By Priya Arunkumar
“I like you aunty, I am going to be your friend,” the four-year old declared with a beaming face. While I stood there gaping at the little boy, he must have sensed my confusion. He came close to me and said, “Your chappals have strawberries on it — my mom has the same pair too. So isn’t that a sign that you can be my friend?”It took everything in me not to laugh at his innocence.
You are my friend
So you like strawberries, I asked him.
“No, I like you aunty, you water the plants every day, if you accept my friendship, I can help you water the plants too,” he explained.
So you like plants and gardening?
“No, I like you aunty, and I like the plants and the water too. I want to help you, you are my friend.”
Carefully choosing my words, I accepted his offering with a simple thank you.
I am honoured to be your friend, I said.
He ran back into his home yelling, “She has agreed to be my friend. Only ‘I’ get to water the plants with her.”
A hero with a cape
All it took him was a familiarity of a pair of home chappals and most probably the desire to play with water, to identify a commonality and extend his friendship to me. Since then, almost every day, he rings the doorbell and says I need to talk to you or discuss something, like an adult. He, for sure, made me feel very important, so I always get out and give him my undivided attention.
For a four-year old, he literally thinks very deeply on every issue. He also believes that I know everything, and has given me some time to mull over and to let him know whether he should be a fire fighter or gardener when he grows up.
Whatever he chooses, he wants to make sure that he helps everyone around him. He understands trees need water to survive, just like how we humans need food to survive. He likes all super heroes and he has a collection of eight of them. And he is pretty sure that he will grow up to be a super hero. And he will have his own coloured cape.
Hero for the plants
“Like you aunty, you are a hero for the plants, you water them every day, otherwise who thinks of plants?”
“Who is your hero, aunty? You must be having hundreds of them, right?”
Once again, he left me thinking… How does that saying go? Never meet your heroes, because they’re sure to disappoint.
Who pays your water bill?
Then, out of the blue he asks, “Aunty, who pays your water bill? Your water bill must be huge!” I replied that the bill is minimal. “No,” he said, “it’s not possible… when I wash my hands in the washroom, my mother keeps yelling, ‘shut down the tap, who will pay the water bill?’”
“Does ‘your’ mom know you are watering the plants so much?”
Pray, he grows up unblemished
As he grows up, he will also outgrow his innocence, the goodness too. Probably he will be so disillusioned with the heroes around him, that he might not even be helpful to anyone. Growing up, where do we go wrong and how do we let the innocence whither away? True, it is a scary jungle out there, but I pray that he grows up unblemished with the same innocence and goodness in his heart today.
Innocence can be very overwhelming. Inspiring. Sometimes scary too.