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     Volume 6 Issue 40 | October 12, 2007 |

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Slice of Life

Richa Jha
That is so silly mamma, isn't it?” I focused on what my six year old son's fingers were pointing at and saw a street urchin crouched, head bent, doing something.

“Why, what is it?” I asked. We were walking back home from our Sunday morning stroll.

“Cant you see mamma, that boy is playing with that piece of stone, as if it is a car.”

How odd, he was quick to observe what my adult eyes had failed to see. Two people could be looking at the same object, tuned in to the same words, and yet scraps that register, the lessons that get drawn could vary like chalk and cheese.

“That's not silly son, that's great imagination, don't you think? Just the way you friends play a lot of Pretend games, so is he.”

My son nodded feebly, still uncertain, muttering under his breath, “But why cant he play with a real car…?”

“We know the answer to that son, don't we?” I reproached him gently.

“They are poor, isn't it?

I didn't have to nod for he knew he had understood.

As we walked past, I casually mentioned, as I knew his mind was still on the boy, “Why don't you give him few of your cars? Just imagine how happy he'll be to have them.”

My son tried to explain in his own way, how he didn't have a single car to spare, how he plays with all of them, never knowing when he might need which one.

“That's understandable son, but look at it this way. You have hundreds of cars, he has none. Just close your eyes and think who'll be happier to have few that you put aside.”

“But mamma, I do give away my broken cars every once in a while when we prune our toy-box, don't I, so then?”

“Not the same thing son. There you are clearing your junk, and throwing away all that you don't need. That's not sharing.”

“But I do share, I share everything with my sister,” he remonstrated.

I could have left it at that, but decided to nudge him on, just a little harder.

“You do son, and we are all happy to see that, but here I am talking about a bigger sharing. Your sister is your own sister. You love her, so you don't feel bad giving her your stuff. But when you share these little joys of life with people who are not your family and friends, that's when you'll see how happy that'll make you.”

“Happy, as in, just as happy when we celebrate our festivals and have good good things to eat and have only fun, fun and fun and no school?”

“Yes son, something like that. Let's just say, that sharing is celebrating. What, and how you share will determine how you've celebrated, and that each person has to figure for himself.”

“Which means my celebration will be different from my sisters?”

“Yes, different, but not necessarily bigger or better.”

That same puzzled look returned in his eyes, and I instantly stopped. I had fed him more than his child brain could assimilate, so didn't push any further, and we tottered home five minutes later.

That same afternoon, I sat up with my kids in bed with a book on Festivals of India. Replete with illustrations and packed with information, most of which I daresay I myself wasn't aware of, we concentrated on just the forthcoming festivals : Durga Puja, Navratra, Dussehra, Eid, and Diwali. While my daughter is too little to understand any of what was being said there, my son's eyes instantly lit up at the mention of Durga Puja, Eid and Diwali. No child ever forgets Diwali, given that that's the only time in the year when he or she is actively cheered upon while playing with fire! Puja is in the air everywhere in Kolkata just now, on radio, on TV, on the streets, in the markets, so his instant identification with it, I could understand. Eid triggered memories and associations in him from his Dhaka days, and without a moment's thought, he instantly murmered, “Mom, Eid Mubarak, that Eid?”

I nodded.

“Yippe! we used to celebrate it in Dhaka, na mamma? I remember I remember!”

“Well, I can see you're excited. Shall we celebrate it here in Cal too?”

He was only too eager to get down to it, but I told him, there's still some time for it, but to begin with, we would go to the Park Circus area in just a while, and gorge on

some sumptuous Iftaar. Game for it?

The mention of an outing and street food saw the siblings burst into rapturous exultations.

“Mamma, I feel like celebrating some more today!” announced my son running into my room just as we'd returned from a heavy halim feast! Even before I could ask him the reason for this sudden outburst of joy all over again, he had grabbed my hand, and pulling me into his room, stood there expectantly.

“Yes, what is it?” I said, rather impatiently.

“Can't you see, I have taken out these four cars from my toy box. And we are going to go down and give them to the boy. You told me, sharing is celebrating. So then celebrating is sharing, right? So then how can our Iftaar celebration be complete without sharing, right again, mom?”

I stood there fighting my tears, knowing well that happiness would never elude my boy. He's one of those very few people in this world who has learnt how to celebrate life itself. And with it, each moment in his life.

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