Odds and Ends: The Humble Balloon

Odds and Ends: The Humble Balloon
Photo: Tirachard Kumtanom
A monthly column about miscellaneous things, curated by Palash Krishna Mehrotra

While most toys look like a toy version of life-size items, the balloon looks like itself. 

It is outlandish. When toddlers see it, they are transfixed by it. This bright orb that floats. The balloon is a friendly alien, it is like ET.

The balloon is like a temporary pet. Even if you kick it, the balloon does not mind. It goes under the table or floats away into another room. 

This is probably why children weep when it pops and disappears or floats away into the sky. Their podgy pet has vanished.  

The balloon teaches kids that fun can end any moment, Pop!

The balloon provides comic relief. We shoo away emptiness with it. You take drab officious places; govt. offices, classrooms, but with balloons they transform. This is because a balloon is essentially funny to look at, like Oliver Hardy. Its rotundness, signals fun and levity.

In the days before Facebook and selfies when there was nothing to show we are having a good time; the kids came home with a balloon. It meant we’d had some rollicking fun. The balloon was a marker of good times. We had ‘enjoyed’.

The balloon above all is a symbol of life’s simple pleasures. Fill your lungs with joy and blow it out and voila, there it is. It speaks to the child in all of us. The balloon is an antidote for adulthood that hardens us. It reveals our ability to be excited about something as simple as inflated air.

The balloon is an uncontrived, genuine way to show our happiness.

It is akin to blowing a kiss with a loud smack or waving with love ‘tata, bye-bye’. 

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