By Sargam Sharma:
Hobbes, Ivan, Bloo and Caput.
Wondering what I’m talking about? Well, I’m talking about the resplendent world of imaginary friends. It’s a growing social phenomenon which has been under scrutiny since the late 19th century. If we look into the subject of imaginary friends, it brings three indispensable and vital dimensions of human life under analysis — childhood, friendship and imagination.
Imaginary friends come in all shapes and sizes, exist for children of all ages (even adults) and serve a variety of purposes. Contrary to popular belief, all imaginary friends do not have a human form. The most famous example of this being Hobbes, the ‘imaginary’ half of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip by Bill Watterson. The strip was run for a period of ten tears from 1985 to 1995 and is still adored by people of all ages. Hobbes is a sardonic stuffed tiger who comes to life for Calvin in their moments of great adventure. Together, they explore the world around them, learn the subtle nuances of human interaction and have a great time in each other’s company.
Another popular misconception is that imaginary friends are created as a respite by problem children. First of all, I believe that no child is a ‘problem’, only children living in problematic situations. Studies show that children who have interacted with imaginary friends have better social and inter personal skills compared to those who haven’t. Also, finding respite in your own imagination is not something to be looked down upon, but a skill worth nurturing. In her book, ‘If You Could See Me Now’ Cecelia Ahern shows us how Elizabeth gets rid of the baggage of a troubled past with the ‘help’ of her nephew’s imaginary friend, Ivan. When you turn the last page of the book, you will realize that Ivan was only an extension of Elizabeth’s own strength and kindness.
Younger kids are more likely to keep company of imaginary friends than older kids for the simple reason that a pre-schooler is much less worried about fitting in as compared to a school going child. As depicted in the hilarious and ingenious cartoon show ‘Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends’ where abandoned imaginary friends could come for shelter. The now grown up kids would often come to visit their ‘friend’ and spend some time being 6 year olds all over again.
Running a kite you cut with your friend trailing behind you, sitting on a starlit rooftop and conjuring plans to change the world, fighting over the last sip of cold drink, laughing incessantly on jokes only the two of you understand, these are few of the innumerable, unparalleled joys of friendship. Does it really matter if you partner in crime is an external entity or someone spurred by your own imagination? The power of imagination is mankind’s biggest strength. Our own personal way to decorate a world badgered with afflictions.
“Let the bliss last, lest the light goes out.”