I wouldn’t dream of generalizing, of course, but can I please say the above lines to all the middle schoolers out there? ‘You are weird, I like you!’
I found this sentence on my thirteen year old daughter’s i Touch welcome page. The conventional me frowned at this and condescendingly shook my head, ‘Kids!’ I patronized.
Weird, in our days, was used mainly as an insult. A brief history of the word ‘weird’, according to Oxford Dictionary is this:
Old English wyrd ‘destiny’, of Germanic origin. The adjective (late Middle English) originally meant ‘having the power to control destiny’, and was used especially in the Weird Sisters, originally referring to the Fates, later the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth; the latter use gave rise to the sense ‘unearthly’.
The ever evolving language had changed the meaning to the ones we know now – bizarre, odd, something preternatural or supernatural. The teenagers seem to have embraced the original meaning of the word, and are bowing to this power to control fate. They are slowly emerging from the cocoon of their innocent childhood and looking at the huge world around them with a fresh pair of eyes and newly formed sense of self. They are trying to make sense of the chaotic world in their own terms. According to them, the possibilities are endless, they are in charge of their destiny. They are slowly letting go of their parents’ fingers as they test the waters, push the envelope. They believe they have the power to control their fate, they are weird and they like it. At this junction of my life, when I am mostly tired and wilting, I look up to them to draw energy. They are my sunshine, so bright and radiant. I celebrate this age along with the poet Sukanto Bhattacharya
এ বয়স জেনো ভীরু, কাপুরুষ নয়
পথ চলতে এ বয়স যায় না থেমে,
এ বয়সে তাই নেই কোনো সংশয়–
এ দেশের বুকে আঠারো আসুক নেমে।।
E boyesh jeno bhiru, kapurush noy
Poth cholte e boyesh jaye na theme,
E boyeshe tai nei kono shongshoy-
E desher buke atharo ashuk neme.
Unfortunately, I am no translator but the gist of the lines is this:
This age is not one of cowardice,
This age is unstoppable in its pursuit of its dream
This age has no doubt or fear
Let this age bless our country.
Often times, when the children were young, they would pass a judgment on a peer ‘Mom, so and so is so weird’ only to be reprimanded by me, ‘nobody is weird, people can be different and that makes the world so much more exciting.’ The word ‘weird’ was not entertained in our household, precisely because the mother and the father grew up disliking the meaning of the word. It stood against our value of celebrating our differences. It reeked of segregation, disrespect.
But language is called fluid for a reason. My daughter likes someone who is weird. What does the word mean to her? Weird is someone who is non conformist, who thinks outside the box, who pushes the boundaries without hurting others. Weird is the new word for visionary. At this age, teenagers form a band – the band of the misunderstood, the victims of their parent’s persecution and unfair curfews. They break free from what the parents think is normal. Normal is so relative, I am reminded often. Being weird is a good thing, I learn and accept.
I like this weird generation a lot. Yes, despite the eyerolls, the grunts, the exasperated sighs, the trance like state when they are busy communicating virtually, I simply love them. I love the excess of emotions, both tears and laughter, (and yes, there are frustrations sometimes). I love the positivism, the self-reliance, the emerging independence. I love their view of their world. I love their new-found ability to peel off the surface and look beneath for deeper meaning of life, of world. They are vulnerable still, they are still malleable, to some extent, but not for long. They are a work in progress still, but inching closer towards completion.
The poet who I turn to again and again to find a way to express my emotions, Rabindranath Tagore, celebrates the youth with these words; and he too uses the word adbhut, a Bangla word that can be loosely translated to…..wierd!
Amra nutan jouben er i dut
Amra chonchol, amra adbhut.
We are the messenger of New age
We are restless, we are strange;
We are the messenger of Youth.
Strange denoting different. Different is good, different should be revered, celebrated. Isn’t that what we teach our children as well?