One of the most important reasons for me to try and find some answers regarding the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything is...you guessed it...having had a bunch of kids who are all about the QUESTIONS.
Of course, Peanut is the most curious of the lot. At the tender age of six, she has witnessed the death of two people and this is the topic that she seems rather obsessed with. Unfortunately, I still haven't found the best answers to give her.
I remember when I went sniffling to my mother at the age of about seven, saying 'Mom, I don't want to die.' She comforted me with 'But you're not going to die till you're much older, you know - 70, 80 years old.' That sounded like a really long time away to me and I was therefore satisfied that it wasn't really that big a deal. I went away happily, probably to do something productive like juggling eggs over Mom's radio in the drawing room but that's really not part of this story.
When Peanut came blubbering to me, all frightened and said 'Mom, I don't want to die.' My first instinct was to comfort her with the same spiel, about her not dying until many, many years later. Being a far more intelligent kid than I ever was, Peanut paused with the blubbering to give me her scornful 'YOU're my mother, really??' look and then resumed her crying with 'NO. I don't EVER want to die. NEVER!'
It's been a little difficult for me to deal with, although her fears regarding death come back less frequently now than they did a couple of months ago. Earlier, it used to be almost every night that she'd have a meltdown about this issue, and now it's only about once in two weeks. However, her obsessiveness with the death question continues, including conversation-starters like -
'Mama. When are you going to die?'
'Mama. Do our words die?'
'Do our CD's die?'
'Mom. Can books die?'
I tried to remind her about her Theme 'Living and Non-living things' but she denied vehemently having learnt about it in school a year ago. I explained that it was only Living things that could die, to have her gasp 'But why?'
It's so much easier to run out of answers than questions.
When my sister is over, I let her field the questions.
'Masi.' Peanut said while we were travelling in the car. ' Do cars die?'
'No, beta.' Patient Masi said 'Cars are machines. Not living things.'
'But cars live.' said Peanut indignantly 'They breathe!'
'No they don't!'
'But their tyres have air...so they breathe.'
'Okay.' Clearly, my child had trumped my sister.
I've looked up in a couple of places about the best way to answer her questions about death. I'm mildly worried that it's an obsession for her, the way it comes back every now and then. But I'm more interested in the best way to get her comfortable with the idea. For the time being, I'm coming up with zilch. I think I made a bit of a boo-boo by suggesting the idea of reincarnation in a moment of desperation and it quelled for one night because we decided that in our next lives, I was again going to be her mother. However, it later led to so much angst around the idea that 'You mean, I could become a BOY if I'm born again? Waaaaaaaah....' It started all over again and I hurriedly tried to dissuade her from this line of thinking. Yeah, I'm a bad, confused parent in so many ways.
For the time being, Pickle and Papad have no concept about these things, so it's a lot easier. I was listening to Vijay having a conversation with them yesterday, trying to instil in them some form of faith or belief in a higher power.
'Pickle, Who is God?'
'Me!' That's a natural first response from the twins to just about any question.
'Er no.' Vijay prodded. 'Who's God?'
'God ish Bhagwan.' Pickle said with confidence.
'Bhagwan!' Papad piped in a millisecond later to prove that he was as knowledgable as his brother.
'Very good.' Vijay was delighted at this unexpectedly correct response. 'And what does he do?'
Pickle looked stumped but Papad promptly replied 'Puja!'
Vijay frowned at him 'Kisski Puja?'
Papad wasn't about to back down 'Apni.' He asserted firmly.
Pickle filled in with 'Wo Sab kuchh dekhta hai...'
'Okayyy.' Vijay said, pleased again. 'So, tell me, what does God look like?'
There was a little pause but then Pickle said encouragingly 'Very nice!'
'But what does he look like?'
Pickle said 'White hair...'
Papad added 'Lambi daadi.'
Vijay was trying to digest this when Papad added, very excitedly 'And very naughty ...he gives toffees!'
'Yesh. Mere school mein aaya...upar se neeche, aaya!'
I helpfully interjected to explain at this point to a confused Vijay that they were talking about Santa Claus, whom they apparently regarded as their personal God.
Vijay turned to his sons and looked them in the eye. He opened his mouth, clearly about to launch into a speech to correct this false impression. But Pickle gave him a disarming smile, clutched his tummy and said
'Mujhe Potty aaya!' and ran away to do the needful. This deflated Vijay so much that he didn't even try with Papad, who had started describing the Naughty Santa-God again.
So, in short. We're still figuring it all out. And you?
Edited to add -
Conversation after this post:
Vijay: Do you know the Gayatri Mantra?
Pickle and Papad: Yesh! Ommm bhoor....bhuva swahaaa...
Vijay (enthused): Very good! ( Nods encouragingly, mouthing next line)
Pickle ( confused by Vijay's interruption): ...Aaa-ha Tamatar Bada Mazedar..
Papad ( picking up the threads quickly)....Ek din ussko patlu ne khaya...Motu ko bhi maar bhagaaya!
I rest my case.