My son burst into giggles on a drive recently. Until that point, we had all been silent, lulled into contemplation by the hum of the freeway. I asked him why he’d laughed. Thain, thain he said. Thain, meaning that. It is only when he giggled again I realized that the bumps and dips on the freeway were making him laugh. He was enjoying the jumps and falls while we cruised at seventy miles per hour.
This freeway was part of my daily commute when commuting to work was still a thing. These bumps and dips had barely registered then. And when I had noticed them, it was because they were annoying, an inconvenience, ruining my smooth drive. Even then, it was a brief thought, lost amidst million others, as I drove to work. I don’t remember finding joy. I don’t remember laughing.
It was only after he had giggled, I noticed just how many bumps and dips there were. I started looking out for them, so I could let him know, so he and I, could together anticipate and laugh as we drove over it.
Every summer vacation, in the 90s, we went to Bangalore (Bengaluru) to spend time with my maternal family. On most Sundays, my uncle would take us for a drive around the city. This was when the streets of Rajajinagar were deserted enough for my uncle to speed through. I loved those rides. There was one particular road, wide and empty, with a nice little dip. As we approached that particular point, where the car begins to dip forward, I would brace myself for my stomach dropping, for that sensation where the abdominal cavity suddenly feels empty, because everything has dropped. I loved that. I remember waiting for that dip, waiting to cross it. I remember sitting in the back seat, wishing we could turn around and go over it again.
At what point in time did I stop noticing and enjoying these little things? At what point did the same things begin to annoy? At what point did I turn all my senses inwards, focusing on my thoughts, tasks, regrets, worries? At what point did I forget to be present?
In an age where we are always running behind, where we can never seem to catch up, does being present mean wasted time? If we are not already ahead of the current moment, wouldn’t we fall further behind?
Is it inevitable then, is this what it means to be an adult? Does each generation have no hope other than to rely on the generation that follows, the ones that are not yet playing catchup to remind and show what it means to be happy?
To be unconditionally happy with what is there, indifferent to the future, indifferent to the past. To be fully present, to truly live and see the world once again with childlike wonder.