I endured the greatest challenge of my life when I was only 10. But funnily enough, up to that point, and for four years after that, my mind is almost a complete blank. I cannot recollect any event, except for that brief period after my 10th birthday, the first day I went to school and the day I was circumcised. There are, of course, flashes of memory, but the detail has somehow got lost in the mists of time. It was just after my 10th birthday when the gloomiest time of my life started to unfold itself. Was it depression or just an unexplained inner turmoil? I found myself wandering aimlessly in the streets with this heavy, sinking feeling in my chest. It was as if a thick and permanent cloud hung over me. Every human that passed me was hostile and so was every other surrounding. It never really showed on my face, nor affected my behaviour, but I could never shake it off. I did not think anybody suspected that I was on the verge of an emotional breakdown. However, I did approach my mother for help whose answer did help me to understand. She said: Just keep yourself busy and never allow yourself a moment of dullness. Why do you think I always potter around in the house? I did get busy by starting retreating inwardly where I found solace in day-dreaming. I could venture far afield in an imaginative melodrama that knew no bounds. I did so because the world could not offer any solution and nothing could cheer me up. Literature became my friend - both the read and written word. Every other child saw the pages of the Arabian Nights, as small print on yellow paper. I saw much more than that. The characters sprang into life the moment I flicked through the pages and Sheharazade could not be more real. Her beauty, wisdom and cunningness in keeping the Sultan of Persia amused and intrigued me. The dramatic appearance of the Princess Badoura in the private chamber of Kamaralzaman triggered off my young imagination. I shared the joy of Hakan when he could finally present his lovely slave, as a wife to his son. I now seriously suspect that the reasons I cannot recollect much of my childhood rest heavily on those few months. To get away from the depressing moods, I 'blanked out my thoughts by turning fictitious characters into real people since people around me failed me. I have tried very hard to find what had triggered it off and the answer is a complete mystery. I did not have an emotionally deprived childhood before then and I guess, in my untrained mind, it was just bad body chemistry that did not agree with the rest of my system. How could I attempt to explain it in any other way? I have now come to terms with it and have largely put the ghost to rest. I now do the only sensible thing I can. I watch my children for any overzealous behaviour like clinging to something for a long period of time. I did that by becoming a bookworm - not that now I have any regrets. Well, on second thoughts, times are different now and children today literally glue themselves to the television or computers and that may not fall under the category of 'overzealousness. However as parents, we must not take for granted that the children are happy. Locking themselves in games and television does not mean they are alright. Just take a closer look to make sure everything is alright. Khaleej Times