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Monday, July 4, 2011

(Published in on 4 July 2011, retrieved from’s-life/)

“Ma’am, just one more extra sheet, ma’am, I’ll finish in a minute.”
“No! The bell has rung!”
She snatches up the solitary sheet on my desk, scans it, gives me a long, disappointed look, and then uses her nail polish to mark 28/100 in red, and circle it.
“This is a disappointing performance,” she says, and as my exam paper turns into a hen with a bright red beak and blue streaks, and flies away, I realise something is not quite right.
When I find myself lying in bed, I know God is in His heaven, and all’s right with the world. I don’t have to write an exam ever again...well, except in my subconscious.
That’s when it strikes me that the notion that childhood is the best time of one’s life is a nasty myth that adults have propagated over the centuries. And for some reason, they believe it’s supposed to make their kids feel good. However, I remember that nothing scared me more than the idea that life could actually get worse.
There are at least ten reasons why life sucks when you’re a kid.
1.       You have no money
And every time you ask for some, your parents want to      know why.
“Umm, no, my friends want a treat for my birthday.”
“What nonsense! When we were children, we got presents for our birthdays. We didn’t give treats. You can distribute toffees if you want.”
“Okay. Can I have five hundred bucks?”
“What!!! That was how much I spent in a year when I was your age.”
“But Daddy, Grandpa bought this house for fifty thousand then!”
“Exactly! And you want to buy chocolates for five hundred!”

2.       You don’t know anything, and you’ll find out when you’re older

“Ma, if the stork is going to bring the baby home, why are you getting fat?”
“Oh, sweetie, the stork will pick it up from my stomach when I’m sleeping.”
“Can I stay up and watch?”
“No, baby, the stork gets scared if people are awake.”
“But won’t your stomach tear?”
“Yes, sweetie, that’s why I have to go to hospital.”
And ten years later...
“Ma, if the egg is in the woman and the sperm is in the man, how is the zygote formed?”
“Uhh...well, sweetie, you won’t understand now. You’ll learn later.”
And two years later...
Oh, dear God, is that how I was born? Eww. No, no, no. I don’t want to look at my parents ever again.
And the next day...
“So, darling, why don’t you take your sister for a walk? Your mom and I have to discuss...umm, our bank accounts.”
Oh, no.
“Didi, why do Mummy and Daddy lock the door whenever they’re discussing bank accounts?”
Oh, NO.
3.       Everyone’s mean in school
And you don’t even have a Facebook account where you can whine about them and ask for validation. Oh, come on, we didn’t even have computers. We came home from school to watch Wonder Balloon on DD. And when cable came to India, we watched Small Wonder. And the only growing up show we had was Blossom.

“I don’t want to go to school.”


“They all make fun of me because I’m dark/ fat/ short/ wear glasses.”

“But school is fun. This is the best time of your life!”

Oh, no. And I still have exams.

4.       You need permission to go anywhere
And on the subject, you can’t drive.
“I want to go to Aparna’s house.”
“She’s having a sleepover.”
“What is that?”
“We’re all going to talk.”
“You can talk in school.”
“But no, we want to stay overnight.”
“So, you’re going to sleep at her house?”
“What’s wrong with sleeping here?”
5.       Your parents pick vacation spots, and it’s usually to your grandparents’ home
“Why can’t we go somewhere different this time?”
“Why, what’s wrong with our native place?”
“We go there every year!”
“Yes, because all your uncles and aunts and grandparents want to see you!”
“But why can’t we go to some place exciting, like...umm, like Rajasthan?”
“What! Who lives there?”
“Lots of people.”
“What nonsense! It’s a desert!”
6.       Parents pick the movies you go to
And they always have happy endings.
When they don’t, they tell you they do.
“So, does he actually die, Mummy?”
“No, no. He is rescued.”
“But they show him sinking.”
“No, no. See, Rose whistled.”
“But he’s already sunk by then.”
“No, no, he’s under water. He can swim very well. See, she even has a granddaughter. How could she have a granddaughter if he died?”
“Does she marry the guy who gave her the necklace?”
“No, no, she marries Jack. And they live happily ever after. See, they even have a granddaughter.”
7.       You can’t take part in reality shows or buy lottery tickets
Well, Channel Four briefly had a show called Boys and Girls Alone. But none of those kids made it big – well, they don’t own IPL teams, and they haven’t been found guilty of murder or manslaughter. Yet. And everyone complained about the show, so those kids were sent home before they could become reality TV stars. And that ruined that one little shot at fame for all other kids.
But the lottery ticket ban sucks a lot more. With the kind of pocket money you get, the only business venture you can invest in is a lottery ticket, and they don’t sell those to kids. Well, they probably don’t sell those to anyone, but you can’t even “know someone who gets them for you” when you’re under four feet tall. 
8.       You can only manipulate members of the opposite sex by kicking sand in their eyes
And they either complain to the teacher, who writes a note to your parents, or they kick sand right back in your eyes.
It would be so much easier if you could flirt your way to favours, but that might well qualify as statutory paedophilia.
And anyway, you think boys are icky if you’re a girl, and girls are yucky if you’re a boy.
9.       You get pinched because you’re so cute
And you get pinched harder if your parents are unpopular. When you cry, it’s cuter.
“Mummy, Sharada Aunty always pinches me too hard.”
“Aww, that’s because she loves you so much.”
“But I have a boo-boo now.”
“Aww. Come, let me kiss it away.”
“Ow!!! Now my boo-boo is paining more.”
“Shh. Let’s turn that frown, upside down!”
“Your face will get stuck like that, and then a handsome prince won’t marry you.”
Oh, no. Beam.
“There’s my little, bittle baby-boo.”
Pinch. Ow.
10.   And there’s no escape from your life
Because you can’t smoke, smoke up, drink or swear. Worst of all, you don’t even know some of those options exist.
One fine day, you pluck up your courage and say, “You know, holiday homework is a bloody waste of time!”
“What did you say?”
“I said holiday homework is a waste of time.”
“No, you used a word before.”
“You will NOT use that word again!”
“But it’s so...”
“I don’t care. If you say ‘bloody’, I won’t talk to you for a week. Children from good families don’t use bad language.”
The one good thing about being a kid was that it was all right to be broke, because your parents would buy you everything you needed. Though you never needed that Barbie (“That’s a vulgar doll!”) or that remote-controlled car (“What’s the point of a toy car? When you’re grown up, you can drive a real car!”) or that Batman book (“How can a comic cost five hundred rupees?!”)
Well, at least that’s what you thought. Until they threw it back at you with, “We’ve done everything for you! We’ve fed you, and clothed you, and educated you, and...”
“And conceived me.”
“So, we’ve fed you, and clothed you, and educated you, and spoiled you silly, and you can’t do one little thing for us?”
“Okay, fine, I’m sorry. I’ll go buy tiffin now.”


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