Sunday, May 07, 2006

THE SWING

I entered with a big delighted grin on my face.
" Aaj pata Maine kya kiya ?" ( you know what I did today )
Perhaps it was that grin that acted as a damper to his mood. He sat down heavily and picked up his paper " Kya ?"
" Main jhoole pe baidhi ..."
" kahan ?"
" garden me"
" Hoon ". The grump in that response effectively evaporated my grin.
***********

Why, I ruminated, did women love swings ? Isn't it curious -- except for trapeze artists, you never see men on swings. It is always women and girls who are on the swings, in the gardens, the public parks, the playgrounds, the private jhoolas in homes, everywhere, all the time, in art, in literature, in song, in festivals, in the seasons, whatever.
What is the special link between women and swings ? I had never given it another thought until that morning.
One morning when I had walked through the almost somnolent garden, a few early walkers and yogasaners. The deserted swings in the children's playarea beckoned sensually.
Should I, dare I ? even as two young college girls took advantage of that rare opportunity : ever seen a swing in a children's park ever idle, except at 6.30 a.m. in the morning ? I walked determinedly on.
The next day, the area was again deserted. Again the swings beckoned. I belonged to a family that was totally urban, females repressed into rooms, no gardens, no swings .... ever. I could not recall ever sitting on a swing in childhood; except if that massive old world bed mounted on hooks would qualify for a "swing" swing.
I sat down gingerly on the swing, moving first back and then forward. The sudden loss of equilibrium, feet off the earth, shook me. I started to feel self-conscious " People must be looking ", I thought. Then consciously decided to ignore the thought.
The first few swings were plain, childlike fun. Then I aimed higher; and doing so, stretched my arms and put back my head.
I felt the soaring air and was swept up in its current. In my line of vision came proud tree tops, touching the sky. It was a balmy cloudy day; as yet, no rays of sun had pierced the cloud cover to expose my elation.
Suddenly, I broke free - of that self-conscious " What will people think ?" , of self-imposed regulations of time " There's so much to be done still.."

Now I knew : Why do women only sit on swings ?
It is for that momentary breaking of their eternal bondages. Up there, you are one with the clouds, the birds, the air. those velvet lined, gold chains around the ankles are left behind down there somewhere, as you soar high on your imagination and feel yourself FREE ........ MOMENTARILY
All too soon, you're back, with feet on the earth. The sound of the creaking swings is telling you " Time's up. go home".
Is it only the women who need those breaks from the earth-linked bondage, who need that feeling of freedom, no matter how momentarily, when one is linked to no-one, tied to no-one, dependent on nothing but that little piece of wood underneath and the two ropes holding it up ?
The Male of the Species has created his own world, his own identity and his own rules. the rules that dictate that when I went back a week later, the swings were patrolled by sharp-eyed chowkidars even that early in the morning.
In any case, my affair with the swing was over. When I thought about it, the idea of sitting on the swing and reaching the clouds had lost its novelty and was almost scary. Was it because I had reverted to my conditioning ? the years of loss of freedom resulting in a fear of freedom, a fear of even the sense of freedom from the pulls of natural and social gravity that the swing represented.
The Males of the Species have their freedom. They do not need the crutch of a swing to express or to discover its highs.

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