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Growing Up by Rohini Kejriwal
The frivolous, carefree time in one's early years eventually turns into an enigmatic, tumultuous process that you live out. That process is commonly known as 'growing up'. Becoming an adult is not something everyone looks forward to, tempting as it may sound. You are sitting alone in a corner in your verandah, holding a drink in one hand and your lover in the other arm. The falling rain is only a distant sound because you are deep in thought about how this is what you had always hoped for - love, money, happiness. Or is it just a part and parcel of the bigger picture?

There is an inwardly laugh and you realize that though this may be THE ultimate life, your mind as a child had painted a completely different painting of what these terms would mean. For a boy, it might have meant that he would be a top cricketer, earning plenty of money, and having a wide choice of good looking girls (probably his own female fan following) to pick his girlfriend (not wife) from. For a girl, it might have been that she would be a respected businesswoman and be financially independent and loaded, with a 'cute' boyfriend who loved her. Such were the silly dreams, while the reality then was that the two genders hated each other.

The I-Hate-Boys phase came when we read the books that told us that boys ate snails. Eventually, you grew up and realized that though each boy was worse than the other in terms of the number of snails consumed, that number could not prevent you from having feelings for some of those snail-eaters. The game, Ghar Ghar (role-playing of being in a married household) that one would play with their family friends only turned out to be an enactment of what you hoped would reflect in your future. The dressing up, cooking for the one you love, the pretend babies that you looked after with your fake husbands... It is all too embarrassing when one truly realizes the potential of his or her imagination. The wastefulness of your resources would now make you cringe.

Childhood saw a lot of uncalled for demands being met just because 'you are just a child, beta, and it is normal for you to want things'. We're talking about the Barbie dolls, the GI Joes, the computer games like Roller Coaster Tycoon, the frequent Lays Chips so that you could increase your tazo collection and many other 'objects' that made you momentarily happy. When you grow up, you realize that those things brought back nice memories but were not 'necessities'. You look around you and see the much-needed roof above your head, the clothes that are needed to protect you, the food, regardless of what it is, that needs to be consumed by your body. You would have learnt that money really does not grow on trees and that you are, contrary to public belief, capable of spending money wisely. That you are aware of the choices you have in terms of what you need and what you don't, of what you would like to do and what you should.

We were very naive and believing as children. Our minds could just be moulded at the convenience of the moulder. Tales of the big bad monster would make us eat the green vegetables on our plate so that we would not be eaten by it if we didn't. The stories of Boogeyman or the kind Tooth Fairy would make us do idiotic things like putting our broken teeth under our pillow and sleeping over those saliva coated pain-causing things that were once a part of our functional body. Or would make us put socks on the ledge with the hope that Santa Claus would think that it is a stocking to put gifts in for us. When you were out clubbing with your friends on the night of 24th December at the age of 18, you felt a sense of relief that you found out the truth about those impostors. You were no longer going to be duped into believing that seemingly impossible things like the Magic Faraway Tree exist or that an army of evil strawberries is trying to take over the world. At 18 a girl could legally say that she had technically grown up. Boys had 3 years more for that. Or their whole lives!

There was always a transparent blindfold that was put over your eyes as a child. It was the type that would shield you from the widespread violence that was rampant around you - the communal riots, the murders and the rapes that frequented your city. It was even supposed to prevent you from seeing the human body in its natural form in films like American Beauty on nights when your cousins came over to your place for a sleepover with your elder sister. There was always an attempt to preserve your innocence and not let the 'big bad world' corrupt you. But, the corruption, the killings, the cheating, the nudity, the hatred are all imminent realities. They were things that you would never hear about as kids because it was assumed that it was better for you to be ignorant of them. It was probably good to have assumed that because it sure was nice turning eight and not having communal riots to worry about that day.

But these harsh realities should be slowly introduced as the child grows up, so that they are not completely disillusioned when they are set to create an identity for themselves in the world. If not immediately after hearing the news, but eventually, you will learn to accept that a family member who has 'gone away for a long holiday' will not be returning from it. It is better to have light shed on some facts of life rather than being completely kept in the dark.

I remember myself on the swing. The swing was put there especially for me when the monsoons had not approached Calcutta. It was in my grandmother's garden in her beautiful house in that small quiet lane in Alipore. I see the squirrels and the birds and the star-fruits. The ones that my grandfather would order the gardener to pluck for me before the crows ate them and then, he'd fondly send it to me knowing that I loved having them with black salt (which never did have a pleasant smell!). I remember the glimpses of grey sky through the leaves swaying in the wind. I felt something refreshingly new. Freedom. The thing that is so abundant in a way, but hard to truly feel when you've grown up, which is when you are bound to do, say, and feel certain things in the society that you are living in. In some situations, you are not even free to think in a particular way because someone who created some silly norm did not approve of such a thought.

You stop what you are doing. You put down the glass in your hand and turn to your lover. He is staring hard at the falling rain and smiling to himself. A smile spreads across your face on seeing it, and you resume your walk down memory lane. When you were that child that you occasionally let resurface, you trusted people easily. You were gullible and allowed people into your world without giving it a second thought. You would show your art pieces to anyone who was willing to see it. Everybody fascinated you in some way or the other either because of their enormous head that you deemed would have a lot of brains, or the long beard in which you tried to find chocolate shavings.

As you grew up, you lost loved ones to death, friends to peer pressure, lovers to the fast pace that your life was moving in. You experienced loss, fear, love, attachment, sadness, anger, regret, disgust…You accepted that feeling all of those was just a part of living and that you were who you were because of every single experience that you have had. You valued your family and friends who had always been there and lent a helping hand or heard you out when you needed them. Your parents and siblings meant the world to you and you knew that you would do anything to see them happy.

The fights do seem trivial when you think about how lucky you are to have been born into your family. And everyone must be thinking the same thing - My Daddy is the best Daddy in the whole world. To each his own, I say. As long as you feel proud to have those people as your parents and sister, you may be a child at heart or a mature adult, but you will always feel at home. And that is where the heart is.

Rohini Kejriwal is a 19-year-old wanderer exploring life as she knows it. She is an aspiring writer, and loves photography and listening to music. Her writing can be found on
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