For the first time in her life, she holds a pen. Much like a hammer. No wait. Much like a sledgehammer. She wields it on a hapless piece of paper with two fists. Reminding of Monica Seles dispatching a sullen tennis ball across the forecourt with a solemn goodbye grunt.
Today, there are scrawls. Random shaky lines. Like a country’s borders on a map. You can’t definitively say why at a particular point the line curved in or looped out. It’s just the way it is. Of course, countries vie with each other to lob bombs to kill, maim and loot, if that random line on a piece of paper is thought to have been altered. But in a child’s world every passing moment is interwoven with wonder and joy. So, let’s stay right there.
Shrieks of joy have out shouted loud ‘outrage’ spouting news from the next door’s television sets, upon discovering that she could leave her mark on random pieces of paper. Little does she realise that the insurance papers of the car is not any other random paper. But that is a different story that will be told another day.
This is a big momentous and joyous day in our lives. The day that she left her first impressions on paper. Just as we prepare for a lunch with a good friend. Family lunch and all that.
‘She wrote today. She actually wrote’. I say at the lunch table.
To anybody else who overhears that part of the conversation, I could well have been speaking of writing the Civil Services Exam. Such is the excitement in my voice. I proudly present her random scrawls of silly lines with an unsteady hand.
I clearly am expecting praise. Maybe even some ‘wonderful’ would do. My friend, after all the excitement asks, ‘which hand did she use?’
‘Oh’ I say. Sputtering. The cauliflower caught between the tongue and the throat. Choking and coughing. I didn’t expect that.
I think for a minute. ‘I mean… both hands’. I say. My friend furrows her brow.
‘Does that disqualify her.. From say, the Math Olympiad’ I ask. There is laughter. I am mildly cheesed off. She knows it. Everybody at the lunch table knows this. But they are all bonding like the Australian cricket team and working with precision on pulling my leg. There is some silence. The conversation drifts.
But veers right back.
‘What did she write?’
‘Two paragraphs from Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls’. I reply calmly. There is silence. And then some generous laughter. ‘You are an incorrigible riot. Listen, May she do very well. May she do very well old boy’, she says.
I reach out to smoke my peace pipe. But she interrupts.
‘May she write better’ she says. This is classical bait for a battle. And I fall for it.
‘Better?’ I ask. For your information, several lunches have been gobbled with ferocity reminiscent of wild cats, with my writing as the subject of the discussions.
‘Oh write better, you know. Better than maybe painting or playing tennis’ she says with a mischief coated twinkle in her eyes. ‘Yes, and hopefully write better than Ernest Hemingway too’.
The daughter, oblivious to all of this, is busy drawing vague lines on yesterday’s newspaper, while simultaneously trying to overturn the potted plant. And at that moment it strikes me that another faculty in the daughter is beginning to function. Dexterity with hands and fingers is indeed a new phase.
Soon, we are at dessert.
‘This is nothing’. My friend says, pointing to the piece of paper that I have preserved as a showpiece. Perhaps to be framed.
‘What do you mean ‘nothing’ ’ I ask. What I don’t say is this: ‘What-do-you-mean-you-Type A- MBA – High-achiever’?
She digs further into her payasam and answers, ‘this is nothing until such works of art get on to the wall’. I gulp my full bowl down imagining dropping dead after scrubbing the walls of the living room. I silently wonder if practicing of her ambidextrous new wares would get us new ‘art’ on the wall. My friend reads my mind well.
And says, ‘Don’t even think about it. This is a guarantee. The real writing is on the wall my friend’. I look at her. She has walked this road before. And she has made it too.
‘Well, I look forward to it’, I say! ‘Of course you do. Of course you do’ she says.
Sometime later we are saying our goodbyes. One eye has been trained on the daughter all the while. One potted plant has been overturned and Manmohan Singh’s photograph in the newspaper has got a ‘deeper shade of green’ treatment.
I lift her and mildly admonishingly say, ‘show me your hands’. She lets go of the cutest smile that proud daddies believe is only possible by their own children. And then, in a seamless flow of motion, shows her palms to everybody around. Today they carry streaks of green and grime. We all laugh. She clasps my hands and emits a strange assortment of vowels. And then, pulls out the pen from my pocket.
I realise. There is no escaping. The writing on the wall is coming soon to our walls. Which I am sure will be markedly better than what I can muster on numerous Facebook walls!
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.