29 July 2013.
It is summer time. Is that why I am thinking of fruits?
I love sweets. Is that why I am thinking of a fruit salad?
I can’t put my finger on the exact spot but out on the green strip of lawn, that word suddenly popped into my mind. Caught between the delicious giggles of young children, I remembered when I was 8 years old as well. We used to play this game called Fruit Salad. Back then I think the name fascinated us more than the game. But going over the rules of the game, I realise what a huge lesson that game taught us through such a seemingly simple name.
In short, the game was played in a circle and 3-4 fruit names were alternately given to all the participants. When one particular fruit was called, all bestowed with that name rushed and exchanged places. A person standing in the centre of the circle (perhaps known as the ‘spoon’!) tried to snatch the place of an unfortunate fruit who wasn’t fast enough to cross the diameter of the circle. I remember the real fun in the game, however, lay when ‘Fruit salad’ was called. That was when the entire circle went crazy and switched places. Screaming and whining, we all fell into place each time amidst much chaos; silenced only with the lesson learnt: ‘A single bowl has place for everyone, no matter how different; and it is only when everyone comes together, that the effect is delicious’.
A life lesson indeed. Today this playground where I find myself is one such fruit bowl. Children of all ethnic backgrounds play together and language really is no barrier. I am an Indian who finds herself teaching an African kid how to share; who exchanges smiles with an Afghani mother; who appreciates the fathering skills of an Iranian man and who offers rides on her back to Pakistani kiddos. And all this happening in a country that is motherland for none of us. Secularism is all right to read in textbooks, but to live it is a wonder. In the past 2 weeks, what started off as a harmless badminton game turned into one of the greatest learning experiences I’ve ever encountered. I have seen people harbour prejudices based on caste, religion and skin colour. I have had that momentary jolt of indecisiveness when someone says he or she belongs to another ethnicity. Thankfully I have been brought up without the blinders. And seeing these kids, I am glad there are more parents walking down this path.
For behind those burkhas and kohl-lined eyes and beyond dark skin, there lies a person just like me.
Behind those different vocabulary sets and a whole new phonological base, there is a mind that thinks just like me.
Why then, do we draw all these boundaries and limit the world for ourselves? I see these children congregate here each evening; their fights comical, their sulks adorable. Their English grammar goes haywire but they manage to get their meaning across. They tease each other but they stand up for each other too. At the year end, everyone will separate and go back to their own countries. Back into those safeguarded boundaries. But I hope they go back with this unconsciously learnt lesson safe in their hearts…
I don’t know if they will remember each other, but I know I will always think of each of them. Not individually but as a collective.
As the fruits in my fruit bowl, making each evening so delicious 🙂