It’s quite likely that you read the title and your brain surreptitiously added an arrogant, condescending tone to that sentence.
So now, try imagining a child asking you that, in the most innocent way possible. It’s amusing, very much so, but more than that, it’s surprisingly refreshing because of the lack of awkwardness or formality.
I’ve recently started shopping alone (or just roaming around window-shopping), which I find relaxing (when done infrequently). And it was during one such solitary outing that I came across this adorable little girl who decided she would be my friend.
What happened was that, I was tired of walking (malls can be so huge), and so I decided to catch a cold coffee in this shop. This being a weekend, it was quite crowded, and I was actually quite lucky to get a table once an old couple vacated it. It was a table for two, so obviously one seat was empty.
My first table partner was a girl maybe a little older than me, harassed by life, clutching shopping bags and catching a quick bite to eat. She asked me if she could sit on the free seat, to which I agreed. Then we spent the next ten minutes in silence and without looking to each other and in this time she finished eating her sandwich. Once she was done, she thanked me with a smile and went away.
My next table partner(s) was the little girl and her elder sister. I’d hazard a guess at the girl being around 3-4 years old and her sister would be 6-7 years old. Their mother, who was carrying the younger one in her arms, asked me if they could sit there and I obviously agreed.
The first thing the little girl did once she’d been plonked onto the seat, was to give me a large smile, wave at me and ask me, “Hi! Do you have a name?”. I said, “Yes. I do.”
“What is it?”
“Sanchari. Do you have a name?”
“Yes. It’s Choundalya”
When I looked a little lost at deciphering her adorably lisped version of her name, her mother pitched in and clarified that her name was Soundarya.Then her mother told her, to keep her busy, that she should tell me about her school. So I picked up the hint and asked her about which class she was in, and what her favourite thing to do in school was. Her eyes lit up as she started telling me about her drawing classes.
At this point, her elder sister, who had looked at me apprehensively and not spoken a single word yet, even when I tried to strike up a conversation, tried to catch her sister’s attention and showed her something on the cafe menu which was displayed on the wall. It worked, Soundarya began scrutinizing the menu and its many colours and pictures, and our conversation ended. I realized that it must feel lonely if your sister decides to chat with strangers while you have to wait for her to finish. So I just smiled and lapsed into silence again. But the small conversation I had with that child was enough to get me thinking.
When do we lose our innocent, straightforward manner of connecting with another human being? I had experiences with people of three different ages that day, and they all reacted differently to sharing a table with me. The only adult who sat at the table with me, was absolutely silent, with no eye contact either, and with a clear definition of personal boundaries which adults so love. I am very similar, and usually don’t know how to make small talk, so I was in fact glad that the girl didn’t try to strike up a conversation. I had been moulded by society in a similar way in which the girl had been; we were independent individuals, with clearly defined personal boundaries and we were happy to remain inside that space.
With the children, the younger one, who had just entered regimented society formally as a student in Kindergarten, was the stark opposite. She was happy to see a new face and engage in a conversation with this exciting new person whom she knew nothing about. Her elder sister however, though older by just a couple of years, was different. While she still hadn’t gotten over her natural inquisitiveness, which made her stare at me openly as she tried to gauge my reactions and what I said, she didn’t talk to me at all. She had learned that oft quoted maxim “Don’t talk to strangers” well enough I guess.
It was an intriguing incident. It might have been a more fulfilling world if we could hold on to that childlike inquisitiveness and pure happiness all our lives. But life has other plans; when we’re children, we want to grow up, and when we’re adults, we sometimes wish we were children again.
Could you be anymore confusing Life?