Our childhood is filled with moments of fixation that transport us into parallel worlds. What enchants us as we grow older?
It could last for a few moments or carry on for several years. The child’s fascination with objects and people is mysterious and unpredictable. A crinkly, red cellophane would be my rage for all of 10 minutes on a Sunday morning, and next week I would be obsessed with my Barbie, carefully brushing her hair over and over again. I was especially delighted when my mother would buy me a tea set, either in glass or plastic; I would invite the neighbor’s little girls and serve them make-believe tea and biscuits on the finger-sized cups and saucers.
As I grew up, stationery became my favorite possessions. I couldn’t be parted with these things and I would hoard colorful, patterned, fancy pencils – sometimes even steal from other kids or pick up abandoned stuff from the classroom and stake my claim. Farther along the age lane, I began to treasure books, beginning with Enid Blyton’s earliest collections of Noddy. At the same time, I loved my box of satin ribbons and my jar full of glass marbles. I would count the marbles everyday to ensure my brother hadn’t taken any and spend hours gazing through the swirled, patterned universe of the blue, green and gray roundels. I never got tired of twisting the marbles between my thumb and index finger, sitting alone in the balcony, letting the full gaze of the sun pierce through the solid rocks.
In my teens, I became an avid coin collector. My classmates from school were instrumental in giving me coins from around the world, but it was my banker father who first sparked the love of numismatics in me. The thrill was about imagining the countries from which the coins came, the legends on the side, the year it was minted, and observing any special characters on the obverse. The foreign script on the coins fascinated me and I promised myself I would learn all the languages of the world someday! Today, 15 years later, I still have those coins. While I don’t spend much time in pursuing this hobby anymore, I still smile insanely when I take out the pouch of coins from the cupboard and spend an hour or so in just going through the larger, heavier and more older coins.
My father is an avid stamp collector and has more than 10,000 stamps from around the world in his albums. As children, my brother and I were awestruck with the sheer range of stamps – the size, the colors, the characters and figures – it was like reading a micro-story, published on a single panel. Try as we might though, we just didn’t carry on our father’s love for philately into our teenage or adult life. We outgrew the fascination.
Today, having lived more than a quarter of a century, I am left with this empty feeling: I do not have any definite hobbies. Apart from writing, which I consider a passion and also a means of earning, I don’t indulge in enchantments anymore. Writing is also a conscious act of meditation. I think about a particular topic I want to write about and just go on to write. But writing doesn’t enchant or fascinate me.
What I lament is my inability to find that “sparkly, red cellophane” that can keep me hooked for immeasurable moments. Those enchantments allowed me to push the centrifugal concerns of my childhood – homework or sleeping on time or missing TV on weekdays – to the background and focus on something utterly inconsequential. Today, when I think about pursuing a hobby, more often than not I think about excuses for not taking it up. I worry about the money I would have to spend in picking up a hobby or the effort it would take to drive from home to a hobby center somewhere in the city. I also think about the “worth” or “purpose” of pursuing a hobby.
The other day, when I took out my dwindling collection of ribbons and unspooled the smooth length of satin, I was left with bittersweet memories … and in those brief moments of reminiscing, I was transported to another place. In this universe, nostalgia was the measure of time. The clocks didn’t matter.
What fascinated you as a kid and do you feel you could pick up your childhood enchantments today?