Saturday, January 02, 2010

Two Minutes Older: Bread upon the Waters

As the last year drew to an end, I was taught a lesson by my son and his friends. I am, in general, averse to being edified in this manner and was more astonished than pleased. But I have now decided that this is the proper way to begin the new year: with a shiny new can-do spirit back-lit with a halo of faith in human kindness.

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 Copenhagen can do it, why can’t I?)

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.)


Ludwig said...

Chocolate coming. Also, you mustest read "What is Good?"! The kids may have figured it out, without recourse to Socrates and co.

Space Bar said...

luddoo: chocolate will get a welcome mat.

i would give the kids botton's the consolations of philosophy as a joint new year gift if i thought there's a small chance that they'd fight over who gets to read it first.

Fëanor said...

Thumping good start to the Zeitgeist, what? I like, I like.

sumana001 said...

Nice beginning to the new year.
Waiting for the cake now ...

Anindita said...

Wonderful start to the new year! Will look forward to your column. :)

Falstaff said...

hmmm. I suppose it is the season for cornbread.

Please tell me this column is going to get both substantive and edgier.

Space Bar said...

feanor, anindita, sumana: thanks.

falsie: oh yes, i certainly hope so. (but fess up now - you're just unhappy because it had kids in it).

Aditi said...

I just realised that Falstaff has made the last couple of months (on the internet) very interesting for me. He's always ever so slightly irate. I have company!

Just kidding. :P Happy New Year everyone.

And looking forward to more columns, Ms Space Bar.

Falstaff said...

SB: That could be part of it. But mostly it's just the whole folksy-wisdom thing. It's too Sarah Palin for me. You're capable of so much better.

Aditi: You're welcome. One aims to make things interesting.

Space Bar said...

aditi: falsie does that from time to time. and...'ms. space bar'?!

falsie: what would i do without your occasional pinpricks? (i can't believe he just compared me to the wrong palin!) thanks, and of course the column won't always be flaky.

Falstaff said...

SB: Okay, so Palin (the evil one) is harsh. More like Judith Warner maybe?

Also, hey, I like kids. I even wrote a story about one.

And for the record, I personally always preferred being the 'den' in Hide & Seek. Who wouldn't rather be the hunter than the hunted? Plus it meant that one got to wander about and do stuff; being the one sought was so boring - you just sat quietly in one place and waited while some half-wit tried (and usually failed) to find you.

km said...

I am still LOLing over Falstaff's Sarah Palin/Judith Warner comparison.

/Hide-and-seek and the Old Testament finally merge. Yay!

//I enjoyed reading this - any edgier and you would have to make bad things happen to kittens in your columns :)

theinsider said...

Space Bar aunty: I can't believe I have to tell you this. Next time you want write about real wisdom, ask the unborn.

And can't believe Falsie uncle just compared you to Judith Warner. With Palin, at least one knows it ain't a serious comparison. But Warner? God, no.

Falstaff said...

km: "Hide-and-seek and the Old Testament finally merge"

Actually, one might argue they were merged from the beginning, see Psalm 139

"Thou has beset me behind and before
And laid thy hand upon me...
whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend into heaven, thou art there
If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there
If I take the wings of the morning
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea
Even there shall thy hand lead me
And thy right hand shall hold me"

Space Bar said...

seeing as i don't know who this judith chick is, i don't especially feel insulted.

km, edgy=lizards, right?

toshi, next time, i will ask you. it might be too late by then, of course. i think i will need wisdom only once a quarter.

Aditi said...

Well, yes. One of my resolutions is to be excessively polite. If you don't like Ms, I can always call you Aunty...

Space Bar said...

aditi: only unborn spawn are allowed to call me aunty. you call me sb, space or space bar and i promise to take your politeness as a given. :D

Falstaff said...

SB: Not meant to be an insult, honest. No matter what sundry spawn may say. Judith Warner is (was?) a weekend columnist / blogger with the NY Times. Wrote about gender, nominally. Favorite MO: start with personal anecdote, usually involving daughter(s), then segue into (supposedly insightful) discussion of social / ethical issue. Not the worst of the NY Times columnists (not while Maureen Dowd is still around), but not all that great either.

Also, vote for Aunty Space Bar *chortle*. Specially with the column and all, that is so going to stick.

Space Bar said...

falsie: ok. but you better be warned, at least one more column is going to use the chewed-it mo. they jumped me up a week is my excuse.

and i hope you choke on your chortles. bah.

theinsider said...

Space Bar aunty: Warner comes across as a nice enough lady. Think of her as these mommy blogger types who typically get life truths handed to them by their kids. I am sure that they are all quite nice people but the question is whether you want to be compared to them.

Don't think she writes for the NYT anymore. I hope someone in your outside world pointed out to this supposedly progressive newspaper that multiple columns on motherhood (and none on the other hood) might be part of the gender / childcare problem they are claiming to tackle by writing all these "insightful" articles.

km said...

Falstaff: Would you say the order is: Dowd < Warner < Dargis?

Or is it: Dowd < Dargis < Warner?

(I *so* can't stand the three of them.)

//Oh, and can you just randomly quote from the Bible? *Envious*.

Falstaff said...

km: I'd say Dowd<Warner<Dargis. While it's true that I often consider Dargis' take on movies to be wrong-headed, I don't actually mind her all that much. If anything, I find her reviews of mainstream blockbusters fairly amusing.

And not randomly quote, no. Just the odd quote here or there, mostly from Genesis or the Psalms. Or Job. This one I remembered only because "If I take the wings of the morning / and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea" is such a glorious line.