When Innocence is Religion

Posted in Notebook

I was sitting by the window this Sunday morning, looking at the sky, the birds flying, and I watched the birds fly and fly and fly. There were no thoughts. I did not speak. There was utter silence in the ambience. I was in a state of “trans” so as to say. But suddenly, something disturbed my ‘meditation’. That was noise for me, but it was fun for them. They laughed at someone’s pony tail. They laughed at the other’s half broken shirt button. They laughed that one was still yawning on the way. They could laugh and their laugh was guileless. It was a group of children going towards the Church for their morning prayer. Isn’t it a delight to see them rejoice even before they enter the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’?
That group reminded me of my bygone days (though I am not a 60-year old lady!). I am still young in age, but maybe I lack the same passion for fun now. Childhood is surely the best time of our lives.  As a child we are happy to even see a butterfly fly around us.  But as a youth now, we think of preserving them. When it rained, we were ready to dance to the beats of the drops. Now, we fear we might catch a cold. I think, this is a part of being an adult-being cautious of every single detail in the world (how I hate being meticulous!). Those were the days...
In my vacation this year when I went to Sarnath (a town near Varanasi, believed to be the place where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon after enlightenment). It has a rural atmosphere if we travel deep into the corners where the temples are built. This year after much ado, we decided to explore this place. As we went around, we saw a group of children following us, passing smiles to each other as they looked at us. Some had just returned from their school, threw their bags near a big tree and joined the previous group. Some carried their little siblings along. It was a ‘sweet’ sightseeing but somewhat embarrassing too. Eventually, my uncle asked one of them, why they were following us. A feeble voice uttered something, but my uncle could not get it. Then I bent down to hear what this kid had to say. He wanted us to take their photos (my uncle had a digital camera, and I being a media student, carried my S-L-R!). We both clicked photos for them and showed them the pictures. They were so natural and not at all intimidated by the cameras! The smiles on their faces were so innocent! Some shied away after the photo session, hiding behind a big banyan tree, stealing glances at us. Looking at their smiles, I had a strange feeling inside –”how can they enjoy being photographed and be coy the very next moment?” But…We moved on. On our way back, we saw the same children playing in their courtyard. They waved us goodbyes and we did the same.
The next day, I went shooting in the ghats of Varanasi. We can find all kinds of characters in that place. Varanasi, in my opinion is the best place on earth to either attain salvation or go insane. So, as I was climbing down the steps of one of those ghats, I heard a ‘musical performance’ by a group of children. Because they might stop their performance on seeing me, I decided to look on from far. They had all kinds of instruments- tins, buckets, mugs of steel and whatever they could lay their hands on that was near. Some even made sound themselves. They were singing in the optimum decibel level they could reach. Then there was another group right next to them who made a swing with a piece of cloth and rotated their turns in playing. Some boys kept their eyes stuck to the sky for any kite that was cut off from its string. Their concentration was not at all disturbed by the “concert” nearby. If any kite happened to be cut off, they would even go jumping from one boat to another, without even looking down for once where they were moving! That kite meant as much for the proud owner as winning the Jaguar deal for the Tatas. Those kids were happy with the trivial things they had.
And then, I thought of congratulating the ‘band’ for its performance. I went. I sat on the broken boat and pretended to click photos of the cow that was drinking water. One of the children came close to me, stood on my right and moved his head in front of the camera lens. I moved the camera and looked at him and he ran for his dear life, thinking I would scold him for doing that. I convinced the older children that I would do nothing like that, that I wanted to click their photos. They said, even they would charge for posing like the models do. I was ready to pay them any sum thinking, how much more can they ask? (I needed their photos badly for the children’s category we are to submit for our paper) The small boy who fled away also joined them. Then came the moment when I had to pay them for their work. They said they would not take money there and took me somewhere else. What they demanded as their fees is very easy to guess-chocolates of course! I bought big bars for each of them. When I gave them, they did not take it. They wanted something else. They demanded another local toffees (Rupee 1 only!), because it gave them some stickers or something similar. I fulfilled their demand and they left. We met again on my uncle’s boat when we were on a ride. They asked me not to say anything to my uncle, because he knew them. If he came to know they took toffees from me, they would have it from him. So I kept quiet too. There were days when I was even scared of watching Tom and Jerry, lest my parents see me for sitting in front of the TV when I should be studying. Those were the days…
I thought of those moments, sitting in my room, this Sunday morning. I saw that group laughing at each other and found the same innocence that I saw in the children in Varanasi. That group lived in the City of Temples. This group was moving towards the Church. Did any of these religions take away the innocence of the children?

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