When was the last time you picked up the phone to chat with a friend – not because you had to break a lunch date or you needed a favour but – just like that? And when was the last time you strolled through a park without being stressed by yesterdays or worrying about tomorrows but living in the present – just for now?
You are thinking hard, right? Well, that’s what adults do – we always have an agenda and we refuse to live in the moment. Everything has a serious purpose: we work to make money, buy stuff to keep up with the Joneses (or the Junejas), eat for nutrition and play to lose weight. We tell our children to come ’first’ in school, keep their rooms clean, behave when guests come, go to dance class or cricket camp to check the extra-curricular box in the college application 10 years down the line, and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, the age-bar for this ‘purposefulness’ seems to be dropping rapidly.
Indeed, to practice what we seem to be preaching we want to assure you that this post is being written just like that. Sure, the A-Z of Childhood, with the Early Childhood theme running through the 26 pieces has a clear goal but, just for this one piece, we will try, just for now, to live in the moment. You may think we are doing this because ‘J’ is not exactly prolific with words. We did have serious contenders – like Justice, Juvenile and Jungle – but yes, the choice is rather limited, as any scrabble player will confirm. After all, of the million plus words in the English language, according to the Global Language Monitor, J accounts for well below 10%.
For a moment there we veered off into the territory of the rational mind – information, data, analysis. How difficult it is to stay close to one’s heart and body, to approach everything with a beginner’s mind set - with no preconceived notions and no value judgments - to let your imagination lead the way and to be completely captivated by what you are doing at that point in time. In other words, to be childlike.
We have observed little children at play, at our centres. When a child approaches a jumble of blocks she is, at first, attracted to the one that has the brightest colour. She reaches out to touch it, tries to pick it up, fails and tries again. The next day she tries again. She is not burdened by the memory that she couldn’t do it yesterday. Today she can and she is delighted. She has a block in each hand and she tries to tap one against the other – sometimes missing sometimes hitting. She enjoys the sound. In a few weeks time she has learnt to pile them one on top of the other, laughing when they collapse and, later, knocking them down deliberately. It’s a game she will play again and again. When she first reached out for the block it was not her ‘goal’ to build a ‘tower’. She discovered it by and by and, in the process, all her senses came alive.
So, let’s picture a very different morning walk: you are up early before it’s too hot and you decide to step out. You are not walking with your regular companion so you have no old conversations to build on. As you walk past your neighbour’s house you take in the aroma of the zeera tadka and it triggers a pleasant memory from the deep recesses of your mind. As per habit you look at your wrist and realize you are not wearing the heart monitor. You smile and relax. The maalishwali walking past mistakes the smile for a greeting and responds warmly at being acknowledged. You had never noticed her earlier but you do, now, and it lightens your heart. The rangoli outside number 12 has vibrant colours today. Were they always this vibrant? You don't want the walk to end. Just for today.
A song comes to mind - ‘Slow down you move too fast, you gotta make the morning last …’, by Simon and Garfunkel, the masters of melody and poetry. And another, you may have guessed already, by Gulzar. He recommends and Lata sings, evoking pure nostalgia: ‘thandi sufed chadron pe jagen der tak, … Dil dhoondtaa hai phir vahi phursat ke raat-din’.
Oh for some no-promises-to-keep moments, for yourself and your children: No self-imposed discipline of the self-improvement books. Let’s put the To-Do list away and let our children be just children. Just like that, just for now.