This is how it happened: I had taken my son to visit his friends, two girls whom he has known almost from the hour of their – and his – birth. It hardly needs to be said that they spend a lot of time together. Usually their mother or I visit each other and chat, while the children go off somewhere to play by themselves. On this occasion, about two weeks ago, they decided to give us front row seats to a game of Hide and Seek.
It’s a game I hate, especially in its local variation called ‘Dhappa’, where the ‘den’ can practically pass on the title to her next of kin, with the way the rules are arranged. I loathe the game because I spent my childhood being the den. Under the circumstances, I was disposed to sympathise with my son, who drew the short straw.
He counted to fifty then started to hunt. Soon, he found the other two and I felt a glow of pride. Then they started to quarrel gently: it was the turn of the older of the two girls to be the den. She groaned (as who wouldn’t) and said she hated being ‘It’. The youngest quickly said that she would be the den instead, since she was the youngest. My son claimed the youngest had actually reached the wall before he did and so he should once again be the den.
I don’t know where they got this selfless gene from. Not from me, I can assure you. (Also, I was slightly shocked at all this lying for a good cause.)
While the children spent the rest of the afternoon inventing new ways in which to lose in order to benefit their friends, I chewed my nails down to the quick trying to figure this one out. The moral of the story – if you could call it either a moral or a story – seemed to be that people surrounding you should be made happy no matter what and that your happiness was closely tied to theirs.
With this very provisional conclusion in hand, I further realised that, applied to my life, this amounts to casting my bread upon the waters in the most profligate way, in the hope that it what I send out will be returned to me tenfold.
It seemed like a good resolution to make for the new year and one, moreover, that I could, with a little effort, actually keep. Of course, it depends on what I send out into the world: even the mildest and most well-meaning bread could return toxic and slightly soggy, given the quality of the water these days. This means that I will have to be full of whimsy or good humour or some other quality I will find very difficult to sustain, just so these things can be multiplied. I will do it because I don’t know how to do it and that always works best for me.
What this means for you is, in exchange for two minutes of your life every fortnight, you get a little bit of unpredictability which, as everyone knows, is Fun. And as that learned sage, Dr. Seuss, said long ago, ‘it’s fun to have fun but you have to know how’.
This column might talk about poetry or films; it might rant or talk about education. There might be trees in it or reptiles. Right now, it is hard to say. As I have said elsewhere in introduction, I am deeply committed to doing nothing and hope to persuade you to join me in my commitment (after all, when world leaders at
So here’s the first consignment of bread. I shall wait for the cake. And you should know that I like chocolate best.
(An edited version of this in Zeitgeist, the Saturday edition of The New Indian Express.)