8-year-old Diya had been begging her mom, Aradhana, for weeks to take her to the beach. Aradhana didn’t find the beach enticing. She had lived close to the seashore for as long as she remembered. She had been to the beach probably a million times. She had got so bored of the beach excursions, that she no longer went to the beach regularly.
She remembered the last beach excursion that they went months ago, where Diya had played in the water, played on the sand, ran around wildly, got a bucketful of muddy seashells, while Aradhana spread a blanket and sat quietly going through her office work on the phone, occasionally glancing at Diya and the maid who was taking care of her, just to make sure they were safe and hadn’t wandered off. She also remembered the wetness, the mud and all the dirt that Diya had gathered from the beach into the car and the time Aradhana had to take to clean the car, the clothes and the footwear. Diya had also run into the house before Aradhana could stop her and there had been mud and water in the house and on the sofa. And all these were the exact reasons why Aradhana did not want to take Diya to the beach. She was not ready to deal with the mess again.
Diya was not ready to give up on the beach trip. She made a little plan of her own. She made sure that she gave no opportunities for Aradhana to reprimand her for any mistakes. She was an angel of a kid for the entire week, to Aradhana’s surprise. So, on Friday night, Aradhana asked her “Diya, you were such a good girl this week. You did your homework, didn’t watch too much TV, helped around the house, you were so sweet and kind to mama. What’s up?”. Diya said “Nothing, mama. I just wanted to be a good girl so that you will be happy”. Aradhana was delighted and said, “You know what Diya, I can take you to Fun City tomorrow. Would you like that?”. Diya replied with a straight face, “Mama, remember what you said last time? We spend 500 rupees at Fun City and that gets over in a matter of few minutes”. Aradhana wasn’t sure where this conversation was taking her, but she continued “Yes, Diya. That’s true. So, what do you want to do?”. “Mama, let’s go someplace where we don’t have to spend any money, but will have lot more fun than Fun City”, replied Diya. Aradhana smiled to herself. Now she knew. “Smart kid!”, she said to herself. “And where is that place, Diya?”, asked Aradhana. “Mama. Let’s go to the beach. I promise I will dust myself well and dry myself well before I get into the car. Please”, begged little Diya with a smile. Aradhana could do nothing but give in to her.
Lesson 1: A good deed, a kind gesture, a sensible thought or a smiling face is all you need to brighten up someone’s day and in turn help them brighten up yours.
It was early morning on Saturday. Diya was up even before the sun came close to the horizon. Aradhana and her husband, Raghav were fast asleep. Diya pulled the covers off them and started shouting “Mama, papa, wake up. Let’s go to the beach. Mama, you promised.” Aradhana woke up, annoyed at herself for promising Diya to take her to the beach on a Saturday morning, but seeing the excitement on Diya’s face, Aradhana couldn’t help but smile. She saw Raghav pull the covers over his head and go to sleep again. “Oh no, Mister. You are coming with us”, said Aradhana. “Come, on, Aaru, I came home at 11:30 last night. It’s Saturday morning, let me sleep”. Aradhana whispered to Diya, “Go wake papa, he should also have fun, right”. Diya jumped on Raghav, “Come on papa. Let’s go see the sunrise. Sun rises in the east. We are facing the east. My teacher taught me. We can see the sunrise today. My teacher told me that the sunrise will be very beautiful at the seashore”. “Alright”, grumbled Raghav and glared at Aradhana, who was grinning.
Lesson 2: As adults, with busy lifestyles, we believe that Mondays to Fridays are to wake up early and run around madly and Saturdays and Sundays are to sleep in to catch up on all the missed sleep. We don’t remember to catch up on all the missed “Sunrises”. Let’s catch up on the sunrise.
After a quick cup of coffee, the little family loaded the car with a blanket, Diya’s beach toys, towels and newspapers to protect the car after Diya’s expected roll in the mud and sea. The sun had still not come up and the sky was a beautiful orange hue. Raghav and Aradhana spread a blanket and sat down as Diya started to dig into the wet sand with a shovel. Raghav closed his eyes trying to catch some sleep, while Aradhana took her phone and began listing out groceries to shop later in the day. Diya looked at Aradhana and asked “Mama, you used to live close to the sea when you were a kid, right? Grandpa said that you will want to go to the beach everyday and play in the sand. And he also said that you used to build sand castles and Arjun mama used to pretend that he was a monster and will stamp on your castles. Can you build a castle with me?”. Aradhana looked up with surprise at Diya. She had not visited her dad in over 2 years as her parents lived very far away. She asked Diya “When did you hear this story?”. Diya replied, “When he came to visit us when I was 5. Ok, mama. That’s not important. Build the castle with me”. Aradhana closed her eyes and revisited the memories that Diya spoke about. She used to love the beach. She had never gotten bored and begged her dad to take her to play in the sand and water everyday. She remembered her little shovel and bucket and how she used to dig for hours together and how her brother Arjun used to destroy her creations. She remembered being annoyed at him, but still they always enjoyed their game. On days when Arjun had been busy with other activities, Aradhana, in fact had felt annoyed that “the monster” hadn’t destroyed her castle. Back to the present, Aradhana chuckled to herself. She looked at Diya and said, “Sure. Why not?”. As she dug the shovel into the sand and started building the castle, she felt a lot more connected with nature, connected with the little Aradhana who was always happy, who never complained about monotony and who always found new little happiness everyday even in the never-ending routine.
Lesson 3: As we grow up, we lose the connection with our younger selves, with the happier selves. We lose connection with nature. We forget some lovely memories, because we think they are unimportant. Let’s not forget these lovely old memories, because they can help us create some lovely new memories.
As Aradhana and Diya finished building the castle, the sun started coming up. Aradhana looked up and saw the beauty that she had not seen in years. She looked at it with a new pair of eyes and soaked in the beauty and the serenity of the sand, the sun and the sea. Aradhana kept gazing at it, when Diya squealed, “Mama, look at the sunrise. This is what my teacher said. And look how our castle is shining in the sunrise. Come, let’s go and play in the water”. Aradhana hesitated for a moment thinking about all the mess from last time, yet she got up. Suddenly, a big foot stomped on the castle. Diya was shocked and looked like she was about to cry, when Raghav, who had been hearing the conversation, yelled at them, “I am the monster. I have destroyed your castle and I am going to eat you now”. Diya’s face immediately changed back to a huge grin, as Raghav started chasing her, making monster growls. Aradhana looked at both of them and smiled. Slowly, the beach started filling up with the morning walkers, laughter club members, yoga practitioners, serious runners and other senior citizens who gathered for their morning chats. Aradhana looked at Raghav, who immediately stopped the growling noises. Suddenly, they both felt silly, two grown ups running around with a kid making weird noises. Diya pulled them both to the sea, where they let the waves touch their toes. Diya wasn’t satisfied. She said “Papa, we have to chase the waves and then the waves should chase us. We will fall. Waves will win. Then waves will run away. We will win. That’s how we play in the water.” Aradhana and Raghav were wary of the eyes looking at them. They wondered what people will think and say at the adults playing ridiculous “wave games”. Raghav looked again at Diya who was trying to pull him into the water. He realized he shouldn’t care about people looking at him. He came here to enjoy with his daughter. As Raghav and Diya started to play the “wave game”, Aradhana shed her own inhibitions and joined them. It was definitely fun. As the waves hit their body, the cool feeling against the warm sun sent waves of delight inside Aradhana and Raghav.
Lesson 4: Children are free. They are open. They live their lives the way they want. They are neither judgmental, nor are they impacted by judgment. All they want is to be happy and will do things that keep them that way. So, let’s shed inhibitions and do things that keep us happy without worrying about judgmental eyes.
After a long time of fun and frolic, the three of them had exhausted themselves. They were tired, messy, wet and muddy and yet were happy and laughing. The sun was shining bright and it was time for them to head home. As they dragged their muddy selves to the car, Raghav and Aradhana looked at each other. Diya said “Mama, look, we are all wet and muddy. Should we spread all the newspapers and be careful when we get into the car?”. Raghav smiled at Aradhana and nodded. He turned to Diya and said, “Darling, our car is due for a cleaning anyway. Why don’t we all just get into the car? This afternoon, you and I can clean the car. Is that something that you want to do?”. “Yes, papa. I would love that”. He then turned to Aradhana and said, “Let’s go to your favourite beach side cafe for breakfast before going home.” “But mama”, jumped in Diya, “You are wet and dirty. Don’t you want to change?”. Aradhana replied “Not today, Diya. I think it’s okay to be messy one day”. The family got into their car and drove away into the sunshine, happily.
Lesson 5: As adults, we are bothered too much about our appearance. We want to look good, so others don’t comment on how we look. We are afraid of a little dirt, we are afraid of mess, we are afraid to do something we because we fear disorder. Let’s break free sometime. It’s okay to be a little messy on some days. Because some imperfect days can end up being perfect.