Hello, and welcome to the world of Joy!
I am Joy. My name is Joy.
My parents bundle of joy? I wonder. Because I was born the fourth child to my parents and also the fourth daughter. You understand. Don’t you? In the 1950s, I suppose this was the biggest guessing game at the time of birth, boy or girl? boy or girl? No sonography to spoil the moment of truth. ‘Hare Krishna!’ my grandfather was said to have so reacted, on being informed that it was a girl child once again. ‘Hare Krishna!’ It said it all.
I must say, however, that I was extremely lucky to be born to my parents. In our household there was no difference in the upbringing of children of both sexes, both were treated equally. Until I grew up and became old enough to understand for myself how society perceived these gender issues, I was never aware of the fact that it was considered an awful accident to be born a girl in the big boys world.
As with all of us siblings, I had the best of education that my little world of Imphal and my parents could provide. I attended the only newly established convent school in Imphal. As was my wont, I studied subjects of my choice at a college of my choice, finally completing my post graduation in 1976 from the University of Delhi. And thereafter pursuing a career of my choice with the Government of India.
It was then an easy and straightforward life. Going to school, getting promoted regularly from class to class with a double promotion thrown in sometimes. Getting admission to institutes of higher learning was not a great deal then, if one was slightly studious and had reasonable marks to show for the effort. There were then no entry exams, no competitive exams for such admissions. With some decent amount of education, getting some job or the other seemed the normal thing to happen.
With no stressing out on any front, childhood was for us, an easy world full of fun, food, love and security. Having just one pair of shoes, two or three pairs of hand me down dresses, playing with stones and sticks and a marble or two, it did not matter, it was a complete world of our own, filled with fun and laughter all the way. A big family of nine children, and seven cousins in the next house with some cows and dogs, cats, sparrows, mynas in the compound, bamboos and trees, vegetable garden and flowers, grandmas and aunts and cousins, friends in the neighbourhood, our world was complete. The occasional dressing down for the pranks that we played; the bruises and hurt because of the tree climbing and cycling and falling; we took all that in our stride as part of the game.That was childhood as it ought to be.
Memories of hearing the honk of the school bus, leaving the breakfast half eaten, rushing to catch the bus with school bag and tie in hand, throwing off the school bag and uniform on return, impatient to feed the hunger gnawing in the stomach, playing, singing, studying, sometimes by the lantern light (the electricity supply was rather irregular), I am transported to that dreamy world once more.
I breathe in deep and am a child once again.
Fast Forward to today.
It is Sept. 2020. I am now a respectable senior citizen, all of 65 years. Everyone now calls me Joy Aunty. It is normal to grow in age, normal to gain maturity. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to go through the various stages of life. Every new stage of life is a change , a change to savour and enjoy. Each has its own challenges and its own excitement as well. The secret is to always live in the here and now, not allowing the past or future to chip away bits of the all important present. Every new stage of life assumes more meaning when the earlier one has been fully lived, lived in that moment.
Today, I am in the midst of a pandemic. It has brought my age to the fore. Senior citizen, 65 plus. Don’t go out. Sit at home. Take care, be safe. This is apart from other instructions, don't touch your face, wash your hands, maintain hygiene, wear a face mask, have immunity drinks. I am almost reminded of the weekly class in school called hints on politeness. Brush your teeth, cut your nails, comb your hair, do not spit, have a bath, wear clean clothes, be kind, be helpful. Only this time it is not my school miss, but Amitabh Bachchan in his baritone voice reminding me on TV of basic hygiene to conquer the monster of the pandemic.
The physical world has shrunk for me as well as for you. But there are doors galore and as they say, if one closes, the other one opens. There is a limitless world out there, the world of the mind, of thoughts, of memories, of the imagination, of dreams. Walk into that world and enjoy the mystery and the beauty waiting to be unravelled.
Welcome once again.