Have you ever wondered why we only remember snippets of our memories? Like one precious moment in time we managed to catch just before it slipped away, and stored it in the treasure chest of our minds. It might be a little dusty with time, but the essence remains pure.
This is one such memory carefully preserved in my memory box – the details are a little dusty, but it is still cherished.
What do you want to be when you grow up? – the favourite question of every adult whom you met. Today we had just written a paragraph in class on what we wanted to be when we grew up, and the topic was still fresh in our minds. By we, I mean me and my two best friends – who for the sake of anonymity, I am calling S and M.
“So” I asked, looking out of the school bus window, at the receding building, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
“You tell, first”, M demands, testing the waters, testing if it is a trick question. We were only 4 years old.
“I wanna be a doctor” I replied proudly. “Like my uncle. He stays in London”. I never knew which held more fascination for me – the profession or the distant land, synonymous with all the magical places I read about in books (maybe that is why when I finally visited the city, a few years ago I was vaguely a little disappointed). Whatever the case, that was the only career path I knew of and deemed fitting back then.
Now, S followed, a little tentatively, “I wanna be a teacher”. We turn up our noses. Being a teacher is the worst thing you could want to be at that age. A teacher was a wooden ruler wielding monster back then, who mercilessly gave homework to students. “Not any teacher”, she is quick to defend. “A good one, like Rina Miss. I will help students. I will be kind and never shout at them”. This was, still understandable. Rina Miss was all of our favourite teacher. She was kind, and always took extra interest in the underdogs – those who were bullied in the playground, those who didn’t seem to have friends, those who had problems at home. She would call them and talk to them at length. Sometimes she would give us chocolates and small gifts like pencils or ball-point pens (a rare privilege allowed to kids). She would take interest in what books we read and what films we saw, and when another teacher scolded us, it was to she who wiped our tears.
Now it was M’s turn. She proudly puffed up her chest – “I want to be a wife!” We broke into peals of laughter. Marriage only had two meanings for us –
- A game to play with when we were playing with our dolls.
- An occasion where we had to go dressed up and would be served tasty food, and would have our cheeks pulled by a dozen people we never remembered meeting.
Once we managed to resume seriousness, we gave some serious thought to the question. “You will have to leave your parents”, I said gravely. As a girl, that was the biggest obstacle to marriage, in my opinion.
“I won’t”, M said, confidently. “I will make my husband leave his house, and come to live with my parents. My mother said that long ago that is how it happened. Men left their houses after marriage to come, stay with their wives”. (I have thought of this strange piece of knowledge for long. I guess my friend had misunderstood, or maybe her mother was talking about matriarchal societies)
“That is such a nice tradition!” I said. “Why did they change it? Why did our mothers shift residence after marriage?”
For a moment we ponder this incomprehensible question. This ridiculousness of our mothers. “My father has a nice house” S said, almost defensively. We all were quiet. We couldn’t really debate this topic, without debasing either one of our parents, so we left it.
“When we get married, we won’t be like our mothers” I decide. “We will bring our husbands to our home. I will never leave my family!”
More than fifteen years has passed since this conversation took place. None of us are married….yet. I am pursuing a journalism career. M is pursuing English majors, and S just cleared high school. Very little remains of that ignorance and confidence now. Back then, all insurmountable problems had a simple solution. Sometimes I wish I could view life as simplistically now too.
(This post is in response to today’s Daily Prompt: Futures Past)