It’s children’s day back in India, and every social media site I visit, I see people posting embarrassing pictures from their respective childhoods, all having fun and chill. In a way it is pretty funny; it shows the irony that is life. Ever since you’re a kid, all you wanted was to be a grownup. You wanted to do all those things you watched the ‘elders’ around you doing without any hesitation. You wanted to be counted among the grownups, you waited for a chance to show your worth, a chance to prove that your way of doing things is better, only to realise that it rarely is. Being a child comes with its own shortcomings, and you need to be a child to see them.
And yet, we grow up to realise the grass isn’t that green on the other side after all. It is then that the human brain tries to compare the scenarios; on the one hand, you have a small garden with the slides and merry-go-rounds with Lady Galadriel looking over you, but with unscaleable walls; on the other, you have an open park with plenty of food and sex and with workout equipment, and an obstacle course, and every now and then a dragon flying after you with barbecue sauce in its talons. Would you really be able to take a pick?
I remember the times as a kid when I would race my bicycle back home, cutting the twenty-five-minute journey to twenty odd minutes so that I would not skip the start of the cartoon show that so devilishly aired exactly half an hour after school ended. I remember my childhood as the black sheep, one who would immediately stick out in a crowd, and never really felt home at any place that housed more than twelve people at a time. I remember being a child that was just as confused as the next kid, and who would pretend to be street smart, but was in fact extremely gullible. I remember a childhood where I was given the freedom to choose my childhood, and yet, I chose the comfort of home.
Gosh I feel so old.
I see a childhood today, that was nowhere on the chart ten years ago. I would not say it was the best time to grow up; every generation of mankind feels theirs is the best suited to the world, with their predecessors being too orthodox and the new ones being upstarts. In fact, I believe I grew in a generation that was torn between the past and the future, just like every other generation before me, just like every generation that will follow. But this isn’t about who grew in the most conducive of environments; rather, I’d like to take a moment to address those who are deprived of that privilege.
Sydney is a cesspool of different kinds of people. Take a walk around Central District on a weekend afternoon (if the weather is kind enough), and you’ll be surrounded by people of every profession, every ethnicity, every age, gender and culture. And then there’s the springers, as I have taken to calling them. They spring up on you, easily take up fifteen minutes of your time, and if you’re a beginner to the trade, often end up making your bank balance looking a few dollars short. Only last week, a springer caught me up and gave a horrible pitch about the plight of underage children, especially girls, who are trafficked around the world, and how his organisation works to help these kids. As I am no more a beginner to the trade, I successfully managed to worm my way out of it (I don’t know why I had to ‘worm my way out’, but that’s what it literally feels like), but the idea stayed; these are kids who do not have a childhood. They are thrown straight into the deep end, no, into the fucking ocean, with sharks waiting for the faintest whiff of blood. These are kids who have no concept of ‘what will I become when I grow up?’. These are the kids who do not know the difference between what it is like to be a kid and an adult. And the adults they do know are not really putting a good advert on what adulting is like.
But hey, I think I’m still a kid. I still can’t cook, I can’t keep my section of the house clean for three days in a row, and I have never been so excited for a movie before as I am for Justice League. I keep the Batmobile I got as a housewarming gift in one of the treasured places, I sometimes am not able to converse on the phone, I watch Spongebob Squarepants when I’m drunk. I learn new languages in the hope that it will help me know more about people and cultures and grow up, but I figured out a way to do that without growing up. But this is what I have always been, and I hope to stay this way. The people who are today wishing for their childhood to come back are the same ones who can’t stand me staying childlike at heart.
The world is filled with hypocrites. That’s one thing I’ve learnt without being a grownup.