Recently I had been to my sister’s place to attend a function. Quite a few families were present in full and we had a good time catching up on our lives. Among the juniors were four of my grand-nieces and a little grand-nephew who had just turned a year recently. Being the youngest, he was the centre of attraction even for the elders, but the girls took him away like a prized toy and were thoroughly engaged with him in a separate corner of the house.
I was given the responsibility of stealing a few candid shots, and so I was quietly standing in a corner and watching them, not even showing my presence to them.
As I was watching, I could see that the elder two girls had taken complete control of the baby boy’s ownership, not allowing the younger ones to even get near to him. The third one somehow cajoled and managed to get into the team. The youngest of the lot, just about 5 years old, was left out, branded being not ‘old enough’ to handle the child!
She was naturally disappointed and was in tears. Looking around, she caught me standing at a distance. On seeing me, she quickly controlled her tears, broke away from that group and came to me, inviting me to play with her! I was amazed at her composure, confidence and self-awareness (not pride, mind it) at that young age, and readily agreed.
I told her that it is quite long since I played at all, and very long since I played with children. So, she would have to tell me what we were going to play, and the rules of the game. “OK” she said, “I will teach you. Let us play hide and seek, because it is very easy. All you have to do is face the wall and begin counting until I find a place to hide, and then you have to come and find me! It is that easy.”
“All right,” I agreed, and asked her “how much should I count?” She thought for a moment, and said, “up to 39?” I don’t know why she arrived at such an odd number I could not control my smile. I turned to face the wall and asked her to hide. I counted loudly enough for her to hear that I was not cheating her, and on counting up to, yes, 39, I asked her, “can I start looking for you?”
Pat came the reply from behind the shelf-door, “yes, you can!”