It was one of those weekends when having a even a ceiling fan at full blast didn’t give any respite from the heat at 9PM in the night. The doors of the house were open for cross ventilation but that didn’t help a bit. And to add to this, my 7-year old niece was asking questions. I realized that i shouldn’t have shown her the photos from the past. One particular photo of her uncle (her Dad’s younger brother) and her mom (my sister) had her face go pale. This picture had her uncle holding painting he had made. Maybe the thought of his sad demise had affected her. But when she had commented about the beauty of the painting, I thought she had moved on beyond the paleness. Not to be. Two hours later she popped the question.
‘Will I be reborn after I die?’.
A very serious question for a 7-year old indeed. My parents, who were in the room as well, shushed her not to ask such questions but she persisted. I was in a quandary. I decided to answer anyways.
I asked her ‘Have you played with Play dough?“.
My niece was surprised but said ‘Yes’.
I asked, ‘What happens to the figurines once you are done playing with them?‘.
she replied ‘they go back into the box‘.
I told ‘That’s right‘. And added, “Even we are like the play dough. God makes human shapes out of his play dough and sends us on earth. we come here, live our purpose, have fun and then God puts us back to his play dough box‘
Pat came the next question, ‘What is the purpose He(God) sends us for?’
I reply, ‘For some its to be a good parent, for some its to be good children, some of us go on to be good painters, some of us go on to be good writers’.
She then told, ‘I want to be a good painter’. I remarked ‘Good!’ thinking that this conversation was about to end. Not to be.
She asked ‘Granny told me that we are reborn after our death. I want to be reborn. Will I be reborn as the same kid I am now?
I twitched uncomfortably in my seat. After some thought,I replied ‘Maybe, But if God puts you back in his play dough box you are mixed along with other dough. I am not very sure if he will create the same person that you are now‘.
My niece seemed satisfied for the moment.The trail of questions ended there. I gave a sigh of relief that I survived the day.
One wonders what would have happened if I had shushed her. It would have been a temporary respite to the situation. But what if the question surfaced again or what if shushing her would just kill the habit of asking questions in her. Kids question as its their way of understanding the world around them. Somehow as they grow up they lose this habit. Maybe its the parent, or the education system (including shushing teachers) or maybe its the fear of looking foolish in front of others. Everyday we witness countless situations where people bottled up those questions instead of letting them in the open. Reminds me of a quote my ex-boss used at the end of his meetings, ‘Remember! There are no silly questions’.
So next time a question pops into your head. Just ask!
And next time a child asks you an uncomfortable question. Think, choose your words and then answer. Even ‘I don’t know’ and ‘Lets find out together’ are perfectly acceptable answers.