By Megha Bajaj
A seven-year-old taught his teacher a lesson – That definitions can limit an experience
“Ma’am, Ma’am, come fast.”
Little Shourya held on to my shirt and dragged me towards the object that had caught his fancy. I had taken my seven-year-old students to a lush garden to show them the beautiful world of insects.
“Ma’am, just look at his beauty. Ma’am, just look at his colour. Wow! I have never seen anything so beautiful. I love him, Ma’am.”
Expecting to see a fluttering butterfly, I gazed at the point where he was trying to draw my attention. And I shrieked! It was a cockroach. Argh, a cockroach! Almost upset, I wanted to move him away. But I noticed Shourya’s expression. He looked stunned. Amazed. Excited. Open admiration was stamped upon his face for the tiny maroon bug. In that moment, my life changed. Why had my adult mind got trained to believe that only a butterfly was beautiful? Why had my definition of beauty become so limited? A song, learnt as a child, suddenly popped into my mind:
The river is flowing, Flowing and growing, The river is flowing, Down to the sea. Oh river carry me, Your child I shall always be, Oh river carry me, Down to the sea.
As a child I would twirl round and round and sing these lines at the top of my voice, and yet, its significance has dawned upon me only now. I was constantly caught up with definitions. I had a particular idea about everything – even love. “Love is that which brings out the best in you,” said a book I read as an adolescent. And there, a definition was ready. As I thought deeply, I realised, that love brought out not just the best but also sometimes the worst in me. Did that mean that it was not love? Did that mean that I didn’t love my mom, dad, sister, husband, guru? No! I did and I do. The people don’t have to be dropped, the definitions have to! Love is this… and love is that. When there is ‘and’, when there is inclusion of two opposites, how can a definition be possible?
Life just is. It is this. And it is that. So putting definitions will only limit my experience as I will see one thing as positive and the other as negative… I will accept one with open arms and reject another with all my might. But both are life. Both have something to teach, something to experience.
I want to break my life out of definitions. I want to just be. Let each moment unfurl a new experience unto me. Let every idea, every preconceived notion be challenged. He is cunning. She is jealous. My health is bad. I will only get something after a lot of effort. Oh, who gave me all these definitions? I, to myself? But then… aren’t I beyond definitions too? Shourya shook me out of my reverie with his question, “Ma’am, can I take my cockroach home as a pet?” I smiled and said, “Sure, darling, why not? After all, who ever defined pets to only be cats and dogs?”
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