‘Urban life is replete with stress’, he says. Gulping down large portions of coffee in an imported store. Nestled in the comfortable confines of a seemingly imported couch in one of those recent coffee stores in the neighbourhood. I stare vacuously into the air. Trying hard to shut myself off the music and the ambience, which I have more than amply paid for as well.
I can see he needs the coffee. We are catching up. With each other’s lives. Old pals we are. Today, we are fresh. He from his work. Me from mine.
Copious stories from our work lives adorn our conversation. We discuss rare streaks of sheer brilliance of business decisions. But largely, the discussion meanders around pain inflicted by meetings, juvenile maneuvering, silly politicking, fancy power point presentations that appropriate everything that remotely smells ‘success’ including the office boy’s wife’s uncle winning a lottery. Matched only by the washing hands off some cool stuff like falling short of annual company goals attributing it to global warming and earthquakes in Solomon Islands.
I ask him, ‘how do you handle all this?’
“Well, I have a stress buster ball. In fact many. A couple at home. One in the car. A couple of them at work”, he says rather nonchalantly.
“You mean the yellow ones with the smiley?” I ask. Half open-mouthed. “Do they work?” Mildly surprised that what sounded like a global endemic was sought to be ended with a TV news anchor’s sound bite. Or so it seems. The simple solution befuddles me. Imagine asking Sachin Tendulkar what the secret of his success was, and he saying ‘Brinjal. Two in the morning and one at night’. Or something like that.
“Yes. I carry them to meetings”, he says.
I stay silent. For a long time. Long enough till it’s about time to get going.
‘Oh’. I say. That’s all I can muster. You see, he is a successful bloke. The cars. The houses. The degrees. The titles. The gadgets. All hang well on him and his belt clip. The fact that this idea didn’t strike me even as a remote solution, disturbs me no end. “Sounds like an idea to try”. I tell him.
That evening, I buy one of those yellow smiley stress balls.
I carry it in a bag and leave it on the dining table rushing in for a shower and change. I am looking forward to the evening with my daughter. She soon will be all over me, I think. Thoughts of our conversation around the Napoleanesqe at the workplaces disappear within minutes of stepping home.
For her toys are strewn all over home.
“Pappaaa”. She says. And runs in.
Our games begin.
The elephant game where she becomes the mahout and I the elephant. That is a tough game requiring me to balance her, my weight and call out like an elephant with one hand doubling both as a leg of the elephant and its trunk. We can play the game till the end of time or till my knees hurt. Whichever is earlier.
The ball game, where I become the ball picker. The building blocks game, where the building blocks are to broken up with an ease that would have done a US drone proud, while I keep building them. And a few other variants of other games. She is cackling away.
And then, her eyes rest on the stress ball. She lets go of a charming smile. The next I know, she is at ease with the yellow stress ball is in her hands.
She finds it infinitely fascinating that a smile can be perpetual. Or that it can return to the position after all the twitching that can be done. That smile coming back on the ball’s face livens her up no end.
I am immersed in her joy. The stress ball in the hands of the little wonder is doing a world to my stress levels! I smile and close my eyes for a bit. To take everything with a measure of curiosity & joy and to remember that no joy is small and no discovery is tiny etches a silly smile on my face.
The phone rings.
Someone calls. It’s from work. Something to be done. Someone needs to be spoken to. I speak. Sort things out. And hang up soon. Pleasantly.
I see the little wonder is more fixated on something. She has her back towards me. I presume it’s the stress ball. She has moved a couple of yards away from me.
The quiet fortitude of her single-minded focus unsettles me. She surely is upto something. I think. I shout out. She turns. And sports a genial smile. A smile that could launch a zillion ships. I melt. I clap my hands to excite her.
Half relieved. And half guilty that I had imagined she was upto mischief. Here she was as pretty as pretty can get, working up the stress ball. I have to be more positive, I tell myself.
In a fleeting moment of boundless joy she laughs out loud and claps her little hands that are still clutching the stress ball. And as she is closing her mouth, I see a tiny shred of yellow saying hello to her alimentary canal. My eyes dart a little and find the stress ball in her hand, sports a crater. Bitten off and chewed silly.
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I leap across the room. If only there was a video recording of this dive across the living room. Alas. If only that were possible, Jonty Rhodes will be an ordinary man and the video would have gone viral. For even as I land with a thud on the tiled floor, my outstretched finger reaches inside her mouth.
With the mastery of a special services commando unit that pulls out a hostage from the clutches of bad guys, the fingers pull out yellow rubber that was part of a nice stress ball till a while ago! Just as it is being dispatched with such seamless ease into the inner recesses of a tiny body.
She smiles. I heave a huge sigh of relief. I smile too.
In a bit, I call up my friend. ‘Do you need another stress ball but with a crater on top’, I ask. We laugh. I narrate the story. “Pass it to me, he says. It reminds me of someone with a crater up there”. He says. We laugh again.
“I don’t need no stress ball”. I tell him. “Come home sometime. Anything to do with stress gets chewed away”!
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.