I was around three years old when I first ran away from home. It was less of a need to get away from the drudgery of life as a kid and more of a desire to go to my favourite Besant Nagar beach in Chennai. I walked out of the gate as my somewhat irresponsible cousins were busy doing what other 10 year olds do and walked the 100 yards or to the beach.
I happily played around in the sand for the better part of 15 minutes before I was spotted by an elderly gentleman who obviously knew a runaway when he saw one. He was gracious enough to accompany me on my way back as I guided him in the general direction of my home through trial and error. We might have been at it all evening were it not for my parents who spotted me as they were headed towards us. The gentleman smiled, let me run towards my mother who, understandably enough, was bawling her eyes out. He then proceeded to thoroughly admonish my parents who were admittedly irresponsible that evening.
When I reflect on this incident, after all initial thoughts of being abducted and forced into begging or becoming a child soldier for the LTTE have passed, what I am fascinated with is the curiosity that I displayed as a kid. It is very disconcerting to see a child who is not trusting and curious about what the world has to offer because that’s how they are.
When we are children, we just have to know. If it moves, we have to see it, if it makes a sound, we have to touch it, if it shines, we have to feel it. And boy are we trustful. Because kids don’t know the meaning of getting hurt, the concept never registers without experience. And the best thing is, kids don’t care. They don’t care about what people think. They eat dirt, pee where they want, eat when they want, cry when they feel like it and no force on the earth can make them sad or happy till they want to be.
When we grow up, what we lose the most is our lack of trust. Because the world starts to let us down with increasing frequency, our expectations drop and we can never stop thinking about the ulterior motives a person might have when they offer to do something for us.
Then goes the curiosity. We stop getting interested in the world around us. We begin to get caught up in our little webs of comfort and stop paying attention to things and experiences that may be very rewarding because it starts to get inconvenient to diverge from the routines we create.
We have truly grown up when we start paying attention to what people think about our actions. We become conscious about being judged and we try to conform to what our peers and society consider acceptable. We hate to stand out, we want to be anonymous, we crave mediocrity because we hate the spotlight. When the time comes and we realize that we want to be different, it is usually too late. We have already become automatons used to working in a certain way.
We develop closed mindsets and we have a narrow focus. Efforts are made to merely ensure that each day passes by without incident. This is where being a kid is so much better. Children have open minds and their lives are much richer and the experiences much more delightful because they want to process everything that is thrown their way. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could at least make one change in our life which would bring us closer to our days of glory? Of lazing in the sunshine not because we finally get to, but because we want to.
As they say, growing old is mandatory but growing up is optional. Don’t let the kid in you ever die.