As a child I was quite a joke in the family. My aspirations were out of the box so to say. When asked about what I wanted to be when I grew up my responses were colorful and varied. Not a doctor or engineer or any such thing. I wanted to become instead any of the following: an ice skating champ\ expert skier\ horse rider\ roller skater\ swimmer\ gymnast\ and one better – a trapeze artist in a circus. All these desires for sporting adventure were fueled by reading avidly the Schoolgirl picture comics which were my piece of heaven on earth. In these comics there were spunky young girls like Sally and Sue Day etc. who were into all kinds of spicy adventures and escapades and I quickly started identifying with them. There was no sharper joy than reading these schoolgirl comics (as also the entire series of Enid Blyton), and picking up ideas for how my life should be lived.
I was quite sincere about these desires. When my birthday came around every year my father asked me what I wanted. My response, with suitable gravitas was:
A horse? A swimming pool in the backyard? I was pretty earnest in my requests. It has to be said for the love and indulgence of my father that he never summarily dismissed my wishes.
Speaking of horses, there is a funny aside. In those days milk was delivered by the doodhwalla (milkman) after he had milked fresh milk from the cows tethered down the lane. The milkman had a mangy colt in his stable and this caught my fancy as a 10 year old.. I asked him, with a shine in my eyes, if I could ride it. Luckily my father overheard my request and intervened to prevent any fiasco. The milkman was relieved and my father had a hearty laugh though I felt disappointed and cheated of an adventure. I would see pictures of equestrians riding their magnificent steeds and a strange urge would grip me. (Not Freudian, I assure you).
The swimming pool dream had a better finish. A dear friend of my younger sister, stayed close by our house, and was the daughter of one of the leading industrialists of our town. She had a sprawling bungalow with rolling gardens, one of which was studded with a gem of a swimming pool. I threw pride and protocol to the winds (do children even have these things in their innocent natures?) and decided to tag along with my sister when she was invited for a swim. Initially my sis scowled and resisted but the friend was a sweet accommodating girl who did not resent the intrusion. In any case we were all roughly the same age, and related to the same kind of things. So it was that effortlessly I became an unofficial member of their swim club. The joy that coursed through me at this promising development was inordinate. When a plan for visiting her house materialized, the delicious preliminaries of packing the beach bag with the soft fluffy towel, sleek shiny swimming costume, cap etc. and then heading to her place, all filled me with sharp secret inner delight. Secret, because I never showed too much of my hidden intensity of feelings to the world. I was always intense, in everything, yet liked to keep an even exterior.
My ice skating aspirations also found part fulfillment in the gift of roller skates on one of my birthdays. I was over the moon. I started my journey on roller skates right away. We have an angan or inner courtyard where I had full and free rein. I excitedly got the chunky heavy skates, with those exciting tiny wheels on, and realized right away, roller skating is not a talent you’re born with. After much clop-clopping and falling and bruising, and impudent skates showing me their own mind, taking me to wherever they wished to go, I finally got a semblance of balance. My persistent ambition for roller skating fame, led to relentless practice till I became quite a champion, though, of course, of the sort where none but the family would consider awarding a trophy for my merit. However, self deprecation apart, unbelievably I did go on to win a trophy in a skating competition in my hometown. Another matter, that there were only four participants in the girls section. I vividly remember careening round and round, and that triumphal moment when like a heroine, I skated with style and panache to the judges table to get my prize. Needless to say it felt great acknowledging the applause of the world! (40 or so stragglers hanging around)
Much later in life, after marriage, I also get a chance to get onto an ice skating rink. My husband, knowing of my unfulfilled desire, made sure that I gave it a shot. We ventured onto the sleek white sheet of ice in a London rink, together, and it was the first time for both of us. We held each other and that was wise because the ice was so slippery. Just the idea of wearing ice skates gave me a peculiar frisson. Though it was very different from roller skating, my experience in that sport, aided in my getting the required balance here. Even my husband had the same advantage and after the initial bumbling we made quite a team, in as much as we managed quite a few romantic pirouettes on the rink together, without going for a toss.
The question is did I become any of the things that I had wanted to become in my childhood? No. Of course not. I became a writer instead and settled for exploring the world with my words.
Today as I look back to those flamboyant childhood dreams for adventure, and becoming this or that, I feel only faint regret for not being able to fulfill them to full glory. This may be due to the fact of my being a voracious reader which proxied as my wonderland…
Also, even the partial fulfillment was joyous enough to allow no regrets.
However, there is one childhood dream I have not been able to even partially follow or fulfill – that of a trapeze artist in a circus. My family and I thank God for not having presented even half an opportunity for that.