The other day I went to sit by the pool side after returning from gym. I was feeling very depressed. It is difficult to identify what exactly was the trigger. Recent death of a relative, talking to a friend who is initiating divorce, reading about a young married woman committing suicide, cribbing to another single friend how there are no good men any more (left for us), or following up with my friend on her mother’s chemotherapy. Was I upset because relationships are so fragile? Or because of the cruel reminder that our health can betray us any time? The only thought that had pretty much built a home in my mind (Please excuse my Hindi to English translation) was that life is unfair and meaningless.
My apartment building has those beach like benches by the pool side. I love sitting there after working out. It gives me some peace. At that time of the night, nobody comes there. I like to look at the reflection of the moon in the water.
But that day my blissful ‘me time’ was suddenly interrupted.
A woman barged in with her toddler. He would have jumped right into the water, had she not stopped him. It seemed the kid had just started walking. I am assuming he had been on a walker before. He was running around without much control. It was as if there should have been a break button on him. I think he had not yet fully understood that he was not on a walker anymore. The mother was running after him.
He looked at me. There were tears on my face I had not bothered to wipe. I ignored him. I was avoiding making eye contact. The mother also looked at me with a smile. I ignored her too. Usually, when any person looks at a baby / kid they do smile. The mother must have thought I am such a rude (kharoos) person. She had put her sling bag next to my bench. But then I guess my disinterest made her change her mind. Had she seen my tears? She moved to the bench farthest away from me.
The kid had too many questions. He was talking about himself in third person.
‘Rishi go in pool!’
‘Rishabh you cannot just go inside the pool. You have to know how to swim!’
‘Rishi go sim!’
‘No you can’t go swimming. You have to learn it first.’
‘Mamma go sim!’
‘Mamma also needs to learn first.’
After saying some more random things, the kid gave up the thought of being in the water. He thought of a new game. He would run all the way from his mother’s bench to my bench, touch it, jump, go back and repeat the same ritual on the other side. While on the other side, his mother would greet him an adoring look, on this side I would ignore him looking blankly at the sky. By now, the mother was sure that I wanted to be left alone. She would tell her son to not come towards my bench. But why would he listen? He continued to hold my bench and jump each time looking at me for some reaction.
Finally, I think the fifth time he did it, I looked up at him and smiled. He immediately looked away, shyly but not without a sense of triumph. He did this for another few minutes until his father came to take them home. At first, I was smiling at him politely, out of an obligation. But soon, the smile turned genuine. He was quite amusing to watch!
The whole day, or for a few days, I had been talking to people who were trying to make me feel better. But the problem with adults is they are too logical. Words do not help sometimes. Maybe, a small child’s persistent efforts to make a disinterested stranger smile does. He does not know anything. Cannot even pronounce his name. Does not understand the concept of swimming. Does not see tears.
But he thinks that everybody can be happy. What is so difficult? Just like he can walk right into the pool. So simple. Why complicate things?
Thank you unknown kid. The brief interaction I had with you made me feel better. Better than the well-meaning advice of mature adults.