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The Atticus Diaries
Bibliophile - atheist - reader of religious texts - B-School Grad - math-hater - part-time poet - wannabe bodybuilder - couch-potato - animal lover - non-vegetarian - software engineer - technophobe - day-dreamer - basketballer that never was - cruciverbalist - Indian - SriLankan - neither - marketing grad - financial analyst - another confused clueless speck living it up on good ol' earth!!

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Friday, November 19, 2004
Avuncular Expatiations (or) Old Uncle Atticus

My little niece Dhanya is the herald of a new generation in the family. And almost two decades after my youngest cousin grew too old for doll-houses, tortoise tales and hide-and-seek, there's a child in the house.

To the old house that has lately confined itself to the slow, thoughtful conversations of the elderly, Dhanya brings the shrill joy of a child's laughter - out of place and strikingly beautiful. Like the occasional wedding peal in a rundown village church... Like silver-dust amid cobwebs... Like a new sunbeam in a long-forgotten attic... And the staid monotonous ease that an adult household settles into is ripped at the roots and strewn all over along with dolls, balls, lidless plastic containers, container-less lids and a zillion other things that complete Dhanya's playhouse menagerie. Carefully nurtured plants are plucked at will in the garden. Toy soldiers find their way to the most unlikely of frontiers. Tell-tale mud footprints appear from nowhere on the wiped mosaic floor. Shakily penciled A's and B's are left on walls to mark pre-school territory. Dad is better off not knowing where his glasses were before Mom retrieved them. Sacred daily rituals like Grandpa's afternoon nap are unceremoniously interrupted. All three meals become an exercise in equitable distribution of food to tummy, plate and floor. In short, an entire household reawakens from years of slumber and dances in joy to the enchanting tunes of its little princess.

And I am Uncle Atticus - playmate, play-thing, custom-made piggy-back ride, saviour from parents' wrath, easiest domestic vending-machine for candies, voice answer-book to myriad questions and general handyman. I try hard to do justice to the role - patiently answering queries, enthusiastically playing characters in games (I usually get inanimate roles like bus or cupboard), telling old stories with added jazz and trying to get the odd lesson in here and there. All for wonderful privileges like a peck in the cheek, a hug with little arms that barely go half-way round, the most beautiful card ever with "Happy Birthday" penciled in giant cursive, a squeaky indignant voice at the end of the line on Diwali demanding reasons why you aren't home ... simple tokens of a child's boundless love!

But the greatest gift Dhanya gives me is a second chance at childhood - a trip to that enchanting time in my life where everything began and nothing ever really ended! A chance to look at the world the way it ought to be looked at - with the wonder-struck eyes of a child. They show us what eludes our uninterested and worry-worn vision. When you have enough time and patience for a child's questions, they rekindle numerous unanswered ones of your own! Why is it difficult for us to spot demons and bunnies in cumulus clouds? Or take an hour's interest in a long line of ants marching in the garden? Why are we no longer joyous voices cheering nature's bountiful procession on and enjoying our short stay at life's gallery? Questions that you are thankful to be reminded of...

But, treading into a child's world is messy business for a 5'10", 25-year-old oaf - physically and otherwise. There are fragile dreams and pretences that you need to play along with. There are the first few prejudices and fears that you need to nudge away ever so gently. And you got to believe in what you preach. It is almost impossible to look into the trusting eyes of a child and tell a brazen lie. Simple questions could strip your contradictions naked like an externalized conscience. And there are enough issues in educating a child to set one thinking hard.
For instance, how do I explain to Dhanya why I don't worship while the rest of my family does? Do I deny the child the comfort of a false divine safeguard (IMHO) or the beauty of the family puja ritual? Should she be urged to compete for grades or should we let her have fun and learn at her own pace? I usually take the typical managerial stance epitomized by my illustrious B-School predecessors and stay noncommittal about such issues. But I do try to fit in a few simple rules. I try to make her feel good about helping people or being kind to animals rather than consider such things her duties or stipulated regulations. I try to make her comfortable being herself - a tough ask as school-kids are very prone to peer-comparison. I try to usher her into the fascinating world of books. More importantly, I encourage her to keep the questions coming!

And those questions, I guess, would be her best bet at learning. Questions that most of us, inhibited by fora or over-conditioning to surroundings, tend to banish to the subconscious… Questions that go unasked for a lifetime… With the questions, she'll do alright. She'll do the right things. She'll do the wrong ones. She'll learn from both. She'll go about blazing her own path and making her own memories with the joy of an adventurer. She'd live a full life and chase beautiful dreams... Dreams that would be hers - not ones the world foisted on her. And may be someday, her Uncle Atticus could proudly narrate tales of how this fine lady was once a little girl with an impish grin who used to stump him with questions like "Which side is that fish in your aquarium looking - it has eyes on either side??"

April 21, 2008   02:19 PM PDT
Never knew u had so much of talents till u were at School...
April 21, 2008   09:35 AM PDT
Awesom.. excellently written.. reminded me of my childhood days and my niece as well.....

July 16, 2006   06:10 AM PDT
Good one.
October 17, 2005   06:51 PM PDT
great reading...

January 30, 2005   11:17 AM PST

November 26, 2004   05:45 PM PST
Beautiful play of words by an RSKite!
November 24, 2004   10:10 AM PST
@Kannamma: Thanks:)

Finally a Bharatiar poem on my blog. I've tried hard to translate his works but always come up short....

The Kannan-Kannanmma series and the rest of his work are jus wonderful!...
November 24, 2004   06:49 AM PST
a very beautiful blog... with humour intertwined allthrough... loved it a lot... Great writing Atticus

was reminded of Bharathiyars

chinnan chiru kiliyae - kannammaa
selva kalanchiyamae
ennai kali theerthae - ulagil
etram puriya vanththay

pillai kani amuthae - kannammaa
pesum por sithiramae
alli anaithidavae - en munnae
aadi varum thenae


sollum mazhalaiyilae - kannammaa
thunpangal thirthiduvaai
mullai sirippaalae - enathu
murkam thavirthidu vaai

November 22, 2004   09:10 PM PST
@Sathya: Hope the Delhi winter is treating you right :p

@Phaedrus: Thanx for the link. Yeah, I do follow Arundhati Roy's political discourses. Frontline carries them regularly.

November 22, 2004   06:56 PM PST
Oh its ok .. u'll get more from me now :p

I came to give u the above link ... if u like Arundhati Roy's political comments .. read it. Its her speech on being awarded The Sydney Peace Prize 2004 and as usual .. its brilliant! So long.
November 22, 2004   06:47 PM PST
@Krish: Thanx :) Incidentally, me listening to "Sangeetha Swarangal" right now :D

@ Snow Leopard: Thanx buddy!

November 22, 2004   06:13 PM PST
At the outset, I would like to seek your forgiveness for writing an even larger comment than the one you left on my blog(thanks by the way for dropping by).. someone wrote in the comments that "ignorance is bliss" but I don't think ignorance being bliss is what you were getting at. Au contraire, I think you were talking about the joy of learning .. but learning things that make most sense to you (read ur niece) rather than 'knowledge' forced down your throat by a faulty and archaic education system .. and education shouldn't even be a system in the first place .. but I fear for ur niece ... I have seen far too many children lose the sparkle in their eyes to be replaced by a dull 'What's the syllabus?" expression.. children who leave the system with a percentage stamped over their foreheads knowing nothing else about themselves or the world .. and most tragically .. indifferent and cynical towards everything. I myself so miss my childhood when everything from a piglet to a tree-by-day-witch-by night was a source of a trillion games... Anyway, have you read The Prophet by Gibran? I find the whole of the prophet quotable ... and "where everything began and nothing really ended" is similar to Arundhati Roy's description of the twins childhood :).

The reason I came here was to respond to your comment to. You wrote that India has agreed to a system of countryhood ... but actually it hasn't. Hyderabad, North East, J&K never wanted to be a part of India .. I feel that India was born with grave contradictions ... and it tried to gloss over those contradictions and those very contradictions have now come home to roost.

Sorry once again for this LARGE comment. Do drop by again and it was pleasure getting to know ur niece. May she never lose the sheen in her eyes.
Snow Leopard
November 22, 2004   02:42 PM PST
Brilliant i must say :)
November 22, 2004   12:12 PM PST

"You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you"

i guess peope melt in a child's presence cause they are so pure and so divine...all we can do is stop spoiling them with etiquette. its true that ignorance is bliss...great post
Angel Floral
November 22, 2004   11:14 AM PST
hi atticus,
i received ur email. hope u got my reply.

thanks buddy :)
November 22, 2004   09:00 AM PST
Hi, thanx for dropping in...sorry for late reply...a bit tied up..nice blog u have here...would continue coming...
November 21, 2004   11:29 AM PST
@doesn't matter:
Sorry buddy! It does matter... Will get out of hand if I jus let people post arbitrary link in the comments section... I hope you'd understand.

[For those reading blog-comments and still seeking contexts, there was a comment by "doesn't matter" with just a harmless link on it. Methinks that's out of place.]

BTW, did anyone else get mysterious "Good post" and "Useful comments [sic]" etc in the comments section with the homepage linked to some online casino??? Mebbe Al Capone is haunting blogland :D
November 21, 2004   05:08 AM PST
Haven't got any homepage.. Nevertheless love reading others.
am yet another clueless soul who can be added to your list of fans. you can guess what a sead means.
November 20, 2004   04:06 PM PST
Thanx Sead... :) Do leave a link to ur homepage next time

And people, the Blake poem mentioned in Ossie's comment above is up on her blog. Check it out.. it rocks!
November 20, 2004   06:21 AM PST
just amazing! i cant think of any better adjective to describe the beauty of ur writings. keep more of these coming.
November 20, 2004   01:51 AM PST
Thanx Ashwin...

Blue Whale, eh :)) Thankfully the nicknames in our household stick to terrestrial fauna and flora :D
November 19, 2004   07:09 PM PST
hey, atticus, great post man, reminded me of my niece and how she pestered me with questions, i was her big blue whale(even she doesnt spare me on weight issues!..ERR..overweight i mean), and regarding the homepage,I dont blog, neither the ability nor the inclination...once again, A W E S O M E!
November 19, 2004   05:54 PM PST
Thanx Aravind...

And Mr.U Know Who, it is 5'10" not 6!! It's about time you went easy on the "U Know What" Nitid dear :)
November 19, 2004   01:48 PM PST
Blake is a strange kinda animal, ain't he... I thought he was all about the simple elegance of "Tiger Tiger burning bright" and "The Shepherd". But read "The Mental Traveller" and was rather lost for a loooong time.

Just saw "Auguries...". Starts beautifully... Keep the references coming :)
U know who!!
November 19, 2004   01:39 PM PST
Excellent post!!

A point of order.....

who is this 6'10" 25 year old oaf u r talking about.......I know u r from Sri Lanka...but dont tell me that Rakshashas are related to u :p
November 19, 2004   01:22 PM PST
Thanx Bhavya and Ossie! That was kind :)
November 19, 2004   11:41 AM PST
I was so bugged up b'coz things weren't working .Now after reading your post, back to normal,chirpy myself. Reminds of my 2 little nieces back home.Wonderful post:).Thanks for this.
November 19, 2004   11:16 AM PST
Ah, finally, a REAL post! Been working on four different posts for quite some time. Got all of them muddled up and finally finished this one up in a hurry this morning.

If it looks discontinuous, you know why :D

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