I've been rather desperate to get down with writing some movie reviews for the past two weeks, given that my diet of cinematographic pieces, old and new, has been rather steady-- at least, one a day, and on some, two-- for the same period. Whenever I watch a film that I really like and have something to say about (which isn't always: some I love, but don't have anything to add in the form of appraisal or criticism), my temper gets a bit itchy unless I get down to the job. Given this nugget of a fact-- it's not without considerable restraint on my part that I've kept my promise of not writing a movie review after three straight ones preceding this current post! But, also, keeping in mind my record and inherent ability to be simultaneously dual, and possibly treading on what the great Siddhartha called the Middle Path-- this actually is a movie review, and a book review, and something more. Not with much of a disguise, I suppose. My aim is not to write the great mystery novel anyway. Enough of this bullshit beating about the bush and let's get down to the heart of the thing, if that's the phrase I was really looking for (if more-or-less avid readers find a shade of Wodehouse-ian humour in this introductory paragraph, it's not completely unfounded, let me assure you!)-- children.
Now, of course, children are cuddled by almost everyone-- as they indeed should be, till it doesn't start getting on their nerves-- but it's no small wonder when you start realising that the adjectives that qualify a little child are not just "sweet" and "cute". If anything, their ability to detect the true essence of almost anything that really matters is nothing short of uncanny-- I've met lots of kids who can make out good people from bad, though they can't of course articulate what it exactly is that makes a man good or bad in the first place. It is intuition that guides them in making choices like these, and funnily enough, they have little in the form of experience that helps them form an intuition. Isn't that a mystery then, how they know the very basics of moral judgement (be it in a rudimentary stage) without any external influence of any sort! To me, it is. That it is without any external influence is actually a great thing if you ask me-- the child's conscience still retains the pristine purity of something untouched by artificiality or evil, of any form. The sad thing is that in one of every thousand cases or so (or maybe an even smaller fraction-- I don't know what!) as the child grows up, his intuition is shaped by external factors, and shaped in a bad way. Which, of course, is mostly due to a grave mistake on the part of parents. Instead of clearly telling the child what is right and wrong, most parents try to shield children completely away from all wrong-- knowing well in their hearts that evil is sure to creep into the untrampled consciousness of the little one sooner or later. 'Creep' is the word, because it catches the child unaware, slowly tempting him into falsehood and untruth, all along quiet and imperceptible. Wouldn't it have been better just to show evil for what it is, maybe in a suitable and subtle manner, and give the child a fair idea of what he must resist as he starts absorbing the 'practical' ways of the world? That's just one of the several complaints about parenting I have, but digress I must not (maybe, if time and my whim destines so, I'll post a long essay on the subject-- something which has been drafted and saved permanently into my memory).
So where was I? Intuition. Which brings me to another I-word: intellect. The intellect of the child far outshines that of the grown-up. Be it the willingness to listen to the yarns from old grandpa or grandma, the instinctive questions that prop up as he starts learning the basics of science, and in my personal opinion (one that is thankfully shared by many great philosophers of the day and yore), some of the deepest questions in philosophy-- where did we come from, where did he come from, and where do we go; why is it that the Earth has been chosen for human existence of all heavenly bodies that we do know of, and what exactly is it that we are living for... Too many questions, and not without surprise, too few answers. Or maybe, too few people capable of understanding the questions to even start thinking about the answers! Predictably, a lot of these questions are dismissed as random banter-- but of course, that couldn't be far from the truth. It isn't hard to see why the gurukul system admitted mostly little children (at least, that's what I know!)-- the guru knew well enough that the most thoughtful and intelligent questions would come from the little toddlers barely capable of speaking clearly, and that these little children would be both the most attentive and intelligent audience he could wish for!
Another I-word for the record: imagination. That a child has in plentiful! There is no bound to his imagination-- and even the most unnoticed and silent of objects lying about in the melee of our day-to-day life can fire up his own wishful world of seeing what adults can't. Uh, adults can see little anyway-- they spend all their lives chasing nothing, nothing of real value anyway, and die unhappy. Well, most of them do. They are interested in what they call the real world, and tax their brains on stock markets, success, fame, money, power and what not. They sometimes have loads of that, and still they want more. And still more. They do not see that happiness eludes them, that peace leaves them sooner than they could have imagined. Oh, I forgot, adults can't imagine! They scorn the child for his ability, and ask him to prepare themselves for the fruitless endless chase of whatever practical mumbo-jumbo it is that they pursue. Not for once do they see that reality extends beyond what meets the eye. Reality is, in essence, abstract; well, real reality is, anyway! You create your own reality, and what is real to one may not be to others. Isn't it wise to practise and learn the art of creating reality than seeing what every other average Joe can-- a reality that has been met with common consensus (which naturally, following the example of the highest common factor, stands as the thing of least worth)?? The grown-up does not realise this, but he is scorned by children far more than he scorns their apparent childishness. When a child imagines a thing that is beyond the realm of 'practicality' (in my opinion, one of the several catchphrases which most adults use without pondering over or even knowing it's meaning!), he silently taunts and challenges the grown-up. Some of the greatest innovations and discoveries have in fact been extensive evaluations of little observations that children noticed. Recall: James Watt was a little child when he noticed the kettle singing, and his mind suddenly wondered why was it so. Was there a ghost somewhere inside that made the kettle hum so, and rattle its lid about? From that grew possibly the greatest invention of the industrial revolution: the steam engine! Think of our little Ishan, the protagonist of Taare Zameen Par, who imagined a great lot and painted his imagination in bold colours!
The child's ability to feel and express emotions far extends that of his elders. Whether it be a sudden unprecedented smile, or the look of wonder at having discovered a little something that has a natural charm of it's own, the quiet serene look of having all that he needs in the world, the playful cackle that precedes a small act of mischief, the hung-down face on the brink of bursting into tears... It all identifies the capricious child, and sets him apart. None of it is plastic, there because it has to be there, made-up or silly! He encompasses the whole world in his own little expressions of joy and sorrow. He is the antidote to the cynic's bitterness, a little reason to live on between the madness of this world that is both unthinkably cruel and randomly kind. The child feels for his dear ones without knowing why he must. He has guilt and conscience, and when he has done a little something wrong, his face expresses it better than words can!
When the wise sage called children the messengers of God, he wasn't joking at all. If there is hope for mankind, it is in following the way of the children. In deciding what is truly necessary to be happy and contented, in simple little ways much like toddlers, and what is lumber and can be easily laid down for good! If there is one thing that you can start doing today, respect little ones. A little less respect to elders would do no harm, believe me. As for me, in the footsteps of countless philosophers, thinkers, artists and my dearest friend, I vow never to grow up! :)
In case you're wondering what made me write this post, there are a few people I'd like to mention, without taking their names. My most baby-like dear friend, of course, and a little niece who adores me, and another very sensitive little child I know. And some people who have years behind them but are still child-like in many an aspect. Among other inspirations: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince, parts of Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, and Majid Majidi's Bacheha-Ye Aseman (Children of Heaven). All lovely pieces about the delightful world of children. Makes me want to become a leedle kid yet again!
P.S.-- Now some childish banter on my part. I was expecting a wee bit of extra response to my previous post on Ikiru, ah but anyway... Now, I suppose, I can get back to movie reviews yet again.