It isn't everyday that a man can beam happily even as someone pulls his ear and administers a fairly audible smack to his cheek. Nevertheless, I have a witness to state that this is how I responded to the above mentioned pull and smack, a few days ago...
To be honest, neither of the actions was painful because they weren't really intended to hurt me... I saved this little detail for now, just to make the first paragraph a little more interesting! :D My apologies for the sauciness... and don't get me wrong...I'm hardly the type to remain passive if intentional violence is directed at my person!
The incident I'm referring to occurred in a music class that I attend. My teacher, whom I call "Didi" (Hindi for older sister) inspired this post. I don't think I will never forget the look on her face as she leaned forward to pull my ear... it is a very happy and meaningful memory for me.
Didi took me under her wing a few months ago, to teach me the nuances of semi-classical music. Not only are her classes teaching me various types of such music, they are also helping me discover my voice in its entirety. She's helping me learn how to sing without being self-conscious (which I have a tendency to be) and with complete confidence in myself. Her lessons are sprinkled liberally with trademark metaphors and admonishments, all tailored to drive home some vital points. She once told me that there was no point in trying to hide my mistakes by singing softly because she would catch them anyway and then get annoyed because she'd think I was trying to conceal them. She added quite pointedly that the reason I was in her class was for her to find my errors so she could help me correct them...so where was the sense in being 'discreet'? The lesson hit me like a flat stone in the centre of my forehead! Good heavens! There I was trying so hard to avoid making errors, while someone was willing to let me make them, sans judgement and in fact, waiting to help me overcome them!
We seldom have the luxury of returning to a situation where our environment is tolerant of the mistakes we make...when someone is waiting patiently, to pick us up each time we fall and show us where we went wrong the last time. I use the term 'returning' because to be in a situation like this, is akin to being a child again, when a caregiver is there to help a toddler learn to walk, read, write, discover the world...
Didi is helping me discover my voice in baby steps that mean the world to me. I'm hearing myself clearly for the first time, experiencing what my voice can do and understanding what I can do to improve it. In her presence, I feel like a little boy, eager to show his teacher what he has learnt to do, and to learn as much as he can from her. I remember the delight with which I learnt things from my kindergarten teachers, because I feel the same connection with her... both when she praises my efforts and when she corrects me.
It is only when we grow older that we begin to cherish how wonderful it is to be taken care of...to be called lovingly by a nickname...to be told it's alright if we don't get it right the first time... When Didi pulled my ear and smacked my cheek, she did it affectionately, playfully because I had delayed in relaying some good news to her. It felt wonderful to me, because I felt that she had asserted her right to partake of my happiness... because she thinks of herself as my caregiver.
I hope you have loads of people in you life, who make you feel this way... parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers etc. The next time you give them a hug, put in a extra squeeze... :)