Monday, July 4, 2011

Of Paper Boats & Dragon Flies

For the past two hours, I have been brainstorming on a paper boat. Twice I came up with an airplane, thrice an envelope & once: God knows what! I scrunched all the failed attempts & dumped them into the bin. I asked my butler to give it a try. He too ended up making a b-grade envelope.

“I’ll find out from my kids tomorrow”. He looked demoralized.

“Alright, you may go now”. I said, looking at his masterpiece.

It is indeed astonishing how a seemingly elementary paper boat can sail off to oblivion. Certain nuggets of memory can really have a short shelf-life. I closed my eyes to Google the lost little boat. I could not deduce anything out of the crude darkness. It felt it had voyaged far away, taking along one of the most significant chapters of my life…my childhood.

I felt an impulse to switch on the TV & to watch Cartoon Network. The animated cartoons used to be a part of my staple diet. ‘Scooby Dooby Doo’, ‘the Flintstones’, ‘Popeye’, & ‘the Tom & Jerry show’ regularly featured in the twilight period between class work & homework. It was a pleasant déjà vu watching Tom chasing Jerry. I got glued to the TV set as the ‘catch me if you can’ reached its crescendo. It has been ages since I met them, but the ‘catch me if you can’ is still there. I am chasing my Jerry mouse; my life.

I remember not having to worry about anything as a kid (except homework). Life was such a big carnival of activities. I could run like the wind to catch a vanquished kite or a bluish green dragonfly. I would bruise my knee to save a goal for my team. I will turn the bed sheet into superman’s cape & yell – “Up, up & away”. My toy gun gave me the license to kill. There were always some untiring butterflies in my stomach. A stray pup on the street made me happy. Nowadays, I buy happiness through social networking, short-lived weekends, fancy gadgets, casual leaves & feeding a starved ego.

Childhood was not all fun though. I was told that I would get kidnapped whenever I went out alone at night. My mother cautioned me not to mix with the girls in the class; otherwise my future would be doomed. I considered all the smokers & drinkers to be bad people. If I hit my head against someone else’s I feared that I would grow horns. The Solar eclipse was caused due to the gulping of the sun by the moon. And when I accidentally swallowed a pumpkin seed I believed that it would grow into a plant inside my alimentary canal. But on the brighter side: I was a Complan boy & - ‘My daddy was the strongest’. Life has changed. Now I admit the fact – ‘My boss is the strongest’.

I have lost my drawing book somewhere. It contained pictures of green flowers, orange leaves, red mountains, blue faces, a bright pink sun & some anonymous yellow rivers. I still search those missing crayons that effortlessly sketched a child’s imagination. Life was so full of colours. It was hard to choose Gems over Poppins, as both offered a packaged rainbow. I can not recall the last time I drew a sunrise. I have also forgotten the trick of drawing animals with numbers. The only thing I draw now is…my salary.

Back then books were judged not by its cover, but by the number of pictures it contained. The Mathematics school text was the worst one of the lot. The English grammar book was a close second. The smell of a newly minted book used to compel me to do grueling pranayam with it. It was such an incredible aroma! When it came to comic strips, Tintin was undoubtedly the childhood Bible. Our very own IQ-uncle Chacha Chowdhury was India’s answer to the young Belgian reporter. The bibliophile in me continues to be a voracious reader. But I have got a new Bible - the scrapbook.

Nobody really cared much about sportsmanship, pitch reports or the ‘dew factor’. Batting first was the sole objective of playing the game of cricket. The toss was redundant. The deciding factor was – “This is my bat” (It was like – mere paas ma hai). I still have the bat with me. But the squad is missing. Everyone is just too busy chasing Jerry mouse.

When I was a child life was a five letter word – ‘D-R-E-A-M’. I was curious about almost everything I came across. There was no end to my curiosity & my naïve assumptions. My room was the Neverland where carefully I hid my treasures. It had bubble gum wrappers, small pebbles, a piggy bank, greetings cards, a magnifying glass, fancy pencils, marbles, stickers, a Rubik cube & lots of adrenalin. Life, now, has become a four letter word – ‘B-U-S-Y’.

School was fun. Epic skirmishes used to take place to conquer the first bench. A ‘very good’ from Miss Julia made more sense than Wordsworth. My friends meant the world to me. Together we played & soiled our pristine uniforms. I strictly monitored their Tiffin boxes. During the history class, my mind would fly out of the window of the class room & follow the tambourine man walking on the street. I seldom found anything interesting in Byzantine civilization.

I know a lot more people now. We work, we chat, we party and we hang out together. But they, for some unknown reason, are better known as ‘colleagues’.

The sun was about to set. A fleet of birds were chirping back home. I looked outside the window. I found my dog playing around with a tennis ball, totally unmindful of the world around it. A slideshow of my childhood memories was slowly lighting up the dusk. I stared at the setting sun & wondered why people grow up. The answer, I guess, is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind.

(Dedicated to the curious case of Benjamin Button)