Its her birthday today. We try to create some magic for her. She is so very completely giving and loving in completely self-effacing way that it would require summoning of the best investigative capabilities of the Intelligence Bureau to figure out that it is her birthday. A glance at her passport or a cursory look into the eyes of the folks around her would be a dead giveaway. But then, who am I to comment upon the investigative capabilities of the intelligence bureau?
Today, her eyes dart around. And when the cake is wheeled in, she coils up in embarrassment. She hasn’t cut any cake before. Not that we know of. As she cuts this cake, long wistful glances are thrown around the house. The knife is wielded on the cake and a candle blown out. She smiles and says, ‘I wish my granddaughter was around’.
My mom. It’s her birthday. We live in different cities. But today, we gather around. The granddaughter and the missus are missed.
We sit around and talk.
“What were we like amma, when we were growing up?” I ask. My nephews play around. My brother sits eagerly awaiting an answer. Like a news hack awaiting a sound bite from the President of India, who is stoking his chin, thinking of an answer to a rather uncomfortable question.
‘Naughty’ she says. Cryptically. We are all silent. Awaiting more from her, we dig into wholesome lumps of butterscotch cake. Which nestles on our lips for fleeting seconds before rushing to bloat our hips for a lifetime.
She speaks. Of the cricket matches that we played and how I got into fist cuffs. She recollects the names of my school Principals. As she speaks some of their visages come alive for me. Their parent-teacher meetings. “One of them wrote with such a clean hand on all your report cards. Ah, the report cards, you know. I have them all preserved. From Kindergarten” she says.
I feel my stomach churn.
“You have all of them?” I ask. Half in surprise and half in sheer fright. An eerie feeling engulfs the mind. There were some parts of my history that have moved from ‘classified information’ to ‘events that didn’t happen’. In my mind, of course.
She quickly moves on. Sharing her memories of the BIG dilemma my dad and she faced. Either to let us be and risk ‘ridicule’ or fall in line with the world that was then, and force us study “Medicine or Engineering” as was the case with the world.
“ Weren’t you scared?” My brother asks. “To just let us choose whatever we wanted to do?”
“Of course we were! Sometimes. But by and large, we thought you would figure out things.” she says. And adds, “We still think so”. My brother and I exchange pronounced glances. And smile! She laughs.
Truth be told, we weren’t bad students. But we were carefree ones at that. I read. My brother sketched. We took on the Sun and played cricket for all the time that fiery yellow things was out in the Sky. He left us with a tan for two lifetimes. We couldn’t care less. We read, we ran, and practiced the art of knocking down raw mangoes from trees with stones aptly supported by a precision that would have had the Chinese archers cowering in the bushes. A sincere pursuit of that would have won us an Olympic medal or two.
Alas. We returned home and managed to keep our head above water when it came to exam time. The rest as they say is history! But the point is, she was there all along. Knowing. Cajoling. Scolding. All of it in a very loving way. Yet, letting us be.
Struggling to instill the basics of life into boys who were bent on beating the Sun must have been a tough act. But staying in the background to let us figure out the rest sure must have been tougher.
Today, memories rush in. Of fumbling theatre performances. Of medals. Cups. Embarrassments. Parent teacher meetings. Failures. Injuries. Basketball games. Hopes. I realise they would have alternated between cringing and beaming when people mentioned us! But they sure didn’t show when they cringed.
We having our own children have resurfaced memories from our childhood. Decades ago, it must have been far tougher.
These days as I summon all the patience in the world when my daughter scribbles on a brand new shirt, just as am ready to leave for a conference, realisation fills a joyfully vacuous space. Realisation that my parents must have taken the same road before me. Filled with similar anxieties. Summoning patience. Balancing jobs, health and a society that was watching their every move.
Life has galloped by. But they rode it rather well. In their own unique way.
As proof of our journey a few horses leap about in our living room. At our home. There is one horse that represents each one of us. Dad. Mom. Myself. Brother. Our misuses. And our kids. So she has planned. Every new arrival in the family leads to a new horse getting added! We live in different cities but the horses get a wash and a cleanup often. ‘It reminds me of each of you’. So she says.
They gave everything they had to give us a good education. An upbringing that we could be proud about. I am in a pensive mood. A joyful sort of quiet pensive.
“Are you still thinking of your report cards?” She asks.
I smile. “It’s a different report card amma” I say. “I wonder if I can give your granddaughter half of the upbringing you gave your sons”.
She laughs. “Life gallops fast. Don’t trouble yourself too much. You take care of your half. I’ll take care of the other”. I can’t argue with her.
Kavi dabbles in writing, reading, traveling, photography, long distance running amongst other things. He and Shanti have their hands full with their adorable toddler, Kayal. In-between all of this, he gives an arm, leg and everything else to earn a living. Usually accomplished by punching keys, attending meetings and trying to sound profound. He blogs at http://kavismusings.blogspot.com & tweets @kavismusings. Just in case you are intrigued enough to know more about him please head to http://about.me/kaviarasu.