Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Close encounters of the child kind

© 2007 / Slice of Life by ShaKri

BEFORE ANYONE WOULD ROLL THEIR eyes at his remarks, Sagar knew it was coming. The hidden, sometimes obvious, smirk of ‘we know better than you’ that young couples with diaper coloring infants gave him was now getting old. Being one of the very few single men he knew, he had to spend a good part of his socializing with these married and ‘Oh so wise’ people. Just by being themselves, they were sending a message that would annoy the hell out of Sagar. The way they spoke of their experiences, their humor that was nowhere near funny but forced Sagar to giggle at them like it was the funniest thing he had ever heard et al. O! Reader, it was a drag. Patronizing wives and half-hearted conversations later, Sagar would come home and fall on his understanding bed and talk to it to ensure he was still sane. That he was right in the way he felt.

But let us first see Sagar’s side of things before we too join the vast population of ‘eye rollers’ he is so familiar with. The only feminine presence and influence in his life was his mother. A doting father and a chummy brother were the only close associates he had had to grow up with. Being the nomadic kind, his family had seen all of the country’s major hot spots. Also the fact that Sagar’s only sibling was just about a year younger did not help the much talked about rivalry factor. There wasn’t one. His years of exploration had never seen his friends circle grow too well since his head was always in the arts. He painted, sang, would sketch some fascinating caricatures of everyone around him, spun tales in ink and dabbled with poetry. He was a true Piscean. Living in his own world of goblins and superheroes, Sagar’s skills came to him as naturally as eating.

He spoke when spoken to and did what was asked of him. At home when a dozen relatives came with their cacophony and gossip, Sagar would sit in a corner chatting with his cousins and explaining to them his latest cartoon character creation – ChocoBoy. Apparently a spin-off of Spiderman except ChocoBoy would shoot out streams of chocolate laced with walnuts and almonds. The wide-eyed cousin clan – needless to say – loved ChocoBoy and his creator. Nothing else mattered. Sagar just did not care about the rest of the world around him.

And this might as well have been a long drawn truth for him had he not been on the West-bound flight at the tender age of twenty-two. No sooner had he kept his colored crayons down to wipe his nose that he found his hands wiping his mouth with a Lufthansa-logo bearing napkin. His transition from a confused teenager to a responsible adult was so quick, that he missed out on several things. Job, career, family responsibilities kicked in so well that Sagar’s world of stories and glories faded into a mirage of the horizon where reality is no longer real. It just appears to be.

The added heat in this already spiced up curry-pot of Sagar’s social life, was these unexpected encounters with children.

He still remembers with an odd frown the first time he had had the ‘pleasure’ of meeting one. He had been invited during his first month abroad to an Indian couples’ family. The one thing Sagar knew was this – couples don’t care about single people. They call them over just to keep things well buffered. Do they really care what the single folks do with their time? No chance. Will they genuinely pay attention to what the singular soul has to share about his day? Doubtfully. So needless to say along with him were two more set of couples were invited. To keep things, as Sagar called it, balanced. In his heart of hearts he knew the truth as much as they did – couples enjoy other couples’ company. Period.

‘What will he cook tonight? Poor chap. Let’s call him and feed him. We might even allow him to talk and pretend to listen! He can walk away feeling he was cared for!’ was how Sagar envisioned their planning process.

Yet there he was, sitting in the well lit, décor-heavy living room on a couch that was softer than the skin on a young woman’s thigh. Ah! A feel that never fades. Feeding himself well roasted samosas and listening to the idle chatter the folks were relentlessly pounding him with, he was happy he was getting something out of all this. Good food.

But then it came. Initially he did not know how to respond. But when the tiny pair of eyes and soft hands came to him for a ‘handshake the uncle’ routine he suddenly knew two things. One, he was now officially an Uncle. Two, he had never shaken hands with an eight year old before. It was like he was suddenly being introduced to someone from a completely different universe. He knew nothing of the protocol he was expected to follow.

Mumbling a simple ‘hello there…child…’ he smiled back at the gawking face and shook an awkwardly angled limp hand. Instead of moving on the face continued looking back at him in mute wonder. ‘Good lord, kid! Move on!’ he screamed from within while decorating a well placed grin on his lips. And it did. After a little coaxing from the watchful parent. ‘Phew!’ sighed Sagar as his pleasant evening had just turned into a bizarre one. His cautious self-respecting demeanor had been thrown into the open pitted against a human being who was about a third of his age and a fourth his height.

‘OK guys…’ crooned the proud mother ‘…now Bela baby will play a tune for us!’

Sagar could not believe this was happening. One more surprise! He suddenly regretted having accepted the invitation. Those samosas weren’t worth this, he said to himself. ‘Mom makes better ones,’ he summarized with a subtle pout.

And so the kid hopped onto the piano and began its recital. A popular, well known, loud and predictable tune from a Bollywood movie. Sigh! If only the kid had enthralled Sagar with a Mozart he would have gone and kissed the kid’s feet with genuine respect. Instead he sat there for four grueling minutes surrounded by air filled with the same ten second tune repeated a dozen times. At times off key and at other times with inexplicable gaps of silences filled by the mother’s comforting ‘Go on sugar. Go on sweetie…’ word waves. He looked around and found the other couples nodding their heads and genuinely appreciating the piece. He was immediately convinced – marriage makes people tone-deaf.

He came home that day at around 2am (o! the dinner was after the recital so they did not begin until 11pm.) and threw himself on the assuring bed once more.

‘Jee-zus Christ! What a night baba…uff…’

‘Really?’ asked the bed reassuringly.

‘Oh! Yes. I thought it would never end. It is official. I hate kids.’

‘Oh come on,’ debated his bed knowing him too well ‘you are going to be a parent one day too. And you will know what to do. Kids are great.’

‘O! Shut up,’ he continued as he flung away his shoes and wriggled out of his tired jeans, ‘…you weren’t there. I am not doing THAT again. Phew. What a night…kill me…just kill me now…’ he murmured as a deep veil of sleep held him in place.

Much to the bed’s notorious glee and to Sagar’s infinite seeming grief…he did it again. Several times. The only major allure being of a gastronomic nature. He sat through dances, songs, more piano recitals and of course, games involving him having to ‘hop’ from one spot to another with a lot of patience. Once he even had to carry a nine year old since the father insisted. Sagar had actually enjoyed it the first seven seconds before his hand started getting heavy and pain engulfed his entire arm. He let the kid down only to find another one looking back at him with its hands up in the air. ‘Me! Me!’

‘I seriously hope that bed was right,’ he said to himself as he threw a punch in the air to get rid of the gnawing sprain ‘or else I am taking it out and burning it with my own hands. I don’t mind sleeping on the floor.’

‘Yeah yeah…hang on…’ he said picking up the next one only to shockingly realize it had soiled its trousers and a strong whiff of massive disorientation entered his fragrance-friendly nostrils.

Sagar now no longer hated just kids. He also wasn’t thrilled about parenting either.


1 reflections:

Deepa said...

Strangely, strangely autobiographical, me thinks! :-)