“The boy asked, Where did I come from ma? Did you pick me up somewhere? Mother replied, tearfully laughing, And hugging the child to her bosom- You are the desire of my heart!” – (Rabindranath Tagore)
Our children are born of our heart’s desire, reminds Tagore. They are born when we take birth. There can be no doubt that the umbilical cord tying an unborn fetus to the womb is the strongest bond of all – it defines who we are, where we belong ,even before we take birth….yet, during our adulthood, forcefully assert our individual identity. Try hard to deny that bond – to march ahead, without looking back.
This is a common cultural phenomenon worldwide. Every mother – and perhaps every father – inevitably goes alone. Children will fly out of their nests. And we humans suffer unbearable pangs of separation. Foolishly, I think. Animals are far wiser… I have learnt much from other species on how to cope, even thrive to savour life after motherhood.
As a mother, and grandmother – as a woman, what I admire in children is their unmatched ability to view the mundane day to day world as a fable, a fairy tale. My children would make a tent out of an old saree and pretend it is their castle. Their impregnable fortress. So immersed were they in their play that nothing mattered. The world is their oyster and that oyster is magical. As children we play an uninterrupted game of make belief .I remember the sheer delight when one noon my hall had become a railway platform, a long row of chairs was the chugging train created by my little granddaughter. She and her friends were busy getting on and off the train!! It was very serious business. What joy to play along, to be the child once more. Children grow up and the game is over too soon. We are left however with these glowing memories of their participation that enriched life even briefly.
Turning the humble saree into a wall, or a movie screen, the table as a stage, dining chairs,the train and the bed tosses up and down midstream like a canoe in stormy weather, what magnificent imagination at work ! Innumerable imaginary beings fill this charmed world of children and they continue to live in perfect harmony, in a non-hierarchal, inclusive society. No one is the master and no one the slave. How happy life would be if we continued to follow this extraordinary tradition of a civil society, of profound humanity, crafted for us by the innocence of childhood.
Childhood is a perennial season without boundary. There is no colour, caste, gender or age bar. Alas, we have lost that unique ability to connect in an inclusive community which has crumbled beyond repair.