Loss of Innocence

I wonder if people know the exact moment when they lost their innocence.

Like when they watched porn for the first time (really?).
Or as they succumbed to money that’s bigger than life.
Or in the eerie silence while they buried their boss’ body.

I remember the time when I realized I had ‘grown up’.

So I was waiting one sweltering morning at the bus stop, contemplating ringing up my driver chetan to find if he’d unfaithfully driven off without me. A familiar yellow Loyola school bus halted to wait, grunting.  Soon enough a child, barely 7 or 8, in his white shirt and black trousers and shoes sprinted to the bus in beaming relief. A number of eyes watched him run, some frowning in the heat, some eager and some curious, one smiling.

A month or even a couple of weeks earlier perhaps, I would have seen a bunch of morning office-goers at the bus stop, delighted at this kid catching his school bus. I may even have told myself, Just how beautiful are people, in gleaming at this moment and this kid who belongs to god-knows-who. I would’ve told you how some of them re-lived their own bus-chasing days (I still have mine) when they were younger, their school vehicles and whites and blacks and emblems and morning frenzies.

But I didn’t.

All I saw were a bunch of faces. Some frowning at the kid’s parents perhaps, for getting the child ready late, for making others wait – disapproval at their ways and busy lives. Some unimpressed at the (adjudged) irresponsible boy. I saw some eager to find if he catches the bus and at least some hoping in malice that he misses it. I saw someone else betting on the bus taking off without him. Perhaps the only aunty smiling may reminisce to her days in a pinafore but none else.

Where a month ago I’d have told you they egged him on with their gaze, instead I tell you these tales.

That was when I realized I wasn’t the person I was anymore, I knew I had finally landed on earth like Amma always wanted me to. That this is what they should call Loss of Innocence.

Imagine taking in everything people say with a pinch of salt, of doubting intentions. I do not see halos around people’s heads anymore (probably never should have). Goodness exists if you dig deep enough in everyone and tons of benefit of the doubt, sure. But not pure until proven otherwise as I used to think. I can actually, without prodding more to know why, believe that people will deliberately cause you harm to none of their benefit.

I mean I was always cynical, yet I had hope and faith in people. I loved people. (I still do, many of them).

Once I was over the depressing shock of it, I saw the reality of smirks following uncles/aunties “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Now I see them, more often than not, inquiring not on the kid’s ambitions but on just how audacious they can get, just how innocent ignorant(that’s what they call them) he/she is. A “Wait till you grow up and watch porn and crave money and distrust people” lurking.

So loss of innocence isn’t when you can guess that Hyderabadi biryani flavoured condoms must suck*. It’s when you can imagine people wishing anything but well for a child who is, for all purposes, just a child.

*I never intend puns

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Neverland

I’m the stuff of dreams.

A recurring setting from an old memory, brought to the anterior only in sleep. A fantastical land you created to accommodate all that didn’t in the tangible world. As years passed, you brought with you certain others– friends and family from school and college and work. You’d jump across rooftops and meld into rainbows, you’d watch shooting stars flash past as Coldplay played in the background.

You’d come to me in the best of times and the worst of times. And I’d stir up concoctions customized to the cause , swaying the rains and waves while the winds gently chimed. And so on some days, there would be fireworks against starry skies, on others you would walk the meadows while the sun shined.

As a child you’d bring along all the lullabies your parents sang to you, the humming tunes of young days and younger nights that still resonate within.
And then one day, you asked if you’d sing to your own kids someday. I stayed silent, not knowing what to say-

“It can never sound as good anyway”.

I smiled. Time was unkind – not that I hadn’t tried.
They had claimed you after all.

Until we meet again, as you will, under pretext of an adult asleep. I know with a knowing, for I’ve weaved all your dreams.