Perceptions vary. They depend on a number of factors. Time, place and situations help us to see, understand and retain memories of people, places, animals, things and experiences. We need not look beyond ourselves to realise this truth. All of us were children once and we have both pleasant and unpleasant recollections of that pristine period of our lives. But, as we grow up, the aspects that seemed to have a larger than life proportion deflate like a balloon when we come across them once again in adulthood.
How many of us have not experienced our childhood home shrink when we visit it after decades? The familiar streets, shops, landmarks seem to be altered sometimes beyond repair. The dolls and other props which we thought we could never do without gather dust in attics or have been given away. Have we not found our movie stars and superheroes to have changed hopelessly when we see their recent film because we remember them the way they were in their heydays? Even our friends and peers fill us with genuine surprise during alumni meets, for they look old and haggard because we have forgotten that time does not stand still.
Insects, birds and animals that appeared to be intimidating when we were kids make us wonder what was so dreadful about them when we grow up. Enjoying window time during bus and train rides or simply waving out to strangers and passersby, watching aeroplanes flying over our heads or helping ourselves to a fistful of chocolates when we were flying filled us with immense joy. We hoped to gain citizenship in the imaginary land of goodies, completely unaware that we might reach a stage when we consciously avoid these very items that we craved for. We have longed for endless summer vacations and waited for announcements of sudden holidays without realising the mayhem created when routine life is arrested on its heels due to unexpected reasons. Money was never an issue with us because we did not know how to reckon with it. The rat race did not bother us because we had our own demons to deal with.
On the other hand, we somehow could not come to terms with the fact that our loved ones of the earlier generation could have been young once upon a time. No amount of exercising our gray cells can help us recall the pampering we enjoyed or the embarrassment we conferred on our loved ones, though it is always regaled during family get-togethers. Yet, human memory tucks away unpleasant episodes and has a penchant for popping it up when we are least prepared to tackle them. They anger and upset us in an uncanny manner and sometimes instigate us to act unreasonably and irresponsibly.
Death of loved ones, witnessed during the formative years of our lives, leave us devastated or disillusioned. Emotional scars of injustice and violence meted out to us never seem to go away. These obnoxious obstacles stunt our potential to grow to optimal levels and blossom as unique individuals.
All of us have been through this fascinating passage of time, with all its ups and downs. Yet we find it difficult to believe that our personalities are nothing but a reflection of the conglomeration of the experiences of our formative years. The adult in us rarely relates to the innocent children we were sometime back in our timelines. William Blake, the insightful 19th century English poet, wrote about the contrast in the worlds of children and adults in two volumes famously known as Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience respectively. He chose topics, for instance, a tiger or a chimney sweeper, among many such others and treated them contrastingly from the perception of a child and an adult respectively. Possibly, it is on the same lines why psychologists, seers and philosophers encourage us to awaken the child in us. Perhaps an understanding of our past and roots can sensitise us to elevate ourselves to a higher plane of life. Once we are able to build a conscious bridge between these two definite phases of our lives, the circle of our lives will be complete and our composite existence will be qualitatively better. Perchance the key to a more harmonious world and better existence lies in realising that the child is the father of man after all!