Terrorists at home
“MUMMY,” said my six year-old. “what is the meaning of terrorists and extremists?” That stumped me and I hurried to look them up in the dictionary.
I patiently explained to him that an extremist is one who carries ideas foolishly too far while a terrorist is one who tries to frighten people into doing what he wants,
“You mean papa is a terrorist?”
“Well ” I hesitated, “not exactly, he only wants you to do what he says.”
“You mean he does not use machine-guns and hide in your puja room?”
“Yes,” I said brightly, “see, papa is not a terrorist. All terrorists have machine-guns and hide inside temples. “They have to be flushed out”
“But,” he asked perplexed.” “You flush out only in the bathroom, not in the temple.”
This was getting too thick for me. Actually, it’s my own fault. I am one of those with a fetish for the English language and urge my son to read the paper aloud. Fed with headlines on terrorists and extremists, it has become his staple diet.
The other day I heard him tick his brother off saying, “Chinko, you are an extremist and I’ll flush you out of this house.” Not to be outdone, Chinko said, “I’ll gun you down.” “How can you? I’ll hide in mama’s puja room.Then I’ll come and flush you out.”
“OK children,” I intervened. It was getting too far. I mean, I did not mind the little ones trying to ape Rakesh Sharma in his weightlessness and bumping into the coffee table; I tolerated their making a mountain out of the mattresses and pillows and climbing them, like the Everest expedition: I was patient with them when they pretended to be Hindu and Muslim and forced garlands made out of their sandals, on each other; I tried not to look horrified, when they set fire to their cousin’s doll, saying that they were burning the mother-in-law for a change and was so pleased when they pinned improvised medals on each other as awards for gallantry.
But this pre-occupation with extremist and terrorist jargon was going beyond the limit. Now I’ve become wiser. I don’t insist on them reading the paper. Instead I encourage them to read Amarachitrakatha to imbibe the qualities of the heroes of mythology.
“Mummy,” said Chinko other day, “Is Lord Vishnu terrorist?”
“No dear, why do you ask.”
“Because, he frightened Lord Bali into doing what he wants, by becoming big — as big as the sky.”
“Now, darling,” I chided gently, “You are being an extremist by carrying this foolishly too far.
I guess it will take the little ones a long time to flush these two words, out of their system!