At home, the Room in which Anarchy Reigns (which is to say, the room in which — with all the accoutrements of her churning, frenetic, innocent, messy, bewildered, thrilling eight-year-old life — our daughter dwells), is a shrine to someone called Mister Maker.
On a BBC channel called CBeebies, Mister Maker hosts what the channel calls “the ultimate children’s arts and crafts show which teaches and entertains in fun and imaginative ways”.
His inspiration to make art comes from “everything around him”. With scissors, glue, cardboard, tinfoil, coloured paper, cork, caps of bottles, wool, twine, with anything at all, he snips, sticks, frames, folds, draws, doodles, paints, and turns into striking, colourful objets d’art the stuff that lies around in people’s homes.
Oishi adores him, and, following his instructions, has turned out dozens of figurines, vases, boats, photo frames… all of which are in the Room in which Anarchy Reigns.
Only very recently, Mister Maker taught his admirers how to make out of thick cardboard a vase shaped like a boat, cake it with papier mache, colour it, and, inside, on a base of dough, stick a collection of flowers made from straws and cards.
Oishi watched the show with mounting excitement, but the enthusiasm was almost extinguished when she discovered afterwards that thick cardboard was not in as abundant supply at home as required.
Not being one to forget about things she is keen on and hasn’t been able to get her hands on, she moped about this for a bit for a few days until my wife told her (in that familiarly brief but emphatic manner that precludes further discussion) to not whine, that it’s all right, could she please learn something new from Mister Maker, because we weren’t about to go and buy thick cardboard for this project.
Luck turned up in the office. It is that time of the year, and I have been getting more desk calendars than I have use for. A couple of days after the conversation that precluded further conversation on the matter, three of them turned up.
I eased the calendars out of their thick cardboard boxes. I gave the calendars away. And stuffed my bag with the boxes. As I neared home, I couldn’t stop smiling to myself.
Giving them to Oishi, I watched as her face was transformed by surprise and delight. It felt grand. I felt grand. Ian McEwan has a passage about this sort of thing (a father giving his child an inexpensive gift) in one of his stories: “They felt, and for that short period they were, grand, wise, reflective, kind-hearted and expansive, and perhaps, who knows, a little divine.”
Who but a child could you ever make so genuinely happy by a gift of boxes that held calendars you gave away? Who but a child so genuinely happy with a gift you have given her could make an adult feel so grand?
And, by the way, the vase and flowers turned out really well.
(Soumya Bhattacharya’s novel, If I Could Tell You, is in stores)