To those who let us "be"

'Bubz, no one tagged me in that ten books list', whined Sid. We were having a lazy Sunday sprawled on the couch among all the papers while Mia and Molly lay on their backs, tongues hanging out comically and limbs splayed wide open - their 'everyday-is-Sunday' sleeping position.  I decided to comfort him, "Don't worry, everyone thought it was a bit of a pseudo exercise in intellectual exhibitionism and according to the papers, a lot of the choices just didn't match up with sales for those books. Were people making up stuff? Maybe. But it was interesting to see what stuck in people's minds. Anyhow, you don't really like reading books so why do you care?" He still looked a bit hurt, "Still...I didn't have to actually participate, but it would have been nice to be considered. I too like some of the greats...Earl Stanley Gardner, James Hadley Chase, P G Wodehouse...anyone with three names really!" I kissed him on his bald head and promised to bake him a cake to nurse his bruised feelings, which elicited a whoop of joy and "Get to it woman, cook for your husband...and don't forget to give me the bowl when you are done...licking the bowl is the best part".

As I whirled the ingredients together and the smell of chocolate enveloped the apartment and sent the
Wouldn't tuck my track pants in or wear boots over them anymore!
dogs into a frisky frenzy, I watched Sid plunge greedily into the batter bowl and lick it clean.  The image of this grown man with a chocolate smeared mouth and a silly smile to match his satisfaction brought my thoughts back to the 'ten books list' that went viral for a while on Facebook.  I read in an article that when analyzing the lists a majority of the people had included books they had grown up reading - Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, Agatha Christie and several adults including me had Harry Potter on there as well - our appetite for escaping into fantasy still going strong even as adults.  But it also got me thinking of why we gravitate quite naturally towards so many things we grew up with - food, music, friends or places.  Why we do this is not really an unexpected or unknown reason - for me it is simple. My childhood preferences are unadulterated, unconditioned and natural choices. Before peer pressure or society had too much of a chance to make us feel conscious of whether are choices made us look impressive or cool.

Friends, for example, from when you were growing up are probably the ones who knew the 'unfettered' you.  The person you were before you shaped yourself into a more socially impressive adult who loves sushi, wine festivals, designers, espresso and Ben Okri. Not that I am implying any of those choices are not genuine, for as we grow we learn to appreciate so many new things, but some of them we acquire also to show off :) I am still the most comfortable with some of the people I grew up with.  Shagun and I have known each other since I was 7 and she was 6.  There was a gap when we weren't in touch for a while, but when we were back together in college in Delhi, we slipped back into our easy friendship. We knew each other in Wellington, an absolutely magical place for children to grow up, with so much to fuel our imaginations and a landscape conducive to romps, picnics, exciting games of cops and robbers and prim horse riding lessons.  She and I spent many an hour
playing 'house house' in the backyard, traipsing through each other's houses since we were neighbors and embarrassingly enough we were each others' first kiss (though definitely not the best one!).  A serious discussion ensued one day:

Shagun: they put their tongues in you know
Me: yes, and the noses never bump
Shagun: Imagine, cheeeeee!
Me: I know, cheeeeeee
Shagun: they seem to like it though

In silent assent, we decided to see what it was like by gingerly sticking out our tongues and screwing our eyes shut tight. To call it a kiss would be technically incorrect, since at first contact we drew back giggling shrieking with "cheeeeee, it's like sand paper! Why would anyone like that?"  So despite that little moment we've stuck together years later and have hopefully become better kissers!  There so many others - Juhi and I were together when we were about 11, a time when we had fierce contests to see who was the better dancer - busting moves we'd probably be much too embarrassed to do now, but at the time 'Wake Me Up before you go go' hadn't seen anything like it! We have stayed in touch and may not be as close as we were at the time, but I can be in another room listening to the tv and recognize her voice in an ad even if I am not looking at the screen. The same voice that discussed Femina Home Truths with me very seriously and who read my sister's letters secretly with me!  With Jenny and Sonali in Woodstock we posed for silly photographs, ate copious amounts of Wai Wai and fought and made up relentlessly over 2 years and then some more in college - I can still call them and the memory of silly phrases like "The psychology of a child who has not got their chicken..." or "Go to...mum" (long stories, had to be there) can still send us into endless bouts of laughter!  As you grow older, it's hard to make close friends since it's rare that one has the time or the
inclination to let one's guard down and just "be" the way you are around the people you are closest to (Ayesh, you're the exception!).

As the oven timer went off, I slipped out of my thoughts and turned my attention to retrieving the cake.  Sid skipped over with the dogs in tow and harassed me for a piece, ignoring my warnings of it being too hot.  Within minutes he had cut himself a piece and shoved another into my hands.  I laughed as he stuffed his face and his eyes grew comically large and inflated his cheeks to let some of the heat out. I laughed so loud I snorted and dropped my cake and then mock wailed in despair as the dogs descended upon it in glee. It was Sid's turn to laugh and as I cut myself another piece he yelled that "I was eating more than my fair share and women should eat less".  It's nice to live with someone with who you can still let your inner child out!


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