Dads are only good for two things. Buying ice-cream and dispensing advice. Since the day I can buy you ice-cream is yet some distance in the future, let me start with the advice part. Not that you will listen to, far less understand, anything I am going to say (you are yet to be six months), but then again I tell myself, this not-listening-to-me and not-understanding-a-word-I-say is not likely to get better as you grow older. So why not I say it now when the worst you can do to me is to pull my hair or yank off my glasses ?
So here it is, as simple as I can make it.
Pause. And reflect.
Yes. Pause. And reflect.
For the first ten years of your life and its whereabouts, feel free to ignore this bit of advice. Go with the flow. Go fast. Let everything gush in, as fast as it can.
But as you grow slightly older, like say when you are around your teens, start practicing this “pause and reflect” thing. When you read a book, don’t just get carried away by the story. When you see a movie, don’t just walk out of the theater and forget it. Take some time off to think about what you read or what you saw. Did you like it? If not, why? What was good in the book? What was bad in the movie? Did you like the heroine? Did you hate the villain? And why?
Play a little game. How would you have changed things if you were the author or the director? Think about it for a while. An even better game. Write it down.
In the beginning, I will be there, to take you through this dialog, helping you, goading you along and challenging you in ways dads know how to. But as you grow older, this dialog should become internal, and if possible, more analytic, more fine-grained, more at a chapter-sentence and scene-level. Not that Baba won’t be there as a reference and a guide.
I realize making time out for post-enjoyment analysis is going to be difficult with what the Net and a world of games at your fingertips on the smart phone. When I was growing up, I had a lot of “down-time”, in the waiting room of doctors, on the second floor of a L20 from Esplanade to Dunlop, in the houses of relatives who did not even make an attempt to involve children in conversations, which is when I did my Pause and Reflect. It won’t be that easy for you.
But it still needs to be done. Why? So that you understand what’s good cinema and good writing? So that you develop the ability to critically analyze works of art?
Well to an extent yes. But that’s not really the reason why I am going out of way to ask you to “Pause and reflect.” Soon this mental exercise, if you do it enough times, will become an intrinsic part of your process of cognition.
You will ask yourself why you like certain people and not others and why you like rainy days reading books rather than dancing on the terrace (or the other way round).
You will understand what is it that moves you and what does not, what is it that you value and what is it that you don’t, what is within your abilities and what is not.
And through this, you will get to know the most important person in your life. You.
Not that you will ever totally understand yourself, not because you are not smart enough, but because “yourself” is a moving target, the very process of understanding yourself will change you, kind of like Heisenberg’s principle.
But that does not mean you should not try.
Because you see, dear daughter, everyone carries their own personalized definition of happiness (and this definition will also change as you change and I know this is all confusing) . Unless you invest the time to understand “yourself”, you will never even come close to realizing what yours is. And, horror of horrors, you might end up following someone else’s definition.
Trust me, there is a whole industry built around convincing you that someone else’s idea of happiness is actually yours. It’s called advertising. And these guys are getting better every day.
There is a lot more advice still in my jhola, about choices and compromises, the power of imagination and where in Calcutta you should have biriyani. But they shall have to wait right now, because Baba too must pause and reflect.
Till next time.