On a perfectly relaxed, lazy Saturday morning, while the kitchen was bustling with breakfast preparations, I was perched next to the computer, staring at uTorrent like a compulsive horse race gambler, willing my precious downloads to perform better. Just then a call rang out.
Paging Musthafa, please report to the bedroom.
I sighed, knowing perfectly well what the situation was. My two year old niece Zara had burst into tears, apparently traumatized at being denied permission to venture out into the hot sun. And since all hands were on deck in the kitchen, it was up to me to pacify the little girl.
They should probably test interview candidates by asking them to stop a toddler from crying. No better way to measure their presence of mind.
I, thankfully, fared well. Within a few minutes, we were playing Hide and Seek, or at least a modified version of it wherein I pretended not to see her hiding behind the curtains, her tiny toes clearly visible for all to see. Pretty soon we were running around the house, with her laughs bouncing off the walls as she prowled, searching for me. Her face flushed with joy the moment she spotted me cowering behind the bedroom door, her giggles encouraging me to appease her further.
And the next one hour wasn't enough to wet my appetite. Ignoring my mother's polite requests to utlilise my natural height in order to obtain elusive plates from wall cupboards, I continued the routine. Walking animatedly, wheeling my head around with exaggerated curiosity as I called out my actions. I could hear my niece hold her breath, and I immediately prepared myself. Countless repetitions had done nothing to diminish the joy I was about to experience.
A burst of excited laughter. A dazzling smile. A glimpse into eyes that seemed blessed enough to view the world with innocence and wonder.
When she finally tired from all the running, Zara and I trudged back to the living room, her little finger safely wrapped in my hand. As I passed by the kitchen, I overheard my sister commenting to her husband about me, "Well, looks like Zara's made full use of him being here for the holidays..'
I returned to my computer, and glanced at the completed downloads absentmindedly. In a split moment, I remembered, like fragments of a wonderful dream, parts of my childhood. Moments of absolute joy experienced when seated on my father's shoulders ; the euphoria of hiding behind a cupboard, patiently evading the 'catcher', oblivious to the fact that a world existed outside the adjacent corridor.
Whenever I noticed school buses passing by my college, whenever students with water bottles hung around their neck in order to balance the weight of crushing school bags walked past me, I'd remember my childhood. And mourn its passing.
But sitting there in my chair, eyes fixed to the computer screen, I realized with a smile how silly my thinking was. The answer to nostalgia about the past lay, not in pining for a return to it, but rather, simply in relieving it. And that, as this particular lazy Saturday afternoon taught me, could be arranged for with the cooperation of a niece, whose upheld little finger symbolised not just a request for guidance, but rather, an invitation for rediscovery.
I chuckled as I lazily began hunting for torrents again. My sister had got it wrong. It was the other way round, after all...
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