5.30 PM. The bell rings and the daughter rushes in like a strong gust of wind. “Where’s chettan?” I ask. “He’s coming. I’m going down to play,” the bag is thrown on one side, the uniform on the other, getting into another pair hastily, she’s gone before I could even say hello. A few moments pass, I can hear a pair of stealthy footsteps. Instead of straight to his room as usual, the steps go towards the book shelf in the living room. He tries to be as silent as he can,but a small clink of metal gives him away. “What’s it, Georgie?” I ask. “Nothing, amma ,” he says. But his eyes give him away, totally. I go inspecting and find a new one. “Why can’t you tell us, you idiot?” “What?” he asks, with that made up innocence in his eyes, again.
When did he turn so humble, I wonder. It’s as though he is hiding something. Finding crumpled certificates and long forgotten medals in his school bag is passé now. The best , or would I say, the worst was going for his PTI and realising that he was the captain of the sub junior school team. The boy never thought it worth even a mention.
Everything in life is relative. Time, especially so. An early Monday morning, 3.30 to be precise, the boy came out screaming, three weeks earlier than he was supposed to be. Always in a hurry, he had been creating a ruckus inside as well. The first movement was a kick on his father’s back. “Why did you poke me?” the husband asked one night. “Get used to it, that’s your genes,” I replied. Oh, the kind of shapes my tummy turned into. We would spend hours watching him wriggling inside. One part of the tummy would be stretched to such an extent that we could count the toes on his feet. One moment he would stretch long, turning his residence to resemble a baseball. Next moment, it would turn back into a perfect ball, with one point looking as though a long rod was sticking out. And so it would go, on and on. To say that the boy was impatient would be an understatement.
Out he came, and off he went to sleep. Every two hours, he would let out a tiny wail. It’s not for nothing that they say, when the baby is growing inside, you have to say your wish for them aloud. They will listen and obey. The first thing that I said aloud was, “when you are out, if you dare to irritate me with your loud wails, one tight slap I’ll give.” Yes, I am a horrible mother he knew, even before he was born. The poor boy must have been so petrified, he didn’t dare to raise his voice for years. The sister had to come and annoy him out of his peaceful reverie.
That saying is true, I have to vouch. For reasons different, though. What we love, we wish for our kids as well. I was prepared to go to any length to make him love books. The soon to be father echoed it. And I had time in plenty, those days. The doctor had arrested me to a bed, that too in an upside down position. And with my head down literally, I read out aloud to the impatient guy inside. Whether he quitened then or not, I do not remember. But, from the moment he could stretch out and grab anything with his hands, the little angel devoured books. For the amount of pages he has chewed on and gobbled down, his constitution seems to be quite strong. His first bout of real attempt at reading started with a set of 10 books. Blind reading it was. And repeated, every single morning, line after line. And one morning, miracle of all miracles, he read aloud it his first word. By recognition, not by rote. He was hooked.
Years later, we knew it was all worthwhile. As he went up and down between belief and disbelief, his voice shook and eyes brimmed with tears as he asked, “it won’t be true, right?” Life’slessons were being learned. He had just finished reading Lance Armstrong’s “It’s Not About The Bike: My Journey Back to Life” when the devastating news came out. His first real life lesson. That even Gods could have feet of clay.
Meanwhile, he had embarked on another journey. That of his father. A friend of mine had cautioned me not to make a bookworm out of him. We didn’t have to do anything about it, like the best things that happen in life. He selected cricket as his elective sport. Too many cooks made his broth perfect, he was turned down. Football came next. And still continues.
You think he is perfect? So did we, till the terrible tweens descended on us. The angel turned into a monster, almost overnight. As in everything else, it was upside down. Boys are supposed to rebel against their fathers, or so I thought. Till he floated into his teens. The smooth flow of mother and son relationship transformed itself into rapids, white and black. There were storms, tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes and sometimes all of it together in a small room in North Bangalore. Where did this monster come from, we wondered. Yes, I had read lots of books and countless number of articles on puberty, adolescence and what not. To no effect, I realize sadly. The Tao had not come into my life, yet. The father mediated, consoled and guided. It took almost two years to come to a middle ground. We still struggle to maintain that equilibrium, as his marks go haywire one term, and back to normal the next.
The realisation that he is a different being, came with a slap. Yes, I am very old fashioned that way, we get very physical at times. As I raised my hands in anger, never did the thought cross my mind that this could possibly be the last time. The boy defended with his arms and mine were almost crushed. And he started laughing as I was almost howling. “Amma, it doesn’t hurt anymore,” he quipped. And I laughed along with him, was there any other choice?
We grow along with him, as parents and as individuals. Moment after moment, year after year. Laughing inside as I scold him for reading hours after his bed time, hiding my Chemistry marks while shouting at him for his, for having no clue about what to do with his life while still searching for the meaning of it all. As we admonish him for lying about trivial things like buying an extra chocolate, we are forced to question how authentic we ourselves are.
He fights with his sister, annoys her no end. When it comes to times when she is hurt, he’s the first one to console her though, and make her laugh. We know he’ll be there for her, whenever needed. And she knows it too, as she annoys him back. At times we wonder whether this boy has turned totally inhuman, detached as he behaves. And then he gives us these pleasant shocks.
Fifteen may not be a watershed year to celebrate. But for us, who have been blessed to be reminded time and again that life can change in a second, that people who you thought would be with you till eternity suddenly leave us, there are constant reminders to live by the moment. That life is much more than grades and mundane measures of success.
So dear dude, as you turn fifteen do not think we are going to let go of our constant reminders and occasional shouting matches to study well, improve your marks and get your life together.
Our real wish for you though is,
“May you dream,
May your passionate dreams come true,
May you know content,
May you spread happiness and
May your happiness be your living!”
Happy Fifteenth, Georgie!