Sunday, 17 April 2016

Growing Up

"Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself." Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet.

God is perfect, they say, and so are his creations. Every object of nature is perfect in itself; pure and not interfered with. Through humans, God passes along the purest of the pure, the most sacred of his creations: the human child. Upon this newborn, from the moment it sees the light of the world through the gifted hands of the hospital surgeon or the rural midwife, a process of tampering starts. Tampering God's own creation with the elements of the human world, which entails the process of getting the child prepared to spend a lifetime in a tough place. Preparation never ends, and we 'learn' till we have exhausted our last breath, but a majority of life's lessons are imbibed in the formative years of childhood. A long, slow but steady process, where every day is a new lesson in life, every step the next milestone crossed, in the journey called Growing Up.

Hello there! Welcome to the world.
Human memory is a strange device. It picks and chooses arbitrarily at little occurrences and incidents which have no role to play in the larger scheme of things and keeps them stored, while major parts of the process of growing up is deleted from the mind of the growing child itself. My first ever memory inexplicably involves stepping into the balcony with my brother at the apartment we used to stay in when I was two-and-half years old. The next three years is like a film roll with a lot of parts damaged: an occasional birthday, a day at nursery school, a visit to grandparents and maybe memories of a scolding or two from my mother. Yet this is the period of frantic brain development. A UNICEF report says: "Brain development occurs shortly after conception and progresses at a very rapid pace in the first few years of life, where neurons form new connections at the astounding rate of 700-1000 per second." Read the full report here, which throws light on the fascinating object that a child's brain is. In this context, I remember going to a close family friend's five-year-old son's birthday bash, and wondering how much of this extravagance the child is going to remember by the time he is an adult...

Albert Einstein believed in keeping the child within him alive.
Through the infant days to getting into school, teenage, adolescence and finally adulthood, the conditioning of the brain is a continuous process, while the sole motive remains to gain the required skill sets needed to lead a comfortable life as contented as possible. The interpretation of 'comfortable' changes as the decade pass - what my grandfather would have called comfortable in his young days would no doubt be a rather spartan existence for me - but I'm sure that both of us would be on the same page concerning the bumps and potholes along the road to adolescence and young adulthood. The nature of the challenges change but the challenges themselves remain.

A report in The Hindu on heavy Indian schoolbags.
Confrontations are umpteen and rise in number with every passing day. The first burden upon a child is that moronic system that we call Education which seeks to suffocate a child in every way possible. I myself have escaped suffocation by the skin of my teeth. The civilized world runs according to some rules, and coming to terms with some of them takes a lot of struggle as well. For me, learning to welcome self-invited guests with a smiling face and to hell with how irritated you are to have them was one such lesson. To a teenager, issues like social acceptance and likeability are so very important, and upon which topic this blog by Tim Urban on the Wait But Why website is one of the best I've ever read. Even if I ignore adult problems like family issues, financial burden and the million other factors which in fact affect the child of the family as well, a kid has a lot of things on his plate.

What is it that defines growing up? Is it that span when one makes mistakes and the mistakes are accepted? Is it distinguished by an innocent outlook of the world where initially everything is in black-and-white, and then slowly all turn to grey? Kailash Satyarthi puts it very nicely: "Childhood means simplicity. Look at the world through the child's eye - it is very beautiful." A child's world is indeed beautiful, but therein lies the counter argument: If I, an adult, am longing for the simplicity of youth in my surroundings, then am I not hiding my face in the sand and not facing the world as it is in stark reality? Taking this stream of logic further, if we identify the inability to recognize and react to the society's realities as they are as a sign of immaturity, then are maturity and simplicity of thought counter-concurrent? These are questions I do not really know the answer to. But maybe a solution lies in raising the collective consciousness of the entire people so that contrived and superficial existence is no longer necessary and a child's world may be the reality... Wishful thinking.
Saviour of so many: Kailash Satyarthi

I am completely at peace with the life God has bestowed upon me, and I spend every moment trying to live the day more fruitfully than the day before. But the echo of my childhood which still remains in a secluded corner of the soul calls me everyday and shouts out how much simpler life was when I was young. People realize the importance of having nice teeth only when they are sitting on the dentist's chair, just as do young people ignore the premonitions of elders that the youth is precious beyond all else and should be spent wisely. "In youth we learn, in age we understand.", said Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach, Austrian novelist, and what a big pity that is. So let us at least make an effort, immature and raw though we are in our days of youth, to live life to its optimum in these few years left before the world squeezes out the last ounce of life from our souls!

Can this joy ever be paralleled?
If you are in a hurry to grow up, you miss all the fun.