Innocence at its best

 It was a Saturday and I was feeling lazy to go to classes that day. So I decided to laze in my balcony instead, with the newspapers, basking in the morning sun. All around me the neighbourhood was abuzz with the typical morning activity — the milkman doing his rounds, the garbage guy shouting himself hoarse for the sleepy aunts in the neighbourhood to empty their cans, the maidservants scurrying with worried looks on their faces as to be chided by their employers for reporting late.

Our maid Lakshmi arrived as always on time, with a chirp on her face. She had brought her five-year-old daughter Shwetha with her and left her in the garden to play. The girl was fidgeting with some broken doll that she had brought with her and was totally engrossed in her games. She was just pulling the doll’s clothes in and out and making it walk on the grass. But soon enough, she got bored and walked up to the front gate, peering at the street with her innocent eyes.

At that time, in the house opposite ours across the street, Shalini’s four-year-old daughter Misha had just had her morning milk coaxed into her by her harried mother who then went inside to attend to her chores, leaving her daughter behind on their front lawn. A cow with bells around its neck walking down the street caught Misha’s attention and she came running to her front gate, making sounds at the gentle beast which seemed oblivious to the little girl’s attempts at catching its attention. As the cow went straight ahead in the street, the way models walking down the ramp remain oblivious to the onlooker’s gaze, Misha’s curious eyes fell on Shwetha and the doll she was carrying in her hands. The little girls exchanged curious smiles and Misha tottered across the street towards Shwetha.

Misha was so enthralled by the broken doll that her first reaction was to touch it the same way a lady touches an exquisite jewel at the jeweller’s. Soon enough, both the girls went back to my garden where they played, their laughter and gurgles echoing across the street. Both of them were so engrossed in their imaginary world that they did not notice Misha’s mother standing behind her, glaring with anger. She grabbed a startled Misha, threw the doll she was holding in her hands, chided her for playing with the servant’s daughter and carried her back home.

Misha looked back over her mother’s shoulders, her innocent eyes resembling a sad puppy’s eyes after its bowl had been snatched. Poor Shwetha, she did not know what was happening around her. All she knew was that her playmate wasn’t there anymore. Tears welling in her eyes, she picked up the doll, wiped the soil off its body and hugged it. By then, Lakshmi had been done with her chores in our house and was ready to leave. When she came out and saw Shwetha in tears, she asked her why she was crying. Shwetha narrated her story in between broken sobs. Lakshmi smiled, wiped her daughter’s tears, kissed her on her head and said “You will always be my princess.” Shwetha broke into a smile, and both mother and daughter went home as a happy duo.

I was so touched by the little girl’s emotions that I could not help but recall lines from a poem that was taught to us in the seventh grade — a poem by the renowned Hindi poetess Subadhra Kumari Chauhan which goes — “Oonch neech ka gyan nahi thi/ chua chuth kisne jaani/ bani hui thi aahan jhopdi aur chithadon mein raani... aaja bachpan ek baar phir/ dede apni nirmal shanti/ vyakul vyatha mitaani wali vah apni prakruth vishranti.” 

How we wish we could retain the innocence we had in our childhood, free from all anxieties and apprehensions. Truly, we have a lot to learn from children and yes, the world would be a better place if we all emulate these innocent children and breakdown the barriers of caste, religion, and status which tear apart our society. So the next time somebody calls you childish, just take it as a compliment!  

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