So there was a family with two children, a 13-year old girl and an 8-year old boy. Regular kids doing regular things on a weekday morning, namely fighting sleep instead of getting ready for school.
The girl’s clothes lay in a heap at the foot of her bed, the boy’s knick-knacks lay kicked under his bed. In the middle where there should have been a floor, were many papers, an eraser, a scale, paints, crayons – all the paraphernalia necessary for the next sibling fight.
Their mother fussed about their room, shouted a bit and rushed to answer the door when the bell rang. The newspaper had come. She opened it and there on page 2 was yet another teen suicide. She hid the paper (but you can’t hide news!) and went about her day.
It wasn’t long before alternate technology educated the children about the suicide. The child had been in their school. They came running out, outrunning each other in a bid to tell their mother the story first.
‘Mama, mama, a girl from OUR school committed suicide. No school today. She died. Why, I saw her only yesterday,’ said the girl, anxious, worried.
Her little brother, true follower of big sister was equally wide-eyed with worry.
‘Oh my God, these children, how can they do such things!’ asked the mother, keen to know whether the student had shown signs of planning suicide.
‘Yes, mama I knew her, I saw her walking to catch the school bus. So sad, no?’
The mother readily agreed.
Father interrupted, ‘Yes it is sad, it’s terrible…’
The mother added, ‘What will her parents be going through?’, tears brimmed over. ‘Unbearable! Can’t think of such things!’
Said father shot her a glare, ‘Yes, it is unbearable! MY children will never do such a thing, they will think of their parents before they do anything like this. Now leave it, you have school, please get ready.’
‘No No, no school, it’s a holiday at school,’ daughter replied, getting breathless.
‘Oho, okay, so, no school. Why, holiday?’ He asked, as if he didn’t understand.
‘Arre papa, one of our students died, so school announces a holiday, no? Naturally, no? It is so sad…’
‘Yes, it’s so sad,’ parroted the younger one.
‘Yes, poor girl, what went through her mind when she took that step,’ the mother writhed missing her husband’s furious glare.
‘I think one minute’s silence is enough at the assembly. Why keep the school shut for this?’ the father wanted to know. ‘Frankly, if my child were to commit suicide, I would be ashamed, not sorry. If you have a problem you should come to us and tell, don’t die. Clear?’
The girl was taken aback by her father’s sternness, ‘Oh!’
‘Yes, oh, now go and study or get busy with something. I don’t want you yapping about this, keeping the school closed, why would anyone in their sane mind keep school shut for a suicide? Why, when Nikhil died on his way home from work that was horrible, poor fellow, just married that too. But work continued… Why is the school shut, for goodness’ sake? What message are they giving their children?’
The wife chose not to react, though she did not agree.
She went out of the room to get his things ready. The father left for office.
The next day at school, a prayer was held for the child. Many children were inconsolable. The school principal called the parents for a meeting.
Weeks went by, life returned to normal, yet the father worried about his quiet little boy and his excitable big sister.
He discussed it with his wife.
So when the subject came up after a few days, ‘I was just thinking about…’ the girl started, eyes brightening again. ‘So sad, no?’ she asked hungrily, ready to lap up some drama. Her brother looked up from his colouring book and nodded readily.
The mother changed tack, ‘If my kid flunked an exam and jumped out of a window, I’d feel sad but I’d also be really angry.’
‘What? Why?’ The girl couldn’t stand it. ‘How CRUEL! How MEAN! You’re a mother, you’re supposed to love your children!’
‘Listen, every problem has a solution, to find the solution, you must be alive. Even if we are the world’s worst parents, there is a solution.’
The girl had difficulty digesting this, she looked away.
The mother turned her attention to the boy who seemed unusually rapt in attention for the conversation. ‘You know, na? God doesn’t allow suicide.’
‘When we die, we have to show a form to God. Why did you die? If you write, because my Maths was bad or I didn’t like school, ummm… or something like that, you are sent to the detention centre. If you write, I was sick. God asks, ‘You have proof?’ Then you give a letter that your doctor gave you. The letter has to say, ‘Sorry God, we couldn’t help.’ Then God says, OK, we shall see.’
The boy was intrigued, ‘Then?’
‘In the detention centre, hmmm, you have to do all the things you don’t like to do,’ she continued. ‘You are given big piles of homework, writing homework, more writing homework. No drawing, no colouring, no reading and NO playtime… and NO SKATING. AND the food… only what you don’t like. I will tell the detention centre angels know.’
The boy nodded with a smile.
‘Tell God I hate cream I don’t want only…’ he said with a big grin. ‘And pink pink candy floss.’
‘But I know you love it.’
The sister, who though older was quite enthralled by the story butted in, ‘Mummy, you tell God that I hate Ice-cream, chocolate and pizza.’
Mother nodded knowingly, children are getting very smart.
‘Right, but I will be angry, you see? So I would tell God to make sure you, my dear girl, get milk with lots of cream. Cream that wrinkles as you breathe, cream that sticks to the sides of the cup, cream that quietly rolls itself into a ball and settles in the bottom of the glass and pounces at your throat when you least expect it. And…when you finish the milk, there will be more wrinkly cream…yellow cream, red cream, smelly cream, brown cream…’ she elaborated kindly.
The girl’s eyebrows burrowed themselves into the bridge of her nose, ‘Yuck! Chhee!’
The boy’s eyes lit up, ‘You give to me, I’ll have. I’ll give you my Pepsi,’ he announced.
‘You, my boy, you get NO cream.’
‘That is OK, I’ll have Pepsi,’ the boy said coolly.
‘No Pepsi, only karela juice. Raw karela juice, raw scaly karela juice…’ with that learned information she left her hapless children.
A few days later, the girl failed her Maths test, she had never failed before. She was so worried. A bus passed the school and she had a vision of jumping, she thought of her mother and how angry she would be. She thought of her father, grim and dark. Loser! He would call her. He would not forgive her, in fact, he would hate her. So would her mother.
She walked home.
As for her brother…
Karela juice helped make up his mind, long ago.
Shobna’s story till now: Mother to a now-20 year old, wife to a huggable bear (who growls pretty often). A Bachelor of Commerce and Masters in Personnel (a choice she regrets to this day), left full-time Corporate HR work after 17 years, works full-time for a travel company (from home), aspiring writer whose manuscript has been rejected (more likely, ignored) too many times to care. She doesn’t get it though, she keeps trying.
Flashback: During her years in HR, she slowly realized she probably wasn’t cut out for it. It took her an incredibly long time to realized that at least a part of the problem lay within, as it is with so many things we don’t really like.
Also, at the time her son, the TV addict had just lost his trusted lieutenant co-TV watcher (who never squealed on how much he really watched) and most reliable Ludo-competitor, his grandmother. With her passing, he was looking forward to an early teenage with the house and beloved television to himself. Someone had to be the villain in that perfect love story. Type of person we are dealing with here: Tends to pontificate, thinks she knows everything but scratch the surface and…, actually, please don’t.
Believes that humour makes the world go round, doesn’t really understand ‘serious’ things and wishes them away. Given to occasional bouts of insight, that’s when she writes at Some Sense, Some Nonsense.