Me: Jazz, look at the untidy pile of books on your shelf! You can do better than that.
Jazz: Hmmm, ohh..hmm… listen, that is my shelf. (followed by the most authoritative look possible from a 8 year old).
Me: I am not denying that. But 15 years ago it was my shelf and looked far better than this.
(Jazz now visibly on the backfoot, her pride at stake)
Jazz: You had fewer books!
Me: Wrong, I had twice as many.
Jazz: Show me then. (Throw a demand that cannot be met. How did she learn it at such a young age?)
Me: They are all gone now. Though some might still be in the storage under that bed.
Jazz (excited and showing her irregular teeth): Let us get them out!
Me: And where do you suppose you are going to keep them?
Jazz (still excited): I can clear up…. (starting to throw the pile onto the floor)
Me (alarmed): What are you doing? Show some respect to the books.
Jazz: Wait … (she has this amazing monosyllable answer when she does not want you to interrupt her great labours)
I wait. In no time the contents of the shelf are on the floor.
Jazz: Let us open the bed and get your old books out!
Me (pointing to the pile on the floor): And sweetheart where are you going to keep these?
Jazz is visibly puzzled. She clearly had not thought of that part of the problem.
Jazz: The space beside Dad’s reading table?
Me: No way. He will throw the stuff out and probably you along with it.
We giggle. Like we are in the possession of some exquisite knowledge.
Me: I have a better idea. How about me giving away some of these to a friend who runs a school for poor kids? Those kids probably cannot afford books such as yours and they will be very happy.
Jazz (sounding not at all enthusiastic): But these are my books.
Me: I know love. That is why I am asking you. Wouldn’t you like to give something to those kids?
Jazz: NO. They can buy their own books. These are mine.
Me (now fully aware of the challenge): But they are not as lucky as you. They do not have a house like this or a daddy who can buy books. When they get these books and know who sent them, they will smile and say thank you.
Jazz (pleased with herself): Where are these kids? Who is your friend? How do you know him? Was he in your school?
Me: My friend’s name is Anurag. We used to play together until school years. He was in a school different from mine. Hey, infact he was from your school. This Thursday I will be going to meet him.
( I missed her first question but true as kids are she keeps a good record of it)
Jazz: Where do the kids live?
Me: In the villages close to that school.
Jazz: Is it a big school?
Me: No. It is far smaller than your school. Remember it is for poor kids.
(she weighs upon the information now available, her hands on her waist)
Jazz: OK, I will give some of my books. But first you must promise to open the bed and get your books out.
Me: I promise.
Jazz (now sounding chirpier): Which of these books will they want? No, wait! I will decide what books to give away.
Me: Sure love. Those are your books.
(she spends almost a minute staring at her pile, clearly at a loss on what to give away)
Jazz (picking the least inviting book): Take this.
I accept that book and wait.
Jazz (not looking at me): hmm.. that is all. I need the other books.
Me (sounding both angry and unhappy at the same time): Just one book? And it has the last few pages missing!
Jazz: You need more?
Me: Sure I do. You have so many books. Try and give a few more.
Jazz: OK, just two more. OK?
Me (eager to move ahead): OK!
Jazz: Quickly picking up two volumes of Amar Chitra Katha and handing them over.
Me: Thanks. (did I have a disappointed look on me? I will never know..)
Jazz: Maybe I can give some more.
Me (perking up): That’s like my girl! The more you give the more space you get for new books.
(Ugghh, did I just fast sell? Did she buy that?)
Jazz: And I have read all of them a few times over.
(she goes into a drive and the best thing I can do is stand aside. Her collection is spread all over the floor as she ponders over each volume for its give-keep ratio.)
Me (wanting to let her have her space): I’ll go get some water while you decide?
Jazz (not looking up): OK
(I return after 5 minutes to find two heaps, both equally high.)
Me (a little unsure): Done?
Me: So where are the books to give away?
Jazz (pointing to one of the heaps): All those.
(Now I am a little stunned. The heap she is pointing to had no less than 15 books, out of her collection of maybe 35).
Me: Jazz, you want to give away all those?
Me (bending over to see what is in that heap): OK, thanks!
(I find some really nice books in the ‘give away’ heap. Clearly she had not segregated them by their cost, size or condition)
Me (picking up an extremely expensive looking copy of Cinderella): You want to give this? Where did it come from?
Jazz: Tina massi brought it from the US. I have read it a few times.
Jazz (pulling out another two equally beautiful volumes – Snow White and Rapunzel): She also gave me these.
Me: Those kids will be very happy to have these books. Thanks, love.
Jazz: All those books I have read many times. You can take them.
Me: And what is in the other pile? You haven’t read those?
Jazz (looking at me suspiciously): I have read them but only once. Those I will not give.
Me (defensively): No, no. I am not asking for them. I was just wondering if you have read them.
Jazz: OK, listen (her fave phrase). I want you to buy me two thick volumes of fairy tales. The ones with big pictures on each page. OK?
Me (a little emotional now): Done!
I did get her the two volumes she asked. I also gave her the unabridged Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton. She is too young to read that though. But I loved that series so much I needed an excuse to read them again.
I hope Jazz grows up into a kind and sensitive lady. Like all kids, she is born beautiful. The onus is on society to ensure she carries that beauty to adulthood.
This episode cements what many of us know – children are no less sensitive or sensible than grown ups. They seem kiddish to us because their priorities are different from ours. Seven out of ten times when I have approached a kid as an individual capable of thinking and deciding, I have received a response that upheld my belief. And that is way better than what adults manage to score.