we are rushing by every day and ignoring, worrying about a future that we have no control over. The future that you don’t even know is going to exist. Slow down….slow down and spend your days as children do; innocence and adventure hand in hand, living in the moment.
Hubbyji and I are heading home after a couple of hours and we pass a flower bed with a thin metal barrier which has been put to protect the bushes from the pedestrians. Its almost five but the day is still balmy with a pleasant breeze blowing through our hair.
“You know what I have always wanted to do?” I say to hubbyji “Walk on that railing like one walks on a tight-rope. We used to do the same at school on the thin boundary of the pavement and also used to challenge each other on who would be able to survive the longest without falling. It’s difficult to balance your weight on it.”
“You can’t do it” hubbyji remarks, dismissively “It’s thin and you have two left feet. You fell twice today itself”
“Wanna bet?” I ask, my eye-brows raised.
“Sure!” He says “You walk the whole length without tripping and you can have anything you want”
“Anything? That’s a huge bet. Are you sure?” I ask.
“Yes, I am sure because you can’t possibly win this one” he smirks “If you lose, I get the same from you”
Looking around to see if anyone’s watching, I kick my shoes off and gingerly climb onto the low metallic barrier. I always used to win at this game back in childhood. It feels rejuvenating to try it after all these years. Concentrating hard, I begin to slowly walk towards the other end. I remember the trick was to lean a bit in the right direction to resist your body’s urge to fall in the left one. I can do it!
Dearest hubbyji had been leisurely hanging at the back till now, smirking and waiting for the inevitable to happen but now that I have reached almost the middle of the boundary, he looks worried. He rushes upto me and tries to distract me by making loud noises like clapping his hands together and blowing wind on my face. I ignore him.
“You know, you seemed to have gained a lot of weight” he cries out, pulling at threads “You are looking so so fat”
Just a few more steps…
“I hate it when you give me a list of groceries to buy and always call at the last minute to add items on it, mostly after I am done billing. It drives me crazy” hubbyji says, sounding desperate.
“You do know that I am coming back down from here, don’t you? I ask, looking ahead and smiling.
Five steps more…..
“I don’t care …FALL! FALL! FALLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!” hubbyji shouts.
I run the last three steps and jump down from the railing with a whoop and take a deep bow.
“YIPPEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” I shout gleefully “WHOOP WHOOP WHOOOP!!”
Hubbyji is sitting on the pavement now with his face buried in his hands. He cannot believe it.
“That’s what you get for teasing me about my food habits all day!” I say, putting on my shoes.
“Fine!” Hubbyji says, standing up and shaking his head “So what’s it going to be? Shopping? Jewellary? I guess you are going to hold on to that card to redeem it with something really big in future”
“Are you kidding?” I turn to stand face to face with him, before whispering dramatically “I had it all worked out before I got on that barrier genius…We, my love, are ordering an EXTRA LARGE PIZZA TONIGHT…WOOHOOO!””
I hold his hand and we resume walking towards home. Hubbyji can’t stop shaking his head.
“……..some doughballs, garlic bread, a coke, two of those choco-lava cakes and atleast two dips…..oooh, some buffalo wings.??…………….”