Chance

Childhood, Deblina's Dungeon, Freedom, Friends, Journey, Love Story, Marriage, Nostalgia, School, Story

Karnataka and Tamil Nadu continue to fight over Kaveri water. Curfew to remain tight until further notice. India’s Silicon Valley comes to a halt. Aah, can we get to read something positive in the newspaper any day? What’s come to become of us! As I spoke aloud to myself, Sudha entered through the main door, babbling something to herself. 16 years of marriage had taught me what to take in, and mostly what to ignore. This looked ignorable. But wait, does she think so too?

Tumi kichu koro na, oi newspaper tar chatni baniye bondhuder khaiyyo. (You don’t do anything, make chutney out of that newspaper and treat your friends). Sudha glares into my eyes with these lines, and I immediately drop the newspaper on to the table. My reflexes!

She is very angry, I realise, and that’s why the language of communication is chosen to be our mother tongue Bengali. Mostly, we speak in English in the family, because Shoubhik prefers that. Shoubhik, my teenage son, or Shubho as we lovingly call his daaknaam. But more on him later, right now I have to rush to wifey before she cancels my tiffin today.

 

I rush into the kitchen. Sudha is arranging the tiffin boxes, one at a time. Thank god.

What’s up with you? Why are you so upset, dear? I try in my best possible tone.

As if you care! I shouldn’t have got married to you. God knows where my good sense was vacationing at that time.

Arrey, but, what have I done? Why…okay come here, come with me. We will sit and discuss this.

As I try to pull her lightly, she turns towards me with those big, bright eyes, now gleaming with anger. And tears.

Situation is bad.

I take the tiffin box out of her hand, and ask, “What’s the matter, Sudha?”

She walks out of the kitchen, out into the balcony. I follow suit.

This might take long.

 

Our first floor balcony overlooks a lush green park, hemmed with a dozen Gulmohar trees, a jogging track, some benches here and there, and yes a children’s play area. It’s actually quite a soothing sight to enjoy an evening cup of tea. Sudha continues staring towards the park, as I realise I need to break this silence. Armed with my words, I am just about to begin when she throws a yorker.

What do you see here, Omi?

Where!

Silence. Again.

Where, Sudha?

Here. In the park. On the benches. Over the grass. Everywhere.

I look out again to see the park, this time trying with a certain Sherlock’s vision.

Aah that! It’s a beautiful sight. So vibrant. Children playing, their mothers and nannies sitting nearby enjoying a chit chat, there are some fathers playing along too. Day looks good. Normal…everything is as on a regular morning.

This is normal, right? She asks, turning towards me.

Umm..yes. Of course!

Then why is Shubho not?

Not what?

Normal?

Shubho isn’t normal? Who said?

Omi! I am not saying, I am asking you. For once can you…oh god…

Okay, okay! Wait. I pull forward the cane wood chair and gesture her to sit down. And when she does, I take in a long breath.

Why do you think Shubho isn’t normal? I mean, for a 13 Year old, he behaves like one. Agreed that his grades have been on the downhill since a year or so, but that’s alright no? Hadn’t we agreed earlier that we will never expect a child prodigy at home, not care much about the marking system, and instead try to inculcate good values in his tender mind. And that way he is doing fine. I have even seen him washing his own dishes after every meal! Tell me which teenage boy does that?

I know! And I appreciate it. But there are other things as well.

What things?

Things other than ‘being a good son’.

I think you need to be more descriptive.

Na chharro. Tomar office e deri hoye jabe. (Let it be. You will get late for work).

Arre baba…

No. Let’s talk another time. Go freshen up, I will get your lunch ready.

And she leaves. Unanswered questions, incomplete discussion. To the kitchen.

I look again, at the ‘normal’ scene outside. Am I missing something?

 

 

All set to leave for work, I follow the ritual of going to the ‘puja corner’ in Shubho’s room. “God, bless us, help make this day count. Thank you.” – my usual prayer since boyhood. Then I turn to look at my child who is still asleep. He has grown so much in length and breadth in his 13 years, but still looks the same to me as on his first day on Earth. When nurse had handed over a chubby pink chunk of a boy to me, I had said ‘Shubho’ meaning auspicious, and the name stuck. Later, his didun or maternal grandma had decided on ‘Shoubhik’. I liked the nice ring the name had to it! Caressing his hair lightly, I make a move.

Tiffin ta table e. Rekhe nao. Ami snaane jachhi. (Tiffin is on the table. Take it. I am going for a bath.) – Sudha’s way of bidding bye.

 

At work, things look reasonably lighter today. Few meetings here and there, a couple of tea breaks accompanied with some chattery colleagues over Classic Milds and the never ending discussions about the state of our country, would precisely sum up my day.

As the clock strikes five, I am ready to call it a day, when Divya approaches with her warm smile.

Hey Amit, are you leaving now?

Yes. Are you not?

Of course I am! Care to give me a lift?

But you stay further down the road from my house. So…

Oh yes, but I would get down earlier, in fact much before your house comes.

Okay! Sure.

Thanks – and the warm smile is back.

Mind me playing the FM radio? – I ask politely.

Not at all. Your car, you decide.

Thanks.

Putting on the radio, I hear Kishore crooning “chala jata hoon, kissi ki dhun mein…”

I like this guy.

Which guy? – I am curious.

Kishore da. Who else?

Kishore Kumar was your brother? I ask playfully.

Hahaha! I like it when men still have their sense of humour in tact after a tiring day at work.

Probably because TGIF.(Thank god it’s Friday)

And it’s a roaring combination of laughter, with Kishore aka Da fading out in the background.

Okay, just drop me around the next corner.

Okay. Where to?

Aah, I have to pick up Shivam from his coaching classes.

Oh alright. So Shivam has started preparing for board exams I see.

Noooo. The boy loves playing cricket, so we brought him to this cricket training institute. And he loves it. He usually comes back on his own, but today his coach called for me to meet him personally.

Nice!

I will just get down here.

Sure.

She collects her bag and umbrella and exits from my car.

Thanks for the lift, Amit.

No problem. Enjoy getting personal! – I say with a wink.

Hahaha! Sure, don’t be jealous.

And I press on the accelerator. Bidding bye to the warm smile.

 

 

Forty-five minutes of waging war with automobiles and pedestrians, I emerge as a survivor and enter my home. Sweet home. It smells sweet actually. I am guessing Sudha has learnt a new dish today. The happy man is back!

Hey…

Eshe gele. Haath mukh dhuye esho, ami chaa banayi. (You’ve come. Go freshen up while I make some tea). –Sudha’s way of welcoming me home.

I change into pyjamas and kurta, take out the tiffin box and go to the kitchen where she is. Keeping it near the sink, I ask her how her day was. She says fine, dryly.

I go and change the channel to ABP news. Sudha brings my usual tea and a glass of water.

Aagey jol ta kheyo. (Have water first.)

OK madam! I say with a smile.

How was your day? Did you have lunch?

Yes. Day was so-so. Nothing great.

Hmmm..

Anyway it’s Friday so a bit easy.

Hmmm..

Where’s Shubho?

In his room.

Okay.

I sip my tea and watch the ‘special report’ on Kaveri water issue.

The landline rings. As Sudha gets up to receive it, Shubho comes out of his room and picks it up. I exchange a glance with him as he gets talking on the phone. We haven’t yet thought of giving the boy his own mobile phone because, one, he doesn’t need it, and two, he never asked for it. I keep sipping my tea, while Sudha is looking at the TV screen. After some 15 minutes, Shubho keeps the phone and gets going towards his room.

Dada is back home. Don’t you want to come and talk to him?

Sure. Hi Dada!  – Shubho’s first words were da-da. And he chose to christen me with the name. So Dada for father.

Hey Shubho, what’s up?

All fine.

Good. I thought you were studying so didn’t wish to disturb you.

Yes.

So, what were you studying?

English poem.

Aah nice. Which one?

He smirked at me.

Okay! I am a Xavier’s alumnus and I have had a fair share of English learning too. C’mon now…

She walks in beauty….

Hmmm… Lord Byron. What a beautiful poem!

Smiles again.

So do you like English literature?

Kind of.

And Shakespeare’s stories?

Yes.

Good. I too liked literature, and still do. Someday we will sit and chat about it.

Sure Dada.

I smile, as Sudha starts questioning him.

Whose call was it?

A friend’s.

Name?

Blank stare.

I asked if there is a name.

Shubho pauses for a while before saying it.

Rishabh.

That Mehta one?

Shubho gives a hard look this time. Yes. And Maa, you could have said that in a better way. Please.

Yes that, and I don’t need to learn from you. It would rather help if you did some positive improvements with your learning.

Sudha… I interrupt.

What? Didn’t you hear how he spoke to me? I am his mom or is he my dad?

Shubho…son, you should be respectful towards your mother, in fact towards all your elders. Apologise to her..

But Dada, how she spoke of my friend wasn’t good either no?

She didn’t mean anything, it’s just a different way of saying.

I don’t agree with this logic, but I agree with what you said about being respectful. So…

Goes over to where Sudha is seated, bends down and touches her feet.

I am sorry Maa, this won’t happen again.

It’s okay. Be careful of your habits. Jao nijer room e ebar.(Go to your room now)

 

 

When Shubho is out of sight, I look at Sudha. Her eyes have started welling up tears.

Want to go sit in the balcony?

No!

Okay. I am going then. Alone.

Silence.

I get up from the couch and start walking towards the balcony. Outside is blowing a nice wind, neither too cold, nor too warm, just the way I like it. Makes me wonder why I was sitting inside until now!

Bangalore has crazy traffic true, but the beautifully balanced weather makes up for everything. In the park some boys from the neighbourhood are playing cricket. I am reminded of Shivam and then Divya. Meanwhile, Sudha has come out and is standing next to me.

Nice weather no?

See, this is what I was telling you about in the morning. She says, ignoring the weather conditions. Ignoring me.

I am forced back into reality, and this time I decide I must listen to everything.

Sudha, you will have to agree, however, the way you mentioned his friend’s family name was not really appropriate. In fact, if we speak like that with him, tomorrow he is going to speak to others like that,and that wouldn’t feel great.

I know! I am not denying, but then he shouldn’t be speaking like that with his parents either. Don’t you agree?

Yes, I do! And, so does him! That’s why he cared to apologise right away!

Only when you told him to. Else, he wouldn’t.

You are missing the spot, Sudha.

She looks back with questioning eyes.

Did you see how he touched your feet while apologising? I didn’t tell him that.

Yeah, but you only…

No! He could have just said sorry and gone away. Or he could’ve done nothing and gone away. But his gesture! Appreciate it dear. Do you see teens doing that, even when they have disagreements with their parents?

Silence.

I think it’s more than this incident. Something else is going on in your mind. Now is the time, you must talk to me about it.

I…

C’mon now Sudha, let’s be frank and have an open discussion. I know that you are a mature and balanced person. You spend more time with him than me, and thus, what you have felt, what you might be feeling right now, cannot be ignored. And, you need to enlighten me.

Sudha looks at me, as if helpless. Then, looks away into the evening passing by.

Omi, it’s just that I feel he isn’t normal.

How?

As in, he isn’t like regular kids his age.

That’s good no? Every genius in history, if you think, was different from their friends the same age, that’s why they stood out in the long run.

She looks at me briefly. I have been watching him all of this summer vacation. Boys his age are playing around, talking about girls, listening and dancing to what english songs I also don’t follow, doing the regular stuff…

So what? Interests vary. I like reading newspapers, for example, while you prefer to see it in the form of chutney!

Smiles.

He is more of the books and letters kind. Have you seen how immersed he is when playing his mouth organ? Or violin? Someone who likes classical music and Rabindra Sangeet, might not find heart in English raps and rock music, and that according to me, is quite normal.

Okay. But what about mixing up with people, making friends, going out?

But he does have friends.

Only that guy. Rishabh.

So he is selective. How many friends do we have? Real friends if you count? Hardly two or at max three. Who I can share, my crappiest joke to even the most heinous crime I commit, with. Because they will still stand by me, get me. And you? Apart from your sister in the UK, how many friends do you have? I haven’t seen you bonding with anyone so closely here, does that make me think you are not normal? No! I just feel you are selective.

Sudha continues looking at me.

I think you need to appreciate his individuality, give him some space. And not talk the way you did today. Because we, as parents of a sensitive boy, must act sensibly, and responsibly.

Looking ponderous, she remains quiet, as if taking in my words. I know she will come back once she has grasped totally what I said. I wait. And wait.

What?

What?

Say something!

Hmmm…perhaps you are right.

Great, I throw my imaginary fist in the air!

Perhaps I am trying to see the ordinary in the extraordinary. Because ordinary is easier to comply with, easier to categorize.

Hmm..may be sometimes, yes.

Thik aache (OK). I will give him more space. May be he doesn’t like me intruding into his life all the time.

Who would like that?

Hmm…but as his mother, I have that right.

Yes of course. So be his mother, not his shadow. Allow him to trace his own path, instead of chalking it out for him.

Hmmm…I think I still see the toddler Shubho in him. Didn’t realise when he grew up!

Maa Janani, prepare yourself! Soon you might start getting blank calls again, only this time for your son and not yourself!

Dhatt…she smiles coyly.

Arrey shotti! (Really!)

Hahaha! Dekha jabe. (Will see)

Okay madam. So, now are you feeling better?

Yes! Thanks Omi. She smiles back.

It’s already dark outside by now. I check my watch 7:45 pm. We usually finish dinner by 8, but tomorrow being a Saturday, we keep it slightly flexible tonight.

Ek cup aaro chaa pabo? (Can I get another cup of tea)

Wait..she goes to the kitchen, while I come inside, and hover over to my book wall. My favourite wall in the entire house. When we had bought our own flat, this three bedroom one, this wall was the only one I had wanted for myself. Covering the entire 12 by 10 feet wall, I had asked the carpenter to make at least 30 box partitions. And the right end must be left open. So that it doesn’t appear closed or compact, instead, like knowledge and human mind, its end is infinite. Sudha hadn’t liked this idea. She thought it looked incomplete. But I argued ‘complete is rather boring’, and would have it no other way. So she gave in. A week later, I found a tall plant in a white planter placed at the side of this open ended book wall. Not bad, I thought. And we three lived in peace forever; she, me and my book wall!

So what do I want to read today…hmmm, let me see…something light or political or history.. How about this? I pull out Stephen Hawking’s A brief history of Time. Hmmm…no but, I want something more intriguing. I keep looking and then find my answer: The Tao of Physics. Yes! This ought to be the one. This book never lets me down, whenever I have read it. The perfect companion to the intrigued mind. I sit down on the armchair with my companion, and start on my inner journey. Five minutes later, Sudha emerges with tea and a slice of cake.

Carrot-walnut cake I made today. Kheye dekho kemon hoyeche.( see how it tastes)

Thanks! Taking a bite of the cake..hmmm nice. Though I wouldn’t mind a bit more sugar in it.

Oh you will never have enough of sugar. Even if I were to put 2 kilos, you would still say it isn’t sweet. Pari naa aar tomake niye! (What to do about you!)

Hahaha! You know me well.

Dada…

We both turn around. Shubho looks on innocently.

Dada, I had to ask you something.

Yes?

Tomorrow after my violin class, can I go to Rishabh’s place?

Yes sure. Why not! I say reassuringly. I will drop you there and then pick you up around 8 pm. Then we will all go for dinner at some nice place. You decide the restaurant, okay?

But..I want to stay there.

Where?

At Rishabh’s house. It’s a sleepover.

Oh-kayyy! Umm…well…who else is coming?

Akhil.

And what’s the plan?

Nothing. Just some games and movies.

Then why don’t you call them here? Sudha interrogates.

I thought you wouldn’t like it. May be next time.

Why wouldn’t I like it? Home is safer.

That’s also home. His home. Shubho says, looking at his Maa, straight faced.

Aah okay, I think this should be fine by me. But your Maa needs to give the final nod. What say, mommy?

And when will you be back?

Next day. Before lunch.

Okay, fine. But tell them that next time it is at our place.

School’s opening on Monday, so next time would be far off.

Oh, so that’s why he had called up that time. Why didn’t you mention it right then?

Because Dada was just back from work and looked tired.

Sudha and I exchange glances and smile.

Okay! Permission granted. And next day you have to tell us what all you did in the sleepover, because frankly speaking, we didn’t have these concepts during our childhood days. So, it would be interesting to learn from you. Sudha, did you have any sleepovers ever?

No ways! You never had it being a boy, who would grant us girls such privileges!

Yeah, true. Gone are those days now, thankfully.

Yeah, gone for good, I hope. Here Shubho, have this. I made it today.

Thanks Maa. Turns back to go to his room..

Ayi, kheye bol kemon hoyeche. ( taste and tell me how’s it)

It’s delicious. As always. Maa.

Glad you liked it.

Sudha is happy. Shubho goes away, into his den. We look at each other rather bemused. Sleepover! Huh?

Friday night dinner is subtle with good portions of aubergine curry and chapatis, ending on a sweet note with payesh (a Bengali form of rice pudding).

Sweet dreams Shubho, as sweet as your mom-made payesh. I wish him like the happy man I am on a Friday night.

Good night, Dada, Maa!

I am going to sleep as well, are you coming? Sudha asks.

I will, in sometime.

Okay.

Goodnight, Sudha!

Eshe jeo. (Do come) – Sudha and her ways, I think!

 

 

I love Saturdays. Not for any religious reasons, but this feeling has grown and remained since childhood. Saturday meant breakfast with the entire family, the big Bengali joint family. Alur chorchori with fulko luchi. Aah, sheer bliss! Not that I don’t like my wife’s culinary skills, in fact she is a great cook and loves to adapt new variants to the menu, but what I miss is the grand get-together; it was like everyday was a celebration! That’s what I miss, precisely. But yes, here we are and now I need to get some goodness of ‘bed-tea’ down my throat.

After freshening up, I go out to the living room. Sudha is talking to someone. I pick up the newspaper and go out to sit in our favourite place. The park looks more crowded at this time of the day, with several people of various shapes, sizes and colour going about giving themselves a good start to the day. Some walking or jogging or running, with their headphones or dogs or phones, while others sitting by casually or doing yoga and other forms of exercises. And I am living this moment! I spot a young couple, probably in their late twenties, sitting facing each other and doing yoga. While the girl is doing her part most sincerely, the boy is conscious of his surroundings. Each time a lady passes by, he looks at her and gives a smile. THAT probably is his own form of yoga!

Eyi nao tomar cha. (Here’s your tea) Sudha breaks my concentration with a hot cup of tea.

Good morning!

Smiles. Morning!

Whom were you talking to in the kitchen?

Oh just like that. Hearing stories from Asha. Her husband is planning to move to Mysore, asking for her opinion. And she is asking for mine.

Hmm..so what did you say?

I told her to think about her three children firsthand decide accordingly.

Why? The children don’t want to go?

No. They like the school here, and want to finish matriculation from here.

Fair enough.

But who cares for their likes.

Hmmm.

Moreover, I told her to find me her replacement before shifting.

Will she?

Hope so. Else, we will have to. But to find another like her is difficult, if not impossible.

Yeah. Let’s see.

Yeah. Let her decide first.

And what’s your plan? I am at your service all day, Madame!

Was thinking of getting fish today. Would you come along?

I stare at her for a few seconds, thinking in my mind. Not about her question, but her gesture. Does she ignore my humour on purpose, or does she not feel amused? I have to ask her someday.

Okay, let it be. I will go with the driver.

Uhm, no no. I will come. Let’s go.

And breakfast? I made idli sambar today.

I will have it after returning, you may have now.

Okay.

She goes to Shubho’s room and comes out after few minutes. Meanwhile I change into my blue jeans and get the car keys.

Aashchi aamra. Tumi kheye nebe.(we are going out. Have your breakfast.)

Okay Maa. Bye Dada.

Bye! Bye!

Our journey to and from the fish market takes 2 hours in all. Thanks to the pitiable traffic. They should rename Bangalore to ‘Traffic-galore’ now. I fume.

Sudha ignores my joke, again. I am fuming all the more.

Sudha…

Hmm?

What’s occupying your mind?

Nothing great.

Still? If you wish to share that is..

Looking at me she responds, I am trying to recall the recipe I saw last week on TV. Pabda maach narkel diye. (Fish curry with coconut)

Really?

Yes. Why?

No. Fine.

Rest of our journey is covered in silence, as if mourning the death of a certain family of Pabda Mach!

 

Shubho….ayi Shubho…breakfast korli? Sudha is keen to know if Shubho had followed her orders (having breakfast orders).

I quickly go wash my hands and face, and jump onto the breakfast table. The rats running in my stomach have turned into dinosaurs by now!

Idlis are tasty without a doubt, and for a starving stomach, they are heavenly. I thank Sudha silently in mind.

Where’s Shubho? I ask her.

He has gone for bath.

Okay.

His holiday homework is complete he says. Would you be able to review it?

Review?

Yes. If anything is left by mistake, then he still would have time in hand to finish before Monday.

Alright. Will sit with him post lunch.

No no. Do it now only. After lunch, he gets immersed in his world of books and then has violin classes.

Oh right. And then the sleepover. Okay, I will do it now when he is ready.

Thanks!

Aah cmon.

Shubho, come here. Dada will review your holiday homework now. Okay?

Come Dada.

Yes, you go to your room, I am coming.

I go wash my hands and proceed to his room. This is definitely unusual for me, because it’s Sudha who mostly does this and takes care of our hero’s studies. I am like the senior manager, coming to forefront only when there is a major incident. So, Shubho comes to me when he is stuck somewhere or is dissatisfied by the solutions offered to him in class or by his mom. Entering his room, I see he is seated at his study chair, copies and books neatly piled to the sides. As I sit down, he offers me the school diary. I give him a curious look.

All the home works to be done are listed here. He opens up the page for me.

Oh okay. Good.

I start reviewing it, serially. Shubho has indeed completed all his work. But one.

What about this one? Essay?

I will do it tomorrow.

Why not finish it now?

He pauses to think. Then speaks.

I need time to think and write.

Oh-kay. Well I thought the topic is quite easy. You have to write on ‘your best friend’. Isn’t that Rishabh?

He is. But I still need time.

Okay. So are you sure you’d be able to complete it by tomorrow?

Yes.

Cool, then. So everything else is done, good boy! I pat his head.

He smiles back.

Shubho…

Yes, Dada?

Do you enjoy school?

Yes.

Like, what?

Like school. A place to study.

Hmm…and play?

Yes.

Hmmm?

Yes. That too.

Do you play? Any sports? Do you like taking part in sports?

He stops to think. I wait, giving him time.

It’s distracting. I don’t like all that noise.

I remain looking at him, slightly confused now. He doesn’t add anything to what he just said. So I try again.

You could try playing, it’s a great way to bond with friends, learn about team spirit, and plus it gives you a fit body and healthy mind.

Shubho looks down.

It’s your wish entirely, just my little suggestion.

I never really feel like it.

So, what do you do during games period? Or recess?

I help our Sir, with markings and taking records. Recess time, I play with my group of friends.

Okay! So play more. Bond more. Kemon?(okay?)

Alright!

I leave the room thinking to myself, Sudha might not be entirely wrong. Normal or not, I don’t know, but different surely. My son is different, who finds sports distracting, huh!

 

 

Later in the day, we have rice with delicious fish curry. Sudha definitely has the flair for cooking, and blessed are we – my hungry stomach and me! Shubho seems to be enjoying the fish delight as well, and mommy dearest is only too glad to note.

Shubho, do you want some more?

No, Maa. I am full.

Kheye neye, okhane toh abaar veg e pabi. (Have some more, there you will get something vegetarian anyway)

Shubho looks at her and then me, a curious kind of look. But says just no more.

After we are all done (basically till I, being the senior most, am done), Shubho neatly picks up his used utensils and asks to leave the table. I grant. He goes over to the kitchen, and emerges from there a few minutes later, probably after washing them.

Dada, shall I take my bicycle?

To?

Violin class. And then to Rishabh’s place.

No, Dada will drop you off. Sudha interrupts.

Wait. Will Rishabh be coming for the class as well?

Yes.

And how does he commute?

On his cycle.

Okay. Then I think it should be fine for the boys to cycle back home.

I look at Sudha and she doesn’t seem to like the idea.

I think it should be okay, Sudha.

You sure? And you, Shubho, be very sure before nodding your head.

Yes, Maa. I am.

Ektu beshi taratarai bodo hoye jachhish na? (Aren’t you growing up too fast?)

Of course he is, isn’t it, boy!

Shubho chuckles, and his face lights up. Adorable smile.

Go then, rest for an hour. I will wake you up by 3 pm.

Done, Maa. Thank you!

He is happy. Actually, we all like to do things our way, but when someone puts their trust on us, it’s the morale that boosts up and takes us places. I am glad we could give him that. With this thought, I pick up our dishes and pile them up near the sink, for the maid to wash up later.

I am going to take a siesta. If you happen to go out, please lock the door from outside.

No, where will I go at this time? I will catch up on my reading, you go get some rest.

Okay. Jol er jug aar glass ta table e roilo. (Jug of water and glass is kept on the table)

Thank you!

She smiles at me.

No, like seriously. You manage everything around so beautifully, how do you! Someday, you have to tell me your secret.

No secret, I have my heart here. So, I just have to listen to it.

Modest!

Honest.

Hahaha!

She leaves to go to her room and leaves me in admiration.

 

 

Sudha and I had had an arranged marriage. My father had seen her at our local Durga Pujo mandap, and was impressed by her dedication at taking care of all chores. From arranging pujor sthaan to preparing the prasaad, cutting, cleaning, the girl did everything single handedly. And, in the evening of ashtami, when she sung ‘kon alo laglo chokhe’, my father was mesmerised. I remember him telling us later at home that Maa Durga had yet again solved his problem by showing him the perfect match for his son. We all thought he meant my elder brother, but as it turned out, my brother had already chosen his mate. And he was adamant he wouldn’t marry anyone else. Baba thought it was only correct on dada’s part, to marry the one he loved. So he turned to me. I wasn’t really ready for marriage, but when the elder one spills food, the younger must clean it up. Or so I thought. So, I agreed to meet her. Baba found her whereabouts and on dashami, we went to their house for bijoya. Bijoya is a Bengali ritual that starts from the last day of Durga Puja after bidding adieu to the goddess and her family, where we go to friends’ and relatives’ places to offer our greetings. It is customary to take blessings of the elders, and in turn we do our favourite bit – mukh mishti that is have some sweets. At Sudha’s house, I remember to have been pleased by seeing the simplicity of the family, and it reflected upon everything right from the furniture to the food. It spelt good taste, in short. My Baba, being a simple man himself was definitely on cloud nine. Without beating about the bush, he told them clearly the purpose of our visit and my father-in-law accepted it wholeheartedly, as if sensing it from before. The only problem was that they were bangals (native of East Bengal or Bangladesh) and we were ghotis (native of West Bengal). But both the parties were willing to look beyond this. They left it on us (the probable bride and her groom) to give the final nod. We courted for almost six months, and honestly during this period there was nothing ‘not good’ that I could find in her, so as to use against marrying her. Thus, a year later, we were celebrating Durga Puja in the same pandal, as man and wife. And three years later, we were blessed with Shubho. Life just got a whole new purpose!

 

 

I am awakened from my time travel by the ringing landline phone. I go and pick it up, only to realise the call has been disconnected. Must have been ringing since long, and I only heard it now. Sha! Nevermind, they’ll call again, if it’s so important. I say to myself. Going to my book wall, I pick up my old comrade ‘The Tao of Physics’ to start again from where I left off.

By the time I wake up, Shubho has left already. Sudha brings my cup of tea and some cookies. Its 6:15 already.

God knows when I dozed off!

Good only na. Five days you don’t get to rest.

Hmm. Nice tea.

It’s the same one that you have every time.

Hmm.

What do you want to have for dinner?

What yaar! Don’t ask me these things. I am okay with anything.

Still…

Arrey, why don’t we go out, you know, a movie and some dinner. It’s been so long since just the two of us went out somewhere. What say?

Na na.

Arrey what no? Let me see what movies are showing.

I don’t want to watch movie. Dinner is still fine.

I look at her.

Okay, dinner then. What do you want to eat?

Ummm…Chinese?

Perfect. There’s a good one at Koramangla. Some of my friends were singing a lot of praises.

Which one?

Hunan.

Okay. We can try.

Right! Let me book us a table, Saturdays can get crowded. 9 pm?

8:30.

Okay.

I am quick to book a table over the phone, as the delicious dim sums have already started parading my thoughts. Sudha puts the TV on.

Got something to catch up?

No, just regular shows.

Then tune into news channel na.

Oh you and your news all the time. Paper porle toh!(you read the newspaper already)

Umm..okay. Alright.

After watching some crappy Bengali soaps for some time, where the heroine has some supernatural tear glands that keep giving way to her glycerine induced tears, and headache to me, I feel I am done.

Why do you watch these?

Sudha stares back blankly.

I mean, what do you ‘see’ when you watch these?

What do you mean? I don’t watch always.

Of course not! But when you do, like now, what do you see?

Well, it’s just for entertainment. And may be some stress relief.

What? Stress relieving? Watching these endless confusion and melodrama? Hah! Tell me about it!

Yeah why not! It’s like seeing what’s going on in another family, and mostly realising that problems are a part of every family, no matter how rich or poor, big or small.

Strange are your ways, I will never get it perhaps! And it’s totally okay.

Perception!

Yeah. Reminds me, I need some glue and scotch tape. Where to look?

Must be in Shubho’s table. Or drawers. Why do you need them?

Okay. Some old books need a little attention, that’s why. Let me see.

Sudha is back to TV and I to sonny’s room.

 

 

On the table, they aren’t there. Aah glue is right on the shelf. I take it. But I need the tape and scissors too. Let me check the drawers. Not in the top one, let me check others. Not in the second too, no. Perhaps somewhere else, will ask Sudha to find for me. Let me see the last one as well. Oh, it’s too full. Of arbitrary papers. Difficult to search here. Why does he keep these papers, can’t just throw away? Useless junk…yard. My eyes fall on what’s written on one of them. ‘My Best Friend’. In bold. Isn’t this the essay he was supposed to write. But he told me he would do it tomorrow. Did he finish it today itself? But then why is the paper torn and secluded here, it should’ve been in his copy. Why would he…I take it out. Should I read it through? What if it’s too personal? But hey, this is supposed to be class assignment, how personal can it get? Of course I can read it. I will. I do.

 

My Best Friend

 

I met him by accident. We studied in the same class since first standard, yet weren’t even friends. Till that day, when Akhil from his group pushed me hard for spilling water on his clothes. I tried to explain that it happened by mistake, but he didn’t care to listen. When I fell on the floor, and Akhil was about to kick me, Rishabh appeared and stopped him. He pulled me up and asked me to say sorry to Akhil. Of course I was, so I did. Then he asked Akhil to apologise too. He made us hug each other saying we all do mistakes and they who forgive are better than they who don’t. We all like to be better than the rest. So Akhil and I became friends too. And Rishabh became my best friend. This happened almost a year back, and now we are the best of friends. He understands me, takes care of me. And he listens to me. He started learning to play violin because I wanted him to. To spend more time with him. Slowly and gradually, it happened. I don’t know what love is, but that’s what I feel for him. I am attracted towards his persona, and his body. When he hugs me, I feel a different kind of sensation, a tingling kind of. Even when he suddenly holds my hand. And I think he feels it too. No wonder, off late we have got so close. We write letters to each other and in them I can read his emotions. Everyone in our group discusses the girls and some have even started making girl friends, because they say they are in love. But I don’t understand, do we always have to love girls? I don’t feel attracted to them or even bother looking towards them. Nor does Rishabh. Because we have each other. And I know, we will always be together. Because we are the best of friends. Sometimes, it bothers me because people say it isn’t normal for a boy to love a boy, or a girl to love a girl, but I don’t believe them, because I have loved a boy and I know it exists. Who defines what’s normal and what’s not!

In the end, I just know that the company I missed for the longest time in my life, the emotions my heart feels when I am with him, is only fulfilled by Rishabh. And, love or infatuation or abnormality, whatever it be, the truth is that he is and will remain my best friend and most precious gift from God. No one can take this away from me because it is right there, inside my heart.

 

 

I am numb. Disturbed, no. Shaken, yes. Totally. I read it again and again, and again. But my mind refuses to take into account what has just happened. I need to collect myself. I need to breathe. Deep within, I am trembling. With shaky hands I put back the papers into the drawer. What about this one? What should I do? Take with me or keep it back. Shit! No, I must keep it back. This isn’t right. It’s his property and a very personal one. What if Sudha finds it out? Oh good Lord, I can’t even begin to imagine what might she do. But that’s for later. Right now, I need to get out of here. Keeping back everything, I go out into where Sudha is still watching TV. Everything is just the same for her, while for me, nothing.

Did you get the tape and glue?

No..

What? So long and you couldn’t! Ohho, let me find for you.

No. Not required. I will do it another time.

Ki holo? (What happened)

Nothing. Just not feeling well.

What? She hurriedly makes her way towards me. Check your pressure. You are sweating.

Pressure and all is okay. It’s kind of hot. I will go take a shower.

Are you sure? I am…

I am. Yes.

Okay. Call out if you feel uneasy or anything.

Don’t worry, I’m fine. Really. Just the heat I guess.

May be.

The best place to be, when you are married but need your alone time is the bathroom. Shutting the bathroom door, I cover the commode and sit on it. The words keep running in a loop through my mind. Endlessly. I try to decipher my son’s world from that essay. Shubho’s innocent face, that first smile he gave while sleeping tight in my arms, flashes before my eyes. The first time he walked and came straight to me when I had just returned from work; his first day at school. These images and more start playing on a slide show in my mind. And I wonder, when did my little dushtu Shubho grow up! I need some water to splash on my face, I realise, and go to the wash basin. Hmm, it feels good. Some more then. Aah much better, I am breathing easy now. Looking up into the mirror, I see Shubho staring back at me, smiling. I smile back.

Are you alright? Sudha is knocking on the door.

Yeah.

Are we like, still going out for dinner? I am okay if…

Yes, we are. I open the door to face her.

No, if you want, get some rest. I can cook something.

No, I am absolutely fine. And I think going out will only make me feel better.

It will. I need some distraction to concentrate my mind.

 

 

We drive down to our chosen eatery and the traffic is actually a much welcomed distraction today. The restaurant is packed tight, thankfully our reserved table is waiting for us. Once seated, I am quick to ask for a bottle of water.

At room temperature, sir?

Yes, please.

He offers us the menu booklets and goes to fetch the bottle.

Ki khabe tumi? (What do you want to have?)

Having lost my appetite, I don’t really want to indulge, but again, I don’t want to sit answering Sudha’s million questions. So I need to behave as normally as possible.

I will have a chicken hot and sour soup, to begin with.

Okay! We can share that.

Alright. Main course ta tumi choose koro (you choose the main course), I am okay with anything that’s in the non-veg section.

Okay.

The waiter arrives with water for me. I start gulping it down my throat while Sudha is busy placing the order. My mind keeps going back to that evening when the shock unfolded in front of me, and I try harder to stay calm, pose normal. Damn! It’s difficult.

Good food is always a balm for the bruised soul. After thoroughly enjoying the jumbo prawns and chicken in delicious dark sauces, we make a move. The last two hours seem to have gone in a jiffy, whereas the 1 hour at home after I had read Shubho’s personal note seemed like the longest hour ever. Thank you Mr. Einstein for explaining to the world this theory of Relativity!

Food was good na?

Hmmm.

Nice place.

Yeah.

Thanks, Omi.

I smile, looking at her. She looks happy. Radiant. Good food I tell you!

How does your boss call your name?

Amit. And so do most of them, except for a few newbies.

Achcha! Then, what do they call?

They call either by the full name, or address as sir.

Amitabh Sarkar. Mr. Amitabh Sarkar! Like that?

Hahaha! No..its only the first bit, Amitabh.

But you said full name, that includes the surname too.

Yeah. The way everyone has abbreviated my name, Amitabh, rather looks akin to full name.

Hahaha! True.

I enjoy our little banter, more because Sudha rarely does this. As we reach home, I am reminded of the context in my mind I left the house with. It’s going to be a long night.

 

 

I am gazing at the ceiling when Sudha comes to bed. After saying her little prayer, she lies down.

Shall I put out the lights?

Ahh, yes please.

Okay. You won’t read tonight?

No. Don’t feel like.

Then sleep.

Yes I will. Good night.

Good night.

She turns to the other side and switches off the lights. After a moment of pitch darkness, my pupils have adjusted and now I can faintly see her silhouette. Svelte body. Never a hair out of place. Never an incorrect posture. She even sleeps with a certain grace. How lucky am I! That’s how everyone thinks about me. And they are right, not because she is such a beauty, but because she adjusts with me without any fuss. It’s been a nice life with her ever since we got married. And now, after 16 years of togetherness, we have come to understand each other better. Honestly, I hadn’t really imagined it would be this way. Today when I read that essay, I had imagined I would discover my son’s innocent friendship, the emotional side of him. Instead, I met myself, once again. Those exact emotions, the same kind of feeling that I had discovered in myself when I was 16. I wasn’t angry on finding out what lay in my innocent boy’s heart, but I was shocked because I hadn’t imagined I would come face-to-face with myself again in this lifetime. I hadn’t thought that ‘that’ part of me would be forced to resurface again. This was what had shaken me up so vigorously, this feeling called déjà vu!

My mind travels back to the time when I was in 11th standard and had discovered that I was different from my friends. I didn’t behave like them because it didn’t feel right, somehow. Initially I stayed in a state of denial and would try to be like them. Like, discussing how a certain girl looked so pretty, or how the girl’s body is a perfect 10 on 10. It took me 4 years to accept, finally, that a female’s mind or body didn’t excite me the way a male’s did. I felt a sisterly concern for any girl in my vicinity, and didn’t really wish to feel anything else. Whereas, my best friend in those days, a boy named Ankush had slowly started stirring all the hormones in my body. So much that when he fell in love with a girl in his tuition class, I tried my best to distract him away. I failed, of course, because he wasn’t like me. He had found his love, while I had lost mine. All in the same equation. And, I lost his friendship as well, the day I spoke out my heart to him. But it taught me an important lesson, that, it’s very difficult to explain myself to the world. When the person I loved so much, and called my best friend didn’t understand me, how was I supposed to expect anyone else to. And, with this lesson also came fear; the fear of losing people when they discovered this truth about me. I couldn’t bear the weight of loneliness, so when Baba told me about Sudha, I solemnly decided in my mind that I am going to bury this feeling forever, deep within me and remain all my life under this curtain of lie. In the bargain, I would pretend be a normal guy with a normal life surrounded by normal people. And I have performed my act well, Sudha can testify for me, and Shubho is my testimonial. But ‘that actual’ Amitabh died years back, only to be jolted back to life today. Life hasn’t been bad at all, but unreal and pretentious, yes. I could never write an essay like Shubho, even to tear it up later. It needs honesty and courage. But I chose to be dishonest to myself because of fear of being rendered unacceptable. To help myself from losing my dear ones, I lost my dearest soul – my own self. That was about 4 decades back but it’s still painful enough to get my tears falling unbounded, because the pain, the lie, the pretentious life is all still afresh. As I wipe them with my hand, I decide that this time I won’t be so weak. I will be the pillar to support my ‘different’ son’s ‘different’ choice. Amitabh had succumbed to fears, but Shoubhik is going to live his life the way he wants to. Even if the world fails to accept him, his father will not fail this time. True, the times have changed now, but it’s easier to like or discuss freedom with colleagues and friends, while a different ball game altogether when it’s your own genes asking for freedom to make his own choices. I care not for any other mouths that might get talking, or the eyes looking at us with sympathy, because c’mon, there is nothing wrong with my boy. He is an obedient, well mannered, bright young boy, who loves reading books and can take you to a different world when he plays his violin. And most of all, he is courageous and honest, and I won’t let his courage die by forcing him to comply by the common definition of being normal. He is not ordinary, and I won’t let him be one. With this resolution, I close my eyes and drift into my land of dreams. Happy dreams!

Next morning, as I wake up, I feel so much relaxed. I freshen up and go out into the living room.

Good morning!

Sudha turns towards me and smiles.

Good morning! I will get you some tea.

Can you please make me a light lemon tea with honey instead of sugar?

Oh sure! Someone needs a change it seems, hmm?

Hahaha! Why not, if it’s for the better.

Right. Will make it. For both of us.

I wander into the balcony and stand there looking at the green park. It’s looking even greener today, must have rained earlier some time. People go about their activities like everyday, but somehow I am able to see happiness in them; a smile on their faces, a spring in their feet.

The morning looks beautiful, isn’t it? Sudha hands me my cup of lemon tea. The fragrance from it acts like an instant detox for me.

Beautiful, really. Thanks for this. I gesture towards the cup of heaven.

As she sits down, I take a few sips. And then ask her.

Will you be honest if I were to ask you something? Something that is important to me.

I am always honest.

Oh c’mon!

She laughs.

Okay. I will be. Ask now.

Sudha, in all these years of marriage, did you ever feel you missed something or something that you wanted from me, or this marriage, but couldn’t get? Anything..

Yes. I wanted a bigger house, like a mansion or something, with 15 servants at my disposal. But you gave me this 3 room flat and one maid Asha, who is on the verge of escaping out any day!

I look at her, trying to figure out if she really means it. That’s when she bursts out laughing.

Got you, no? Hahaha!

You almost did! Why ohh..?

This look of yours is adorable. She adds, still laughing.

So, you won’t answer me?

What should I say Omi? Seriously, when I got married to you, I was just 22. I hadn’t even had got the privilege of dating a few boys. You were the first and only boy to come into my life, and I fell in love with you on our first night. I had read in magazines that men could get harsh when they wanted sex from their wives, not really caring much to ask if she too wants it. But you were so different. You just told me to feel easy and promised that you would listen to me whenever there was anything I wanted to tell you. When I hugged you before dozing off, you kept your hand on mine, and I felt I was the luckiest girl on earth! Ever since then, you always treated me respectfully and aced your duties as a husband, as a father. Never gave me a chance to complain. And when I would tell you about a bad day, or when my mood was off, you listened to me, as promised. What more could I ask for! You gave me a peaceful life, a happy family.

But, didn’t you feel any lack of love or romance? Because, I am no Dev Anand…

Love doesn’t mean roses and letters and gifts, to me. Whenever I was down with some illness or even during my menstruation, you would make soup for me despite your lack of interest in cooking. When my parents passed away within six months of each other, you consoled me like a mother and protected me like a father. On a certain day, when you called up five times on our land phone and didn’t get an answer, you rushed back home forgetting your office and protocols to check if I was safe. When I mentioned to you about my love for Rabindra Sangeet, you called the electrician and set up a centralized music system in our house, and not to forget, an entire collection of Tagore’s music was delivered to me the following week. When you hold the car door open for me even today, when you throw your jacket around me no matter how cold you might be feeling, when you pull the covers on me at midnight, all these mean the same thing and just one thing. And if this isn’t love, then nothing is.

I feel a lump in my throat listening to her. It’s true, I had done all this for her, but always as a duty, never out of love. And yet she, who could have complained for the million times when I came home late, or never kissed her good night, or didn’t buy her a birthday present, chose to see love in me. I feel so small, so helpless, as if chained by shackles, more painful than the iron ones. I go up to her and hug her. Tight this time. She embraces me. Yet again. With all my follies.

And reiterates.

If this isn’t love, what is, Omi!

The teardrop, unable to remain contained anymore, falls down at her bare neck gliding further down to touch the fabric of her blouse. I heave a sigh of relief. Thank you Baba, for bringing Sudha to my life. I say in my mind. True, matches are preordained, made in heaven. I couldn’t thank God enough. Sometimes, ignorance is really bliss!

I feel more certain now, to let life take its own path, to let Shubho find his own match. Whether that is Rishabh or Rishali or whoever, that’s up to him to find out. This resolution strengthens up my heart, my mind and me, altogether.

But what made you ask me this question today? Asks Sudha, while finding some space between us.

I take my unfinished cup of lemon tea and sip from it.

Just one of those days, when the mind wanders.

She gives me a dubious look.

And wonders!

You and your words, Omi! You should probably write a book.

Really? And end up buying all the copies, just to satiate the inner writer in me!

Yeah, may be. And then we could have another book wall displaying our homemade raita!

Hahaha!

The main door makes a creak. Someone’s there.

Asha is here. Time to go for another round.

Another round?

Of questions and answers. Let’s play KBC! – she fakes a heavy baritone, imitating the legendary Bachhan.

Not bad, Mrs. Sarkar!

She leaves with a laughter. A thought stays back – life is what you make of it.

 

I sit back for sometime, turning pages of the newspaper. Usual stuff. Usual negative stuff. I wonder if it’s me or everyone who thinks the same, or is the world around us really becoming so negative. Shaa!

I better go and get a shower before wandering off into my land of reckless thoughts again.

Sudha is talking to Asha, who is doing the dishes.

Ami jayi snaan korte. (I am going for bath)

Okay.

We can go to the supermarket after that, if your list is ready.

Let Shubho come back.

Oh okay.

 

Look who’s home! I come out after freshening up and see Shubho sitting at the dining table.

Good morning, Dada!

Morning, morning! How was your sleepover?

Was good. We had so much fun.

And your Maa must be elated that you are back in time for breakfast.

 I wouldn’t miss luchi and alur chorchori for anything in this world!

He truly is my replica, I think to myself. Me too, son!

At breakfast, we learn how the boys played video games, sang to karaoke, created a jingle for the upcoming Teachers’ Day function, and overall had fun. Sudha wants to know about his violin class, to which Shubho replies that he taught himself the ‘Titanic’ tune, and his sir was very pleased.

Oi ‘My heart will go on’ gaan ti? (That song ‘My heart will go on’?)

Yes.

Wow! We would also like to listen. No, Omi?

Yes of course. I add.

Okay, let’s see when can I find time! Shubho says, with a wink 😉

And we all laugh, roaringly, at the little joke that our ‘mostly serious’ guy just made.

The boy has had a great time. When we allowed him for the sleepover, we allowed him to make his choice and thus had conveyed to his young mind that we trust him; that we as parents will never chain him to our ideas of the past, in stead see light in the new ideas that he puts forth. This, what was done unknowingly, had managed to boost up his confidence. As parents, we were on the right track. I decided I had to talk to him. That too today itself.

 

 

After a round at the supermarket, we have come back home and Asha has done the necessary household work. Sudha starts preparing for ‘the grand Sunday lunch’ – kosha mangsho with pulao (mutton curry with a form of rice).

Where is Shubho?

Snaan e. (Gone for bath)

Okay.

I will go clean my bike and the car.

You should do it before bathing na.

I will bathe again, what’s the big deal!

Buy a lake nearby and remain in it. Take your laptop too.

Hahaha! You know what’s your best quality? You are effortlessly funny, more so when you are angry. I take the required cleaning stuff and make my way to our garage. A good 2 hours later, my vehicles are super clean, as good as new. I also clean up Shubho’s bike to surprise him. Entering home, the smell of cooked mutton makes me go weak everywhere.

Sudha, are we ready for lunch?

We are. But you aren’t. First go and clean yourself.

5 minutes. Bass! You bring on the plates…

Back in less than 5 minutes, I call out to Shubho. He comes around quickly; mom-made mutton is his favorite too.

No onions? Arrey get some onions.

Dada, shall I get?

No Shubho, you might hurt yourself. Sudha as usual interrupts.

It’s okay Shubho. Cut two onions, medium ones. I permit him, and he almost jumps out of his chair.

What Omi?

What Sudha? Trust him, and you will see him shine.

She rolls her eyes at me, and my eyes are only happy to be stalking the mutton curry she is serving into my bowl.

Shubho gets a plate decorated with onions proportionately sliced into circles, with 4 pieces of lemon kept at the centre.

Daarun hoyeche! (Too good) Sudha exclaims. And gives me a smile.

I give her the ‘told you’ kind of look.

A more than fulfilling lunch later, I suddenly feel more proud of being a Bengali. Such delicious is our food, it’s all that takes to bring the babumoshai out in me.

Bengalis are the best. In everything. Be it food, or intellect, or culture, or anything that you can think of. What say?

No Dada. All have their own culture, food and habits. The best would be when the best from everywhere could be taken and sculpted into one culture. That would be truly the best.

Right son! But till we have that, Bengalis are the best!!

Dada…

Shubho, just ignore your dad for now, he has gone into a state of illusion after having his favourite dish today. Ignore!

Hahaha!

 

Washing up after the sumptuous meal, Sudha decides to go for her nap. While I have a mission to carry out. A very important one.

Waiting for about 20 minutes to allow Sudha’s nap to really catch on, I go into Shubho’s room. He is on his bed, reading something.

Hey champ, may I come in?

Sure, Dada.

I needed scotch tape and glue.

I will get it for you.

He goes to his cupboard and gets both in no time. So cupboard, not drawers, silly me! I think.

Here you are.

Thanks. And scissors too. If you have them.

Okay.

He gets that too in a jiffy.

You sure know your den!

We all do. He says matter of factly.

I sit for a while looking at the stationeries. I must talk to him, my heart tells me. So I muster up courage and begin.

I am glad you enjoyed the sleepover.

Yes, it was good.

You should do it more often. No?

Hmmm.

Yes. You should always spend time doing what you like. Meeting friends, playing with them, whatever.

Shubho nods.

Betu, we of course are your parents, but you know we are humans too. And making mistakes is inherent in us. You have every right to question us or our decisions, if you think we are erring somewhere. Like you question your friends or teachers at school, you should know that you can do it at home too. With us. To question is not bad, it’s the way you frame your question is what matters.

Have I offended you or Maa someway? Shubho asks, innocently.

No! Not at all. Okay. I think I am confusing you.

Shubho does look confused. I decide it’s time I call the spade a spade.

Yesterday, in the evening, I came to your room searching for these very same things. I point to the tape and glue.

And in doing so, I stumbled upon your work. Your essay. Which you had kept in the last drawer.

He turns crimson red.

Trust me, it wasn’t my intention at all. I was in doubts whether I should read it or not. But when I did, I was only thankful.

He looks down, pulling lightly at the bed sheet.

I am so proud of you that you had the courage to put it down in ink. Not many can do so. And believe it or not, there are so many like you out there, who harbour similar feelings like you, but will never be able to show so much courage. Because they fear. They fear people will misunderstand them, isolate them or even harm them. But you, my boy, are all of 13,and still are so brave from within. That makes me so proud of you. Shubho, I just wanted to let you know that I am glad you have discovered yourself, now, never let yourself not behave like your real self due to any external reasons. Nothing is as important as being true to one’s own self. Are you getting me?

He remains quiet. No nods.

Shubho, you are as regular a boy as any of your other friends. Only, your choices might differ. Just like how one may like Tolstoy while other might like Byron. That doesn’t make one lesser than the other. As a parent, I will continue to stand with you through all the choices you make in life, and as your friend, if you deem me as one, I will listen to you and guide you to follow your heart always, no matter who says what.

I can see the little tears rolling down his soft cheeks.

Tears are for the weak, and the path you have chosen to follow is a tough one. Because whenever someone wishes to follow his heart, to pave new paths, he does face ample of obstructions in the form of rude language and harmful actions. But if your core is strong, you will never break down, never change yourself for someone else. Are you not strong?

He remains silent, looking down.

C’mon answer me Shubho. Are you strong or weak?

He looks up with moistened eyes and falls on to me. I hug him the tightest hug ever.

Yes, you are strong. And you are the bravest boy I have met. So proud of you,betu. You have made me so happy today. By being yourself. Never stop being so. Never.

I won’t Dada. I love you.

I love you too. Like they say, to the moon and back.

Thank you for understanding me. I was very scared. Of the world. Of myself. That’s why I tore it up after writing. But you have given me the courage, yet again. I will be myself.

Yes! And one more thing. Just as the choice is yours to be who you are, so are every other decisions all yours. Whether you want to let the world know about yourself, or even tell your Maa about it, these are all your choices to make. I will never interfere.

She doesn’t know?

No. And she will know only when you decide to tell her. I promise.

Oh Dada…

Yes betu. It’s your life, you build it. Make your own mistakes and learn from them. Otherwise, what’s life worth living for!

He bends down and touches my feet.

Bless me Dada, if I can be even half as good as you are…

You are way way way better than me. Trust me when I say this. My blessings always…

I wipe his tears and hug him again. And kiss him on the forehead. May the light always guide you.

I need to go now, some books need mending.

Okay Dada.

Take care. And we shall listen to your new tune on the violin today, please oblige!

Surely. Thank you again, my friend and father.

Welcome again, my Superson!

 

Back I go to my books, those that need attention. It’s time to give back. As I start mending them one by one, I realise that I am feeling a strange kind of happiness; the happiness that comes from setting your caged pet free, the happiness that you get from coming back to life from a long coma; the happiness that you get from getting a second chance at a lost game. Life had indeed given me a second chance at it, and this time around, the ending ought to be different. I promise to be fearless and stand by myself, this time. Amen!

 

 

 

Author ~ Deblina Chowdhury. A free spirited mother to a lovely toddler, she enjoys cooking good food and good stories. Spiritual, not religious, a techie by degree, a writer by choice and thoroughly emotional, that’s how she’s in a nutshell. To know more, simply read her words and to connect, please don’t, she hates spammers! But if you are serious about your wishes for her, mail her at deblinachowdhury@gmail.com.

Raw Cover Image: pixabay.com

Cover Image Design: Anari Minds

17 comments

  • Thank you so much Reena. It is always my earnest attempt to give the readers a visualization in my stories. Hopefully the next ones will be even better. Love to you!

  • Hey Deblina great story although i completed it in 4 stints with my little one. So u can imagine how glued i was to complete your story. My best wishes pls keep writing and sharing. I would luv to read. All the best dear.

    • Thank you very much for making the time for it. I am glad you liked it. And thanks for the encouragement ,I will try my best. Love to your little one 🙂

  • Took litttle longer to finish this one…Bt worth the minutes spent..too good topic..keep writing on topics like this..:-)

    • Thank you so much for taking out the time to read it. I am glad you liked what you read, and hopefully I can get even better with time, this being my first 🙂 Thanks again!

  • Amazing story dear!!! You can draw beautiful pictures with you words… Made a wonderful sunday afternoon read.. And the topic and content…are so briliiantly potrayed…delicately handled. Keep writing more. Good wishes 🙂

    • Heartfelt thanks to you for reading it and sharing your thoughts here. It would be my earnest effort to improve further and churn out stories that you enjoy reading. Thank you so much again 🙂
      -Deblina

  • A beautifully sketched family scene…..marvelous a topic for selection……..if all children could have been surrounded by such wonderfully understanding parents, understanding on all aspects I mean…….such a correct way of parenting —— to make you grow up as a well mannered, strong from core, dutiful, respectful a human…….Bravo !!! Cheers to your enlightened mind !!!

    • Thanks a ton Samali for reading it and liking it. I am a total believer of the need for an open mindedness in a family or a relation and finally the society at large, and someday hope to see more of it in our country. It makes me rather happy that you could get the essence of this story, that means a lot to any writer. So a big, warm thanks to you once again. Happy life!
      -Deblina

  • Awesome awesome, awesome story Deblina:D:D:D:D. The way you wrote, kept me glued to the tiny mobile screen. And what a topic to write about! Love is always pure, irrespective of the gender you chose to fall in love with. Your story sums that beautufully! Kudos 👍👍👍

    • Can I hug you thrice for those three big ‘awesome’ words? Being a first time writer, it means the world to me and trust me, if I were to earn success as a writer someday, I am going to gift you an iPad or something so that you don’t need to strain your eyes in that tiny mobile screen 😉 Till then, my love will have to suffice, so here’s a big hug to you. Keep reading, and do come back for more. Thank you!
      -Deblina

      • Sure … Lag jaa gale ke yeah raat phir ho na ho :mrgreen:. All your love accted whole heartedly :mrgreen::mrgreen:

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