Life begins at 40, they say. But even 40 year olds might just be a little bit nostalgic about the fresh flavour of youth, of a tender blush on the cheeks, of the enthusiasm over the simple budding of flowers and living on the verge of danger.
Youth comes but once in a lifetime as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow put it. Just once do ripples on the pond seem amusing, the reflection of a loved one on the face of the moon seem real and the so-called realisation, somewhere at the back of the head, of forever living on a bed of roses.
The young cling on to these innocent dreams to survive, creating their own worlds and building an urge to conquer and make the universe a better place. The more experienced or the elderly merely smile at these thoughts, even wishing back to the good old days, when thinking the impossible was a habit and building castles in the air was a favourite pastime.
Lately however, I have been wondering what the children, held hostage in Russia, were thinking about when they were cramped together. I wonder what spectacles of youth they missed in those three days, not to mention what they will be missing now.
On every one of those days, they were probably hoping for someone to come and take them out of the mess. An unimaginable clutter, in which they had never even dreamed that they would get themselves into, maybe not even in their nightmares. With no food and water, these children were deprived of the simple task of imagining for more. All that they could have a taste of was their own fear and an uncertainty of whether to accept death or be granted with life again.
I am sure that they could very well hear the wails of their parents, hurdling outside the school area, screaming incomprehensible words and noises, trying to have a peak at their child or at least hear a simple word, and make sure that they were alive.
For three days, the youth in another part of the world lost their ability to dream and to think the unthinkable. Their desires were merely limited to a plate of hot food, water, and a place to sleep, free of the thoughts of slow and torturous death.
I also wonder as to what struck the children when they were on the verge of their deaths. The letters which were supposed to be written to the long lost friends, the childhood photographs of the slumber party from the summer of 1996 to be arranged and marked, the Friday night concert, a sorry to your best friend for the horrible and meaningless fight you picked with him last week, daddy's hug after coming home from work, mummy's raspberry pies and the innumerable scolding for sitting down to do homework.
I wonder what the world was doing, when these kids were dying of hunger and thirst and hat to gulp down their cries for fear of being shot. I wonder what everyone was up to when these youngsters had to get their brains blown out in the blasts or had to get shot at while fleeing from their captors.
I know what I was doing. I was probably planning my 22nd birthday party. I am sure I was listing out the 35 people I had to invite, arguing with Ma about the menu and making my room as comfortable as possible for my friends. When the survivors, dripping with blood, were being shown to the whole world, I think I was doing my last bit of shopping for Pringles, coke and the latest series of Friends for everyone to watch, cry and smile over Rachel and Ross getting back again.
Well, is that not the essence of youth? Laughing and crying over petty situations even though unreal, giggling on the telephone with the person you have a crush on, travelling with buddies to far-off places during semester breaks, staying up nights to finish the project due the next day at university, planning a 6-a-side cricket match and throwing a surprise birthday party for your friend. It is the little things that matter, which have the youth so excited about living, in the real sense of the word.
Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2004