Happiness Listified…

Just a week ago, my mother organized this amazing summer camp for school kids aged 6-12 years, and I was there as one of the “mentors”, which, in that camp terminology meant somebody who was responsible for her group of eighteen kids…the one who had to deal with lost pencils and crayons, as well as the “I’m not going to sit with him”s, resolve fights and make sure nobody goes home with a broken tooth or something. (By the way, it also meant having to carry one kid in my arms and waltz across the room because she wasn’t tall enough to even hold me by my waist…and because at that particular moment she had the singular desire to dance with me…) So me and my childhood chum (Mom dragged her into it as well) were talking about how we never got to attend any of these camps (because in our times, there weren’t any, in the first place), and how we were supposed to make use of our own imagination and creativity to come up with ways to kill our time in those long summer days when school would be closed…while making sure that we weren’t in our Mom’s way and also learning (the hard way) in the process  that kitchen stuff was to remain in the kitchen and definitely not to be used to cook mud lunches and leaf snacks outdoors….and that no, Mom’s saris were, under no condition, material for making tent houses in the yard.  While it seemed like a good idea to just let us be, there were times when even exerting our overactive imagination to the wildest didn’t help any…and I, in particular, would spend long lazy afternoons wistfully making a mental list of things I knew would make life just perfect…and drift away to that world where I had everything I ever needed to be the happiest soul alive. And no, I was realistic. I knew being a princess wasn’t really possible unless your Dad’s a king, and since my Dad didn’t own a crown I kind of deduced that he was not one, after all.

Years later, I again find myself in that frustrating period when I am just one moment shy of taking down that wall clock and shattering it into a million pieces with a hammer…all in the name of killing time. Its yet another summer vacation, but I am no longer in school and even an overactive imagination doesn’t really help things anymore. And just a few days back, being surrounded by all those kids kind of made me think about just how simple life was then…and I reviewed the list I had in my mind long time back, which amazingly, is still trapped intact inside that funny little thing called memory. So here goes…mind you, the order of the things isn’t necessarily priority wise…

I can’t remember the first time I’d seen a bunk bed, but I do remember yearning for one every single day of my life till I was almost a teen and my sister had to leave home for her engineering. I mean, how cool would it be to have to climb a ladder to your bed?? We could play train-train (oh…since trains have bunk beds, you know) like every night!! And we could have nice comfy pillow fights over who gets the top bunk! I would ogle at those glossy magazines which showed kids’ rooms being painted in rainbow colors with cartoons and stuff (another thing on the list, that…a room painted in rainbow colors) having bunk beds with loads of soft looking pillows thrown over…man did those kids look like they were having a time of their life just going off to sleep…

The second on the list would definitely be a swing…now my family would start arguing about this saying I did get a swing for my eighth birthday, but I would retort saying it was one of those closed cane ones which didn’t even reach high without making the beams creak…plus it was inside our verandah…! I wanted one of those rugged wooden ones…you know the ones with just a wooden plank for the seat supported by thick ropes (which left your hands red until after a long time) hanging from a makeshift bamboo pole….outside in the garden. Which would go high up and make me feel like I was flying…and give my tummy the funny sensation that it wasn’t a part of my body. Sigh! Maybe that explains why I can’t resist a swing even now…cause I never had one you see.

Okay, the third on the list would definitely be the entire collection of Famous Five books. I did get to read almost all of them, thanks to the hand-me-down copies I got from my cousins, but somehow, the urge to see just my name scribbled on the front page and not along with stricken-out names of the previous three owners, kind of remained. And with my love for the Famous Five books came the desire to go on picnics with friends, where we could have lots of food that had wonderful names (somehow even hard-boiled eggs earned my renewed respect just because THEY had them all the time) and drink something called ginger ale (how ginger could be drunk I had no idea…but THEY did drink it quite often) which must be awesome too. It had taken my Mom quite some amount of time before I got semi-convinced that the “nemu sorbot” we had everyday was the same “lemonade” THEY had. Aah…and the thirst for adventure! The number of hours I spent imagining I was one of THEM, preferably Anne, cause she was the darling and loved to play house just like I did…!

The fourth on the list would be a tree house…and since I was practical enough to realize that the prerequisite for building a tree-house was a huge tree, and the absence of any such thing in our compound made having that kind of an impossibility, I satisfied myself by making flimsy tents with (as mentioned above) my Mom’s saris, much to her chagrin and my amusement. That must have been definitely inspired by the Swiss Family Robinson. As must have been the desire to stay in the tent for the night “to see how it feels like to be in the wild”, only to realize that the tent didn’t have light, let alone a TV. And hence the desire remained just that…a desire.

The last on the list would be a baby brother or a sister…didn’t care which…as long as it was younger than me. I remember being so frustrated because I would always be blamed for anything which went wrong (I still am, by the way!) in the house just because I was the youngest and wrongly presumed to be the clumsiest. Being the youngest among all cousins made it even more difficult. I mean, I never got to act all grown up in front of some younger kid and say “Oooo…you can’t come along with us. You’re too young for this… go back to Mummy like a good baby now, will you?” The fact that I am still the youngest….will forever be, is little solace.

And I find myself sighing again and again as I wonder since when that list had changed….or worse, on second thoughts, that maybe that list hasn’t changed at all. Maybe I still perceive life to be as simple as the way it was then. And now what bothers me is that try as I might, I can’t deny the fact that I am growing up…and as much as I know that it is a good thing, I also know that growing up can be pretty screwed up. But for now, let me just drift away to my world, where I will sit on the swing once I’m tired of sleeping on my bunk bed in my tree house, and read my Famous Five while sipping lemonade…


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