Saturday, June 27, 2009

Of Chaats and Children

Tonight was the chaat party at the PBCEC building at IIT-K. Lots of pani puris and tikki chaats and gulab jamuns. And vanilla ice cream too!

Be it a get-together or a conference, if they are not friends or family, I don't mingle with the crowd. I know - this totally kills the concept of networking, which is crucial to a writer, especially to a broke one. But that's the way I am, and I have tried a lot, but I could never, ever make small talk or inane talk or intelligent talk. I have just come to terms with it and stopped agonising about it.

But this party at IIT-K was a slight exception. My classmates were such an outrageous lot (think ADHD kids on drugs) that it was impossible to hide from them. So while I successfully avoided mingling with the faculty (not by choice; there is something about me that makes members of academia run for cover), I spent quite some time "chaating" with Himanshu and Akshat.

After an hour, it became apparent that 8pm is the limit for IIT parties, which elicited collective groans from the aforementioned hyper classmates. Just when we were about to leave, Himashu noticed a chubby boy, around 9, sitting alone in a corner of the lawn. I had noticed him earler, and Himanshu succeeded in what I wanted to do - he steered out little group towards the boy and sat near him.

Like a typical IIT kid, he was relaxed and quietly confident. He answered our questions patiently and commented casually about the heat. He had a very adult-like way of nodding his head when speaking, and I felt the familiar rush of compassion and delight that I feel these days for kids. I wanted to hug him and sit with him and play a game of chess, take him to the zoo this weekend, and may be exchange email ids and years down the lane, advice him which country to go during his gap year.

It is during times like these that I remember my age - very, very close to the big 3-oh. The clock is loudest when I see children sitting alone or being quietly brave. I never simper over babies - in fact, being the OB I am, I don't even like being responsible enough to care for babies - but older children always make me sad. In a hearbeat, they turn the corner to find Teensville and acquire precocious (even cynical) wisdom, but when they are still at middle school and believe in Famous Five, they are innocense personified, a rare feat and sight in the world.

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