Jamghat Skills

Jamghat is a word that, loosely translated, means a thick, unruly crowd, or a state of chaos. It is something I’d go quite far out of my way to avoid.

Right behind our home is a small park. In the corner of this park closest to our home, a few swings and some slides have recently been erected. As with swings anywhere, these are always the centre of attention for all the neighbourhood kids. At any time of day, sound from the swings float into our kitchen, and at peak hours it’s a veritable cacophony.

I’ve largely avoided taking the kids to these swings, just because they are always so incredibly crowded in the evening hours. But last weekend the kids decided to curtail their afternoon nap at 4 p.m. I watched the tail end of Snowwhite with them, but they were so scared of the wicked queen, that they practically begged me to turn it off. So at 5, while the sun was still high and the heat palpable, we went to the swings. They were already crowded. Tara, who was a little under the weather, stayed by my side, but Mrini, somewhat to my surprise, gamely waded into the melee. It took a couple of minutes, but she eventually managed to get to one of the slides, slide down, and wade right back into the queue-less mess again. After she’d been at it for some time, Tara left my side and went to join in, too. Mrini took her by the hand and practically led her up and down the slide. Then they both were quite at ease in the thick of things.

At the risk of sounding elitist, biased, snobbish and a whole lot of other nasty things, I have to say that this mob consisted mostly of kids from the lowest strata of society. These were kids who wore torn clothes, had no footwear, rarely bathed and never combed their hair. Some of them were seven or eight years old. Their idea of asking was to push. Vigorously. Their idea of a queue was also much the same. Big kids yanked small kids vertically upwards by one arm to put them on a slide ahead of the rest of the mob. At the very mouth of the slide, a squirming mass of about 20 kids was squashed into a space meant – at most – for two.

And into this jamghat went my two little girls. They were completely unfazed by the utter lawlessness of the situation. Big kids pushed roughly past them, and they didn’t blink. They stood calmly wherever they wanted to and went whenever they wanted to. Somebody grabbed Tara from behind and dumped her on the slide, none too gently. She went down with complete composure, without the slightest expression of alarm or disgust or even indignation.

I could hardly believe my eyes! And as great as my disbelief was my sense of pride. Wow! Did my girls have coolth or what! And where on earth did they get that, considering I’m hardly a role model for it. It must be school. Or daycare. Or maybe it’s just who they are, for the moment.

But still… Like, wow!

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