As my daughter briskly walks into teenage, I fume away unsure of how to tell her the world is not black and white like the way she perceives it right now. The parent in me doesn't want her to step outside the bubble, but the pragmatic in me knows there is no foolproof way of keeping her thus. The Easter and the long weekend is gone. The unpredictable English weather was wet and cold although it was technically three weeks into Spring. Daffodils have made their way out of the earth, giving us a rare opportunity to smile in this dreary weather. Despite the bad weather, my daughter wanted to go for a drive. There are no scenic routes in Reading, but the countryside is twenty minutes away. So I decided to drive on A4 or Bath Road. I am not sure if this road leads to the city of Bath, which houses the old baths used by Romans centuries ago. From Reading, this road takes me to Theale, Aldermaston and eventually Newbury.
I used to travel this route a few years back when I was doing a short stint in Newbury. I was always restless during those trips, never really enjoying the train journey but anxiously counting the number of stations. The name Aldermaston caught my eyes because it was longer than the rest of the names and gave out an aura of being created by concatenating two words. When I read Bill Bryson after a few years, I realized Aldermaston has historical significance. It is connected to UK's nuclear weapons programme and is home to the Atomic Weapons Establishment. Bill Bryson talks about the establishment and protests known as Aldermaston marches in the 1950s and 1960s. Imagine my surprise on passing the town countless times ignorant of the fingerprints of history. These days, it has become easy to protest in the age of social media. To do the same in those days, it required not only courage but endless reserves of resolve.
Looking at the countryside from a train and driving through it in a car are two different things. In a few minutes, we were in Theale and in the country. In the elapsed time, I quickly figured out my daughter's definition of a drive. It is settling in the seat, switching on the radio and staring ahead. By the time I figured as much, I was faced with another difficult task. Your child will always have a bit of you in them. Sometimes, it is the part which you would like to forget; the one on which you have spent countless hours and energy to erase from your daily behavior. When you think you have succeeded, your offspring magically displays the same characteristic. Pondering this quirky phenomenon, I was smiling, then grinning and finally struggling to suppress the grin. Very soon, we approached Aldermaston. Eager to show off my knowledge, I mentioned about the atomic establishment for which the area was famous for.
After a brief pause, she asked if the only two atomic bombs used in World War II were made here in Aldermaston. The facility in Aldermaston was not established on 1st April 1950. Although I was not aware of this fact, I knew the bombs were American. So I quickly pointed it out. Another pause followed which was broken with another question. Why did the Americans bomb the Japanese? The Japanese look so innocent. On hearing this question, I froze. These were difficult questions; challenging to explain to a tweenager. Innocence and Looks. Both these traits have nothing to do with war and alliances. How will I describe the politics behind partnerships? How will I explain that there might have been more than two bombs? The world doesn't comprise of black and white. Often the edges are so smudged that everyone is has a darker shade of grey. As she becomes more educated, the more confused she will become.
The bubble of an uncomplicated world is bound to blow up someday. My breathing became irregular, thinking about my daughter's eventual disappointment. As my blood pressure shot up, I turned to look at her. There she was, listening to the radio, blissfully ignorant and lazily focused on the road. At that point, I did what any other parent would do. I mumbled something about Pearl Harbor and changed the subject. I am not going to thwart the beautiful world for her. Let her enjoy the uncomplicated world for a bit longer.
Photo Courtesy: Antony ***