Today, I would like to share with you little stories of my life and my experience. The one that I am going to share with you today is still etched in my memory as a significant event. Do let me have your thoughts and similar experience, if any.
When I was six or seven years old, I lived in Kolkata with my aunt and my cousin. My mother had passed away by then and I was living with my aunt. My cousin was older than me, in fact she was even older than my mother; and she naturally did not treat me like a sister, but more like a little girl who was a few years older than her own son.
During Puja, those days, Kolkata had pandals (kind of temporary decorative structure in a religious context) which were not as fancy and as artful as they are today, but were quite large. Alongside the puja, the area around the pandal would acquire the form of huge exhibition grounds where various people would set up temporary shops to sell cloths, household items, books, food, shoes, trinkets and many more things. The added attractions were the magicians, the carousel, the tricks and illusions of “mysterious” circus girls with two heads and no legs, etc, etc.
For me, more than the pandals, the exhibitions and the magicians always held more attraction. In any case, at that age (I think I still am!) I would just get mesmerized by the world and the wonders it had in store for me.
On one such Puja day, I had gone to an exhibition ground with my sister and some other family members. We were wondering around ground , I holding on to her little finger and as usual losing myself on the colours, smell, sight and sound of the fair. My sister was quite plump and as I held on to one of her fingers, I stopped at one place looking at a little toy train doing the round.
I still remember the toy train was colourful in yellow and brick-red, in fact even had small real engine and making all the required sounds. As I stood there mesmerised, I wondered whether I could get on to the train, and if I did, which are the places could it take me to ….. As I imagined, I felt more and more excited and then I looked up to my cousin to tell her what I was thinking. And to my dismay I realised that the lady whose finger I held on to, was not my cousin!!
I still remember feeling shocked and confused … I started running helter-skelter calling her name, searching for her and others, utterly dazed and panicked. There were swarms of people all around me but none that I knew!
I don’t exactly remembered what happened then, but I remember this much that I stood at one place and was crying …. many people came to me and asked me what happened and I remember giving them my name, my cousin’s name and the home address. But for some reason, no one stayed with me or it was possible that I refused to go with any one.
Moments were passing very slowly … tears were streaking down my cheek blinding me and I had stopped thinking. I did not even know how much time had passed … till I heard a familiar voice – my cousin’s … calling out for me …
I ran towards her and hugged her as tightly as I could. She later narrated back at home that she did not notice when I had slipped out of her hand, and that apparently she was holding on to another child’s hand who was my height.
Today, sometimes when the memory comes back to me I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I had gotten lost? where would I have been and what kind of life would I have had? who was the other child who was mistaken by cousin as me and who was the lady who I thought was my cousin?
Questioning my elders as to why were they so careless did not happen as no one asked that question. No one also asked me how I felt or what happened to me between being lost and being found. Of couse, people were relieved that I was found as was I. Home never felt sweeter before, but I wish some of the above discussions had taken place. I always had a nagging doubt that whether my being left alone was a deliberate act or not.
As I look back on that day, I wonder whether we as adults even realise how children think and feel? Most of us love them, care for them, have their well being in our mind, but how many of us even understand children or treat them with dignity? Most of us are used to treating children in a patronizing manner as though they do not have the ability to think and feel but are only recipients of our love, affection, control and direction.