It was Khushi’s birthday. She is my niece’s daughter. And we were in Nagpur for the celebrations. It was her eighth birthday.
As people walked in I observed Khushi’s guest list curiously. She had decided who she wanted to invite on her own and the parents had no clue. She had called home everyone around the apartment whom she considered her friends. It was quite apparent from the awkward silence among the adults that although their kids were friends, they hardly knew each other. And Khushi’s guest list had place for all ages- there were kids from 3 years to 18 years of age- and she was comfortable talking to everyone. She made sure they all got adequate attention and entertained them too. I don’t know how she did that- she was everyone’s friend- even pointing out how many of them spelled her name incorrectly on the birthday presents. Aahana (her real name) needs two As she emphasized.
I quietly watched the kids form a group and play their own version of passing the parcel. One kid got stuck with the task of reciting a poem. He was too young and said he didn’t know any poems. Pat, she was at his rescue- reciting a poem on his behalf so that the game could continue. Every time a new person entered, she or he would be immediately included in the game without a pause.
Just before cutting the cake, her mother had a ritual where she wanted five members of the family to apply a teeka on her forehead. Five was the auspicious number that had been chosen. But that wouldn’t work at all for Khushi. She wanted everyone from the extended family to apply that teeka on her forehead- even the ones standing at the back. I watched her, amazed at her assertiveness. They eventually had to change the auspicious number to 11 for Khushi’s sake – though I suspect, everyone gave up counting, as she was so insistent on including everyone! It was delightful to see her social skills at this tender age.
Khushi is all of eight, and understands the need to make everyone feel wanted. What happens when we become adults? What makes us hesitate to practice inclusion in our lives? Why do we begin to look for differences rather than similarities?