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     Volume 4 Issue 16 | October 8 , 2004 |

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Slice of Life

A Momentary Return To Innocence

Richa Jha

For precisely twenty-four hours, my three year old son suddenly rediscovered his childhood. The age of innocence found a place again in our humble abode (and in his scheme of things), if only as a temporary arrangement with this brat who lives to defy the innocence ascribed to his age. That my child is precocious, I had made a passing mention sometime back. That most children around his age are both precocious and clever is not news to any of us adults, but that the parents find it difficult to come to terms with it is often overlooked. We've all heard tales from shocked parents about their children teaching them a thing or two about the ways of the world.

So, what about his return to innocence? After several months of indulging in his latest passion of immersing himself in the veritable cacophony that Bollywood dishes out, my son (after a huge hiatus) returned to the innocent delights of nursery rhymes! Or he certainly did so yesterday. If only the change was for just one day, but I was ecstatic. These are rhymes I personally recorded for him, or collected from various sources and strung them together, and he has grown up on those. Or was growing up quite fine until his ears picked up the most jarring of notes from Hindi movies and something within him stirred. Our days have never been the same again.

The Hubby says that's the peril of introducing children to anything too early on in life: at the age of five months, our son would soak himself enthusiastically in these hundreds of nursery songs on tape or the ones I sang and read out to him. It was but natural that, tired of these juvenile strains, he looked beyond to stretch his wings and get a taste of the real world at three- what better way to vault headlong into this rebellion than to do something as un-puritanical as enjoying music meant for adults!

The day he saw Shahrukh uncle do his histrionics atop a moving train, his soul went out to him. Since then, anything that this God lips-syncs, moves him. A few months later, he saw Hritik uncle's jellyfish like movements in some other movie, and since then this other song has become his anthem. Over these past few days he has picked up a few more of the latest, including the appalling Kaanta Lagaa (but I am glad that unlike his father, it is the song and not the video that turns him on!), which he keeps humming merrily all the time.

What bewilders me is his clandestine sources; where could he possibly be picking them all from? His mother doesn't watch TV; his father watches his news channels and that is about all I know; my domestic aid couldn't be least bothered about watching anything remotely Hindi. The only window I can think of is the father and son sneaking in a few moments of fun with the multitude of spicy music channels floating on air; nothing else would explain the glint in their eyes when they emerge together from the TV room- the news around us these days is certainly not recipe enough for mirth!

But all the same, the one positive fallout of this is his nearly having given up watching any TV (which even otherwise was minimal) because he cannot bear to have his music system switched off even for a moment. We criminal parents have to literally tear him away from the booming speakers every morning for school. Bedtime is another potential negotiation-ground where both parties try and strike a balance with the switching off time. The deal is usually in favour of the older (but not necessarily cleverer, more cunning) party, but mostly in lieu of a hundred other promises taken and secured then and there- strike your parents when they are dropping dead!

So, whatever is irksome about a child listening to music? At least, he is not vegetating before a cartoon channel. True. But what do you do when he has tasted the intoxication of the 'repeat' function on the remote (the same remote that the mother still finds intimidating is now this little one's most trusted companion)? Five different songs playing one after the other can be tolerated; the same song being played ad nauseum is, well, just that: a nauseating, head splitting, sanity shaking experience with no respite in sight (respite to the auditory senses would have been more appropriate here, just that mine have long since become paralysed and absolutely numb to anything that remotely sounds like music).

Place his day-long sojourn to those infantile pleasures of nursery rhymes in the above context, place my temporary return to sanity in the same context, and see if the two link up. My mind is incapable of putting two and two together: Shahrukh uncle is back this morning with thousand bangs, and the bang is happening about a foot away from my ears. And my head.

The silver lining, as must be there in the darkest of murders our children commit (isn't looking for that ray of hope the only way out of any parent-child deadlock?), is that somewhere in the middle of all this, he is learning a bagful of tricks that will stand him in good stead all his life. The most obvious is that he's developing a keen ear for music; but also, when he thrashes his toys against the floor in perfect synchronisation with the music in the backdrop, I know he's learning his sense of beat and balance; when I see him unfazed by the repetition (over and above the repetitiveness and tuneless nature) of the songs, I hope he is picking up skills to tackle the unending nagging-to-death blah blahs of his future spouse; when he trades his music time with three extra books to be read out (over and above the four routine ones) in bed, you know he will be a skilful negotiator on his job interview table! His future looks all right. Amen.


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