He was rankled. He was a member of a group of two families travelling together in the Intercity Express from Hazrat Nizamuddin to Indore. The ladies of the group were discussing a wedding they were returning from. The gentlemen were busy discussing the prospects of the return of BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Sitting opposite, I was a passive participant. Two toddlers were sleeping on the top berths.
This little kid (about five) was dying of boredom. “Where are your sketch pens? Why don’t you draw something?” The boy’s mother coerced him. The boy frowned and continued to sulk.
Wanting to steer clear of the inconsequential discussion, I turned towards the boy to try my skill at engaging children. “What is your name?”
He mumbled something, which I could not decipher. In any case, I wasn’t interested in knowing his name. But I had succeeded in getting him to talk––the first major step towards negotiating a deal.
“Which school do you study in? What class…” The boy, nudged by his parents kept answering in monosyllables. His body language suggested that he was least interested in the conversation. He was under pressure from his parents to be polite.
“Shall I make a boat for you?” I threw the first bait,
“I know how to make a boat.” He snubbed me. He sounded like he had just scored a match point. Although, my proposal had fallen flat, this time the boy seemed more involved in the conversation.
“But the boat I make, looks real; it is not like the one they teach in schools.” There was silence. He became more attentive. With alacrity in his heart and reluctance on his face he gave me the honour to craft a real boat for him.
He looked intently as I folded a paper to make a real boat. By the time, I finished making the boat, a smile had returned to his face. Very gleefully he accepted my creation. The parents, who were monitoring the gradual taming of the boy, were impressed.
“I can make a yacht too. Shall I make one?”
This time he nodded a clear ‘yes’ with a broad smile.
The making of a yacht was interrupted by a phone call from my sister conveying birthday wishes to me (it happened to be my birthday). People around me also came to know and wished me, and so did the little boy. The kid was delighted to get the yacht. With a real boat in one hand and a yacht in the other, the little Columbus went sailing across the imaginary sea that surrounded him. The cheer that my real boat and the yacht got to the little boy was a big reward for me. With that I sank into my half-solved Sudoku. I was oblivious of a greater reward coming my way. After playing with the boat and the yacht for a while, the boy sketched a colourful birthday card and presented it to me as I got up to disembark at Ujjain. My day was made!
Sometimes it takes a little Origami to engage a child.