Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"The Wild, Wild Child"

Born of a challenging pregnancy, I was a miracle baby. The laddoos (Pakistani/Indian sweets) my family distributed at the hospital were well-deserved! Just seven months old, I soiled my diapers at the peak of Mont Blanc in Chamonix, ruining an expensive scenic tour for my folks. Instead of enjoying the view of Switzerland on one side, and France on the other side of the mountain, they were getting an aromatic experience called "diaper changing". At the age of one, I developed a fond liking for chasing a black cat that kept coming back no matter how far from home you would leave it. Strange! At two, I nearly swallowed camphor but managed to tell the day off by just getting a burned tongue. Still got the black spot. At five, I had my fingers stuck in a bike chain. And at seven, I was bitten by a swarm of giant bees as I had disturbed their slumber on a summer afternoon. By the time my early childhood concluded I was sure that I was the lady Tom Sawyer of the Millennial Generation.
You've heard of 'strings attached', right? I for one was 'springs' attached. Even without the sugar rush, I was infamous for causing migraines to some uptight family members who wanted the infant to act like Whistler's Mother. They never got that wish come true :) 
Basically, I was sober. I loved reading and writing! But I continued to wreak havoc, eat mud, pour water in people's teacups, overload my milk with 5 teaspoons sugar, and scream madness until I was put in a strict, disciplinarian school.

It was an all-girls, best school of the city, but I could call it the St. Brutus's Rowling wrote about in Harry Potter. They didn't use the cane but some teachers were fond of hitting, pulling ponytails, pulling ears, throwing down books from the third floor and then asking girls to run down the stairs to fetch, breaking protractors to pieces because you were trying to get a reflex angle right instead of looking at the blackboard,  and so on. Of all the wonderful penalties, I received none but the rare slap because the teacher was probably frustrated of her own life! Also there was the policy of no hair accessories, no jewelry, no henna (even on Eid), and so on. No wonder the place tamed me into becoming more well-mannered than the British!
Scary bits apart, the school brought out the best in me ... the creative writer ... while suppressing another best in me ... the confident expressionist. My English teachers were fabulous, they inspired me to write. I started poetry in third grade and was writing for young people's magazines, occasionally, in fourth grade. 
I was growing up, and gradually, my expression was maturing as well. A creative spark had ignited a realm of imagination. It was fueled by the rich collection of classic children's fairytale classics, books and movies, brought to me by my father. I owe my mother, in addition to the teachers, for shaping my written expression. She went all around for me to get me interesting children and young people's magazines, in Urdu and English, which taught me how to write!
"As childhood's page began to turn, 
An expressionist's soul began to churn.
Scattered memories need to be abridged,
There are tales to be told and dreams to be lived."

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