Saturday, December 24, 2011

One Earth: The Highest Being

One Earth: The Highest Being: The birds and animals first scout for the ideal tree or ground to build a home for their little ones. The man scouts for the best spot for...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Of Childhood

The noise the children were making slowly increased in volume. Simran, resting in her bedroom, got up and went to see what they were up to. She saw her nine-year-old daughter Madhu and some neighbouring children playing Monopoly. She saw her friend's daughter, Lalli, sitting quietly, slightly away from the rest of the children.

"What's happening?" she asked.

"Mamma! Ankit is not letting us play! He wants all the money!" Madhu said.

Simran frowned. She did not like to get involved in kids' scrapes. "Well, don't make too much noise. I am trying to rest," she said and turned to go.

But, it was not to be. She heard someone crying. She rushed back to see Ankit's sister Priya crying. "What happened!" she asked exasperated.

"Mamma, Ankit hit Priya!"

"Ankit?" she turned to the boy. He was a perennial nuisance, hitting other children if he thought he was losing. But for sometime now, he had been better behaved. What had come over him now? She turned to Priya, pushing Ankit to the background for a minute. "Come here, let me see..."

The girl's cheek was swelling. Ankit had hit his sister with a car he had been holding in his hand. Simran decided that it was best to call their mother, who came running down. "Ankit!" the mother said just one word on hearing what had happened. The 11-year-old boy walked to her with his head hung. She lifted his face up, and gave one tight slap. All around, Simran included, stood in stunned silence. "Go up!" she ordered the boy, who went away without a word. The mother held her daughter and asked, "What did you do?"

Nine-year-old Priya, clearly mortified, said defensively, "I bought the state he was eyeing for..."

The mother's no-nonsense look stopped the girl. "He likes to win. Can't you let him, in a game?"

Priya hung her head and went away, silent tears wetting her cheeks. The mother looked up at Simran and said apologetically, "He has exams coming. His exams are coming, you know, and he seems to become very aggressive then? I keep telling him - Priya gets better marks than him and he does not even put in the effort he can! This time I have warned him I will not give him chocolates if he doesn't score well! ... I am so sorry for the bother. I will warn him not to misbehave."

Simran just stared open mouthed, nodded because she didn't know what to say and turned to look at her daughter, who was busy playing with the remaining two friends. Madhu had exams too but seeing her, no one would have thought so. And she did well - not the top of the class, but not bottom either. Simran shrugged. She was fine with that, and so was Madhu.

She caught sight of Lalli, still not part of the crowd, busy writing something. Simran walked up to her and asked in a friendly tone, "What is it?"

"Some math... I have math Olympiad coming up."

"Oh...? That's nice," Simran said.

"Is Shruthi also giving the test?" Lalli asked.

Simran looked at her daughter, who seemed blissfully unaware of everything except Monopoly, and asked, "Does she look like?"

"No..." Lalli drawled, a dissatisfied look on her face.

"So... is this the first time for you?" Simran asked.

Lalli shook her head. "No, I have been giving this for the last four years. And Science Olympiad. And Spelling Bee..."

"Oh really!" Simran exclaimed, wondering if she was doing something wrong. Her daughter, the same age as Lalli, had given Math Olympiad only once - the previous year - and then declared that was it. And here was this child... "Some of the portions have not been taught yet, right?"

"Yes, but my mother insists that I learn those up. She helps me... Here, these are practice sums for HCF - which we have not learnt yet."

"Oh!" Simran said and was silent for a moment. She wasn't sure if she was so keen on her daughter rushing through portions just to give a test. "Hmmm. But do you understand it?"

Lalli shook her head. "But my mother thinks I am..." there was a pause before the child said in a slightly nasal, adult voice, "CAPABLE!" Simran burst out laughing and finally, the child smiled. "So, I go for dance class twice a week, swimming, thrice, and music twice a week. Of course...I come to you for Hindi. And mamma teaches me science and maths at home. Weekends, she wants me to go for tennis, but because I have to prepare for this, I have not started yet... Maybe once this gets over..."

Simran's head reeled. But trying not to show it, she asked, "And you enjoy it all?"

Lalli shook her head emphatically. "I want to play... and dance, maybe. But the other things? No."

Simran pursed her lips sympathetically, and the girl imitated her expression. Both nodded at each other, then smiled. Lalli was bright, no doubt. "So... when do you play?"

Lalli shook her head. "I don't. If I do well in the Olympiad, my mother has promised that she will get me a video game to play when I want to relax."

Simran got up, feeling the child's heavy heart affecting her. Her daughter and her friends got up suddenly. "Mamma! I am going down to play. Lalli, will you join? Oh math? Okay, you do that." And she was off.

Simran watched her daughter bouncing down the stairs and play with her friends, whose parents were obviously as neglectful of their children's future as she was. Well, they will find something they will enjoy doing, she decided and went back in to take the much needed rest.

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