We are living in weird times. There is no need to elaborate on what is causing strife in our lives. It is well documented, and social media has ensured that we are alive to whatever is happening with clarity, even though we may not want to watch the news. People are trying to deal with this in a myriad of ways. Painting, cooking, baking and whatever might help keep their wits about them, is being tried. The challenges increase for parents with young child/children in their households. Managing young ones and trying to keep them safe is easier said than done!
One of the many things that we have been trying to keep our child occupied with is origami. The idea is to make a toy out of folded paper and then let her imagination run wild. This was especially gratifying when I made a frog for her and she immediately started cutting a rectangular sheet of blue paper. This was followed by cutting some green paper. After a point of time what we ended up with was a pool with green leaves, and the frog was made to jump from leaf to leaf! Another thing that we do occasionally is to make paper planes.
“I was so happy I wanted to fold all the people into paper airplanes and fly them into the lidless eye of that big yellow moon.”
The internet is full of all kinds of amazing planes that you can fashion out of paper; gliders, darts, winged and what not. What we normally do is to make two or three different models and have a competition as to which one flies longer, albeit in the confines of our house. Given the lockdown, we have forbidden ourselves from going out, so this arrangement is the best that we can manage. Anyway, once the planes are made, my daughter embellishes them with colours, glitter, sequin and basically whatever she can lay her hands on. This ensures that every model that comes out from our “factory” is an absolute original! And then starts, to use an absolute cliché, the “flight of fantasy”.
It was in the midst of one such bout of ebullience that I was stuck with the intrigue of it all. Here we are, in the middle of something momentous in human history, with grand theories and stories, and all it takes for the human spirit to soar is the act of a scrap of paper gliding through the air. I don’t think I know anyone, who has seen a paper plane in its flight and looked away without seeing it land. Flying is the human equivalent of infinity, the conquest of air being something not bestowed upon us by evolution and therein lies the fascination. There is a reason Superman is called Super. He can fly. And a lot of other superheroes have that one quality in them because in the thoughts of their creators that is the one thing which adds vastness to the notion of that character. Once you can fly, you are only limited by the boundaries of your imagination.
With flight also comes freedom, and the pandemic, along with death and destruction, has robbed us of that. It has been pressing on us, coming closer and keeping us indoors, sending out tentacles in search of victims. Someone once said that birds can fly and we can’t is simply because they have perfect faith, and to have faith is to have wings. Maybe, in a very small way, through the smile of a child, this is us showing our stand, our faith. We might be indoors, but we are keeping our hopes high, waiting patiently for that sunny day. I have always rated the art of origami very highly because it creates stories out of rectangles. It is also an example of human ingenuity and resourcefulness and in these times when hope is low and joy is scarce, we need to remind ourselves that as a species we are capable of magnificence. In making a listless sheet of paper take wings we are telling our oppressor that there are few forces more potent than the optimism of man.