What to do When the Balloons Escape
It has happened to you and it will happen again. This is the nature of life and it is beautiful!
It happened many decades ago, but I still remember it clearly.
I was walking on the beach in Madras – as Chennai was then known – and it was a glorious, balmy evening.
I did not get to see the ocean often as I lived in landlocked cities like Delhi and Ahmedabad. So, I watched the waves roll in and was at peace.
Madras has a wide beach – hundreds of feet of white sand that go on for miles. And, in those days, the beach was free of rubbish and the detritus of a large, urban population.
There were street vendors and enterprising tradesmen hawking snacks and a variety of knickknacks from small carts or shelves strapped to their chests.
I was watching a family with a small child. He must have been 4 or 5 years old and laughing uproariously. He would run forward and hide behind a bush or a cart or a passer-by and wait for his family to discover that he was not there.
There was a vendor who was selling hydrogen filled balloons and the boy’s eyes lit up. In India, in those days, hydrogen was much cheaper than helium and was the gas used to inflate balloons despite the safety hazards.
Hydrogen filled balloons are much livelier than those filled with helium and the vendor had tied three balloons to a small toy that was floating and it would have drifted off if it had not, in turn, been fastened to the handle of his cart.
The child’s eyes lit up. He really wanted a balloon.
He went to his parents and there was a confabulation. The mother wanted to get the balloon for her son. The father was resistant. They were well dressed so I do not think that finances were an issue, but who knows?
The confabulation became an altercation and the boy burst out crying. The father, with ill grace, stalked up to the vendor and asked for a balloon.
“What color?”, asked the vendor.
“It doesn’t matter,” said the father.
“I want red,” cried the child between sobs.
The hawker blew up a red balloon and carefully tied it to the boy’s wrist. Beaming, the boy ran up and down the beach pulling his new toy and making the balloon pitch up and down.
He passed a group of smokers and the string made momentary contact with a cigarette. That was long enough. The flaming end burnt through the string and the boy looked up at the balloon as it vanished into the sky.
He burst out crying. Loud, uncontrollable sobs wracked his small body. His mother tried to console him, with little success. His father initially had a smug “I told you so” look. Then, moved by his son’s grief, he also tried to divert his mind and also to no avail.
I remember that scene vividly.
How can you explain to a boy, who has just lost his beloved red balloon, and is weeping inconsolably, that it really does not matter? That, in the grand scheme of life, his loss is a trivial bump on the road?
And, for that matter, can you see that what you are disconsolate about – the promotion that did not come, the deal that slipped away, the breakthrough that never happened – are equally inconsequential in the drama of your life?
Think about it.