I saw a fleshy little insect on my study table today – an animate, miniature Sarcosuchus with a glittering tail full of scales or maybe i am imagining things. Couldn’t shake it off my head for a long time. It reminded me of how I once had a strange fascination for insects. When i was little, i would tirelessly sit through quiet, hot afternoons of our desert town in the living room without even turning on the fan, silently observing the ants as they slowly marched by. I often wondered why they moved in a single line and why they wouldn’t give way to another ant coming the opposite way without bumping into it first. I remember doing a running commentary on their funny “accidents”, sitting on the cool marble floor and my giggles reverberating in the living room. Laughter wasn’t an option back then because everybody else in the family was sane enough to sleep through the burning desert siestas and if i were caught laughing, Ami would get up to tuck me in the bed next to her, and a beautiful afternoon would be wasted.
Back then, i was free to wonder and theorize anything and everything i saw or hear. There was nobody to tell me ‘hey, you have to have a PhD to have a say in that matter’ [which becomes more of a cliche as you get to the university]. I remembered how i loved to be a scientist. But unlike all the scientists, i had a deep fascination for fairy tales and mythologies. No wonder that of all the nursery rhymes, Dadi amma kehti hain, chand p paryan rehti hain was my favorite. The night-sky always triggered a spirit of unearthing the worldly secrets in me. I’d look at the planets, imagining how the life there’d be like and all sorts of imaginary alien life from abominable monsters to cute little rabbits would spin in my head like socks in a dryer until i’d sink into a tranquil sleep.
Back then, life was serene. A gift to be treasured. An excitement that must not be lost. Though each day was placidly same, it would always unearth new mysteries and consequent thrills. There was no such thing as ‘boredom’ in life. Every summer we had that strange craze of inventing something. So we would set off with a bottle of Vicks and fill it with everything we could lay our hands on after much thought and determining the right proportions pretending to be some damn serious scientists at work. I remember one time when my bottle filled up to the brim, i brought it to my study table and pulled it open to see what the new invention was. The kids surrounded the table in excitement and anticipation. After a long analysis that included spilling it in the garden (to see if some unheard-of vegetation sprouts up), smelling and even tasting it (yuck!) when i couldn’t make out what it actually was, i declared it to be a perfume (FYI, the thing smelled like shit). My younger siblings made a whoopey and painted the town red with their noisy, innocent celebrations. I was a bit let down when Ami, like always, was too busy to feign any interest in my invention. But for as long as i was the star-performer among my siblings, there was little heed i paid to the rest.