Cha-cha-cha with Chacha
* THE ADVENTURES OF WAIWAI *
The Friday morning was accompanied by a gentle breeze in the air. The trees swayed softly, the dry leaves rolled along the pathway and the blades of grass just lingered. Among all that the breeze was taking an effect on, was also few curls of hair that stood on the head like a telescope. As the curls swayed, Waiwai too like the dry leaves drifted slowly away from the rest of the pack. The pack – his school mates – who were all on a class outing to celebrate Children’s Day in a city park. Of course, monitored by their class teacher.
Waiwai’s drifting was not only a cause of the breeze. He had a tendency of being away from the crowd. Under his own breath he would always say “I don’t like outings.” That would not mean, he would not attend – after all attendance was compulsory – however, Waiwai preferred to be by himself. Little aloof but occupied. Like now, though he lingered around, he wanted to break all the rules that surrounded him.
‘Don’t walk on the grass’; ‘Don’t pluck flowers’; ‘No climbing the fence’; ‘Children below 5 years not allowed’; ‘No pets allowed’; ‘No Playing Cricket and Football’ and all those restrictions that make a park. Every time Waiwai read, he wanted to do the exact opposite of what was written. But every time he wanted, he glanced to check on his class teacher, who Waiwai felt had come to the outing, only to keep an eye on him. Waiwai chuckled and eventually sat himself at the steps of the statue situated at the center of the park.
Turning his head towards the statue, Waiwai said, “Thank you Chacha. For you, every year we get a holiday from school, but end up coming for an outing."
Shall I tell you a secret? No one here has come to meet you. Look everyone is playing on their own. Don’t feel bad okay Chacha!” and smirked under his breath. Then diving his hands onto his pockets, took out his only companion – his glasses. Carefully moistening it, he cleaned and wore the frame and slid back onto the steps. Resting his arm on the higher treads, he took a deep glance towards the park.
With his curly hair still in motion, and with no one around, except the statue, Waiwai spoke loudly “Why do all children’s park have the same slides and always a statue? And what is so children about this park. It is the same as any other. Shoe shaped slides, colorful equipment’s, and benches from where our feet do not reach the ground. All parks look like the same as this statue – same type – different heights – everywhere! As if Chacha never stood any other way”
“Even I don’t know! Sounds like they have standardized parks like they have done to me”, a voice appeared right behind Waiwai.
Quickly turning back, peering through his glasses, Waiwai said smilingly, “Oh, Chacha! You were listening to me from behind? Come sit down. You have been standing with that rose for far too long!”
As Chacha settled himself on the steps, Waiwai quickly ran towards the winding path around the steps, picked up a dry pink color flower, put it over his pocket and came back and said, “Now we look the same, don’t we Chacha? The only thing is missing is the topi?” Chacha passed a smile before Waiwai popped another question, “Are you bald Chacha, I have never seen you without topi!”
Laughing at his own humor, Waiwai jumped two steps and sat next to Chacha.
“You think people have forgotten me and that is why they don’t come near the statue?”
“No, it is not like that Chacha, how can anyone forget you. You are everywhere! So maybe everyone does not pay too much attention!”
As Chacha, pondered over the statement, Waiwai punctured, “Don’t feel sad” and held out his hand and said, “Come let us go for a walk around the park”. Chacha obliged and stretched his back and arms and replied, “Last time someone took me out for a walk was Gandhiji!”
“So, children still like me ?”
“How will they? You are standing so high on top that none of us can reach you. Then there are barricades. So many rules for children. But everyone knows of you. Not just statues, we even learn about you in class. Your photo is there in our book, and that day, I went with Daadu to a Government office and even there I saw you hanging from a wall. Even Ma has studied in college that has your name in it.”
“It is not that I wanted all this, but I guess that is the tradition of showing respect to a notable person.”
“But Chacha tell me, is it necessary to have a name of a notable person on everything in the city. Like metro stations, roads, institutes, and even on signage boards! Wherever I see Chacha, there is always a name of someone. Nothing feels like it is for us, everything belongs to you all.”
“But this is what other countries do as well. Like the French, the British. They all name things after people who have done so much for the country, just to ensure their efforts are not forgotten! Is that wrong?”
"So, you will follow the British, whom you asked to leave the country? And shall I tell you something Chacha. Do not be too proud of your statues. If I put all your statutes on top of each other, it will be less than the height of Sardar uncle’s statue. He now stands tall above you!”, Waiwai stated and raised his eyebrows to see Chacha’s reaction. As Chacha tried to ‘keep calm’ from the statement, Waiwai added, “Your jacket name is also taken over by Modi ajju!” and roared out in laughter.
Waiwai laughed so hard, that the gentleness of the morning came alive. Even the breeze seemed to carry the laughter across the corners of the park, where his other school mates were rolling up and down the slides, jumping over see -saw, moving around the aviary, dancing around the non-functional fountain and some even performing acrobats holding a tree branch.
Chacha and Waiwai strolled along. They walked on the tiled pathway with trimmed hedges on either side, the mandatory inauguration stone, climbed over a wooden Japanese bridge, passed the cut out figures of cartoon characters and accompanying them everywhere, were animals – as large installations, archway pop outs and even shaped in plants. Reaching a spot under a large banyan tree with a bench nestled under it and penguin shaped dust bin, Chacha hesitantly asked, “Do you mind if I have a smoke? Will you think bad of me?"
Waiwai raised his head, with his starry round eyes seeing through the glasses said, “Smoking does not make a person bad” and cheekily added “Be careful of my class teacher, she may scold you!” Chacha smiled back and cautiously looked at the teacher with Waiwai beside him perched under the Banyan tree.
Chacha lit the cigar, with the breeze carrying it away from Waiwai, sat dangling his feet in mid-air, like Waiwai, to make most of the holiday morning. Waiwai, looking straight ahead at the statue said, “Do you know Chacha, I have seen you in important places in the city, but in some areas, you are never there!”
“Like where?”, Chacha prodded.
“When I went with Ma to Geeta akka, our household maids's place or when the bus drops Akram home, I have only seen B.R uncles’ statue. Even where the laundry uncle sits, I have never seen you there or with him. Why so? You did not like each other? Or the same people don’t like you?”
Chacha this time stayed silent and like Waiwai just stared ahead. Maybe he wanted to answer, make a defense but Chacha let it pass.
Without answering directly, Chacha said, “We have come to generalize everything. From history, space, people, identities and look even children parks. It is only made for fun, not to learn! If children do not get diverse experience, how will a country celebrate diversity. May be, partly I am to blame as well.” Then paused briefly, sighed and said softly, “Guess it is time for me leave!”
Waiwai this time remained silent and got up holding Chacha’s hand and walked back along the circumambulatory path towards where they started their journey. As Chacha climbed up the steps, Waiwai pulled his hand back and hugged him along the waist and said, “I do not know if people remember you, how you had hoped they would. But Daadu is not happy that your name is being replaced in many places. He says, everyone wants to rename everything. No one wants to keep the same, all want to leave their personal impression. If Daadu is not happy, I do not like it”, then looking up towards Chacha added in a quivering tone, “If you have powers, can you tell people not to make large elephant and animal statues in parks! They are horrible to look at it and children do not like it. In our name, these adults keep doing whatever they want!”
Listening to the request, Chacha laughed, overlooking Waiwai’s earlier statement. Waiwai joined in as well. Then leaving Chacha’s hand, turned around, jumped across the steps, and took off his spectacles. As he marched forward, he halted. He put his hands in his pocket, turned back and kept the pink dry flower at the base of the statue and said, “Happy Birthday! And Happy Children’s Day!”
Waiwai finally joined his other classmates as they aligned themselves to board the bus. Seeing Waiwai finally make an appearance with the group, the teacher asked, “What did you do, staying away from your friends? Did you not get bored?”
Waiwai with a smile said, “I made Chacha Nehru discover today’s India”. Everyone laughed at Waiwai’s expense. Waiwai glanced back and winked looking at the marble statue of Jawaharlal Nehru. What no one else saw, was that the statue, winked back.