Pragya Bajpai (Children's World)

Pragya Bajpai

DUMB

He turned indifferent to his favourite toys lying scattered on the floor 

He had stopped scribbling uneven lines on the walls

Enid Blyton didn't interest him anymore

The teacher said, he was lost in class

And I found him lost at home too

Why didn't he finish his milk

Why were his hands shaking

What was wrong with him

All night long he was awake

Today afternoon, at the school gate,

a little boy gives a piece of paper to me

found in the bin, 'Everyone calls me dumb! 

How do I tell my mum, she says, I'm the best son. 

I don't want to hurt her.'

It was my son’s handwriting and that hurt me more

 

PUNISHMENT

Mumma, my science teacher screamed at my friend today

He did nothing

But her eyes were big and scary

bigger than Cinderella’s stepmother in that story

Her face was red, she threatened and said,

‘Don’t do this in my class!

I will punish you if you don’t listen to me’

 

Mumma, he was listening while drawing birds and trees

My friend said sorry repeatedly and wept bitterly

Since then, he never drew anything again

 

Mumma, ‘What punishment was she talking about?

Is it different from what she did?’

 

WHEN YOU GROW UP

One day you grow up

And you see nothing turns into gold upon the touch

no kiss can transform a beast into human

no fairy castles are found under the sun

 

One day you grow up

And you find that heroes stand at the border with guns

who leave no orphan starve in the refugee camp

they feed them hope and feed them courage of Gretel to light up the lamp

 

One day you grow up

and you find the answers are hidden inside you, not in the mirror

when losing someone dear is the worst nightmare 

than losing little battles in spite of all the prayers

 

One day you grow up

and you know, there is no Santa, no magic left

even then, your heart knows how to keep it safe

that’s why you feel it when someone loves you

with every grain

  

THE GOOD OLD CUPBOARD

Away from the cacophony of the world outside, my good old cupboard stands with strong immediacy and energy that approximate the stimulating environment where I seek solace and light. The cupboard is fragrant with the souvenirs of my childhood; stories, victories, nightmares, dreams, lessons and fond memory of things I'd out grown long ago, only in size not in spirit. One that never denies catching me emotionally off guard; one that holds my strengths, weaknesses, idiosyncrasy and all that belongs to me; all that has carved me. A sudden deluge of nostalgia runs into my bone marrow as it charts the course of life in different stages and instantly flashes before me.

My English medium school honed analytical skills and chiselled my perception of life. Life revealed itself in the process of seeking meaning in little everything. As I enter this golden phase of life called aging, I begin to slow down, experience the journey and reminisce the acquired wisdom discovered in this hidden familiar treasure. It is satisfying to think about the trajectory of life that has helped or hindered in the past while moving forward in the path of evolution.

Reading fairy tales and watching Disney films were a post-colonial reality; the influence of which was inevitable and became integral to the life of pre-teens. I gaze at the white frilly gown I’ve outgrown and know that it still can’t be bartered with any riches of the world for it was my father’s surprise gift on my fifth birthday. I flaunted it with a crown to display my natural fascination for fairies because the first love comes from the world of fantasy and paints a glossy picture of the world. Today, it lurks in the recollections as a curtain-raiser to the accepted way of the world.

Suddenly, I see the tiny kitchen set which takes the undisputed credit of kindling in me the love for cooking at the age of seven. How can I ever forget those inflated slurps and gulps of everyone who tasted the curry I never made! It rescues my faith during the forsaken days and still inflates my self-esteem beneath the skin; more abiding than the sum of followers and likes on social media.

The red hoodie my grandfather bought from the old town, when I was ten, is neatly kept inside the handmade basket that won me first place in the fancy dress competition because I wore courage with grace. Somewhere, the metaphorical Red Riding Hood resides in my subconscious in the form of high spirit and fearlessness. Back then, only ghosts and beasts were fearsome, much before the fear of men and walking alone in the streets began to make way.

The conch shell chipped at the edge while being washed up by the sea waves I handpicked at the age of eleven, now strikes a conversation with me; reaffirms that we are capable of finding beauty in imperfections and also capable of appreciating the consequences of tides and storms. Even with the broken edge, the conch has not lost its glory and its purpose of producing musical sound. The pristine sound of ocean is scatheless and whooping; untouched by the evils.

The faded pieces of origami I preserved in a box, educated me at thirteen to make a fold carefully because the colours of paper may fade but the mark of a thoughtless move stays forever like a scar of a wrong decision; the memory of which pains less only with time. It is nostalgic to belong to a pre-social media era, long before the FOMO (fear of missing out) factor was discovered. I sigh at the thought of having a genuine fall-back in real instead of virtual because back then, we did things for ourselves, not for the world; the dire need to show, share, subscribe, follow didn’t haunt us. Thankfully the rat race had not begun and ‘having enough’ had not lost its essence. The Goldilocks principle seemed achievable.

I remember, at sixteen, I bled profusely when the first chaos suddenly gate-crashed and brutally broke the fence of innocence out of nowhere. That day, I cried with my pink teddy that still sits there for me, preserving the innocence that I once shared with it. Facing odds was easier as a child. Adolescence prepares for uncertainty in an organic way.

These magical tokens of God’s favour invariably warm my heart when I shiver from the coldness of the world. It is where I rest my weariness before I fall sleep in the lap of similes. Like a destination of a homesick vagabond that keeps my uncertainties and wildness in safe confines. Every fibre of the treasure is fixed deposited and neatly stacked far from the thought to ever discard them; for they whisper the possibility of comfort in tough times ahead.

A moment of pause, time and mature reflections are proven healers and eye-openers capable of putting things into right perspective. It turns everything into the doors like that of Alice's wonderland, each object shoulders an adventure, first of its kind, building the foundation of a mature mind. I hear a collective voice of appreciation from all these fall-backs nurtured in my cupboard. It is a secret lover with endless promises that stirs up memories and sets out mind at ease as an effective remedy; a cheerleader that makes my journeys unique. It’s there to stay for the rest of my life. 

 

Bio Note :  Pragya Bajpai

Pragya Bajpai, Ph.D is serving at the NDA, India. She is a post-graduate from Lucknow University and holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from Banaras Hindu University. Her debut book titled A Potpourri of Proverbs, a collection of poems based on 51 English proverbs was published in 2021. Her poetry has appeared widely in national and international anthologies and journals. She has jointly edited 4 anthologies celebrating the armed forces. Her poetry is a way of reflecting on experiences and social life which covers psychological issues affecting people in general. Contact: pragyabajpai@gmail.com. Instagram: pragyabajpai29

1 comment :

  1. So very poignant. Each line is redolent with meaning.

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