20 February 2015

Wallflowers are pretty, aren’t they?

This is the twenty first article in a series I am writing for the JEANS section of 'The Nation'.  The series is for children. Adults consider yourselves warned...you might re-discover a child within you! Scroll down for other articles in this series. 

In case you are wondering, yes, there is a flower by that name.  Wallflowers are fragrant and come in clusters of yellow, orange, brown, red or purple. They are grown or have become ‘naturalized’ on old walls and cliffs in Southern Europe.  We are referring to a different kind of ‘wallflower’ here. 

These wallflowers are all over the place.  You might not even know they exist because…well, because they are, simply, ‘wallflowers’.  They are not in-your-face.  They don’t prance around. They don’t shout out, ‘here I am, notice me!’  But still, they are all over the place. 

Think about a crowd of people.  Think of those in a classroom.  Children at play during the school interval.  Children at a party.  Think of any such situation.  Think of the last time you played with friends.  Now ask yourself who was there with you.  Some names will immediately come to mind. One or two who stand out, not because they are better or more beautiful than the rest but they somehow take center stage.   Those in the center are naturally noticed.  Those on the sides get missed. 

So we have popular girls and boys in a school or a class.  They are often decision makers.  They set the pace.  Others tag along.  And in most situations children who don’t want to feel left behind will gravitate towards those who stand out or are popular.  Everyone wants to be friends with such children.  There’s nothing wrong in doing that of course.  We all want to feel ‘belonged’ and we all like everyone to see us ‘belonged’.  

Now think again.  Who did you miss when you tried to remember people at the party?  There must be one or two you just can’t remember, right?  Have you ever wondered why?  Forget that, have you ever wondered what kind of people they are?  ‘Boring,’ did you say to yourself just now?

The thing is that this world is made of all kinds of people.  Some attract attention, some do not. Some want to be seen and other don’t really worry what the world thinks of them.  Some feel left out if they are not with the popular people, others are fine wherever they are. 

Then there are the wallflowers.  They are shy or are seen to be shy.  Maybe they are by nature quiet and since they don’t often voice opinion cease to be noticed by and by.  Sometimes they ever earn the tag ‘loser’.  Now who would want to associate a loser, right? Who would want to be seen with one? 

But have you ever wondered what goes through the minds of such people?  Plenty!  People who are not busy trying to be ‘in’ with the ‘gang’, people who don’t chatter all the time so they get noticed, and people who are not invited to play with the rest do one thing better than most people who tag along so they don’t feel like outcasts.  They observe.  They notice things.  They have all the time in the world to ask themselves questions and come up with answers.

Now it could be that they too crave attention just like any other child.  For some reason they don’t get it and they don’t know how to get it.  But they don’t fall over and die.  They don’t roll up in a corner and go to sleep.  They are beautiful, these wallflowers.  They perfume the world in their own way.  They have enough reason to feel proud of themselves, even if others don’t think they do and even if they themselves don’t think they do. 

We notice the roses bursting out of floral decorations, screaming ‘I am pretty, am I not?’  We don’t notice the tiny flowers that are in the corner of a garden or are on creepers that cling to a wall. Sometimes we are so taken up with the roses we don’t realize there are other flowers, perhaps far more fragrant.  We make ‘not noticing’ a practice and very soon we end up convinced that ‘wallflowers’ don’t even exist.  

If you happen to be a wallflower, smile.  There will always be one or two who will notice you, who will appreciate your color and fragrance.  ‘One or two’ is worth a million who don’t have the time or the eyes to notice.

And if you are not a wallflower, talk to one.  The child sitting all alone in the corner of a room or at the edge of a playground might change the way you see the world.

Other articles in this series