What have I (we) changed into?

January 15, 2015  |  By Siddarthan Mohan, India

What have I (we) changed into?

Photo : Indian kids playing / www.imgarcade.com

'What have I changed into?', I thought, looking at myself in the mirror. It was a typical Sunday morning. Should I play tennis? Ram will be calling me anytime now. A part of me wanted me to hit the bed. Then I looked at the small belly which is developing. Maybe I should?. Finally my laziness won over and my mind started to think of millions of excuses to avoid Ram. Huh! What have I changed into? What do I miss?

My mind raced almost fifteen years back. I see myself as a kid running barefoot on the streets of Thanjavur (a small town in the southern part of India, known for the famous Brihadeswarar temple). Was there a piece of land in this area, that my foot had not touched? I don't think so. I loved running. I loved playing.

How much do we change as we grow up? Last week when I called my sister I asked:

'Akka , where is Jay? (my nephew).

'He is playing, Sid'

'Oh great, ask him to call me when he is back.'

'Hey, he is playing some game on the computer. I will call him now, wait.'

I was not a kid who grew up in a metropolitan city. I never saw a computer until I reached high school. For me, playing really meant to be on the field, doing something physical. Are these kids missing something?

'Jay, why don't you play outside?'

'I do, uncle. I go to football coaching every week'

Why is everything becoming so organized? Why is everything Methodological?

Tuition, coaching, training. Would they ever realize what it is to be free? To roam aimlessly on the streets with no thoughts of school, tuition or coaching?

I now have more money than my family ever had. I am living a very comfortable life. What am I missing still? I was a kid who nurtured on the arms of Mother Nature. I climbed on trees. I played alongside a river. I ran in the fields. I chased butterflies. Last week I got my paycheck. Did it make me happy? Yes, I did feel happy. Didn't I feel happier when I caught my favorite butterfly? Or when I let it fly free again? Or when I hit a mango with my catapult? Or when I won lots of marbles?

Once we were in Dhakshina Chitra (It's a place where they still preserve South Indian arts, culture etc.). Jay asked me, 'What is it?' He was pointing at a spinning top.

'It is a top'

'Do you know how to spin it?'

'Oh yeah man, I am a champ'.

He was so excited to learn it from me. Is it an illusion or was he really happy when he played top with me in the park? Did I see a sparkle in his eyes when I taught him how to fly kites or when I took him to Thanjavur and we chased butterflies? I don't know. Maybe I am biased.

He may be even happy with his formal coaching and training. It is physical activity too. I know it is necessary to be focused, competitive. But are we putting too much into the little kids' brain? The world has changed a lot in fifteen years. Even me.

Once when I was in primary school, I forgot to wear my belt. I was a kid who always cried a lot in school. My mom left me every day with Arun and told him, 'Arun, take care of Sid'. On that day I was afraid to go to assembly (where they will catch defaulters), but Arun gave me his belt and he smiled at me from the principal's office. I worshipped this guy once. Why do I feel a block when I talk to him now? Just because he is a teacher and I am a great engineer? What has this growth in career done to me?

What do I miss?

I miss myself. I miss the kid in me. I miss that wonderful kid, who grew up on Thanjavur with so many friends. A kid who shared everything he had. A kid who laughed, talked, played without any bounds inside. I want to be that kid. Not this lazy youngster who sits with a machine all the time or who is changing himself into a machine.

'Grrrr'. The phone is ringing. It's Ram.


'Hey Sid, tennis?'

'Sure man'

As I take my tennis racket and leave home, I promise myself that I will call Arun tonight.

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