The arrival of some five or six people was not going to affect him.
“Ah, guests!. They come and go. But I….I remain”, he thought in his almighty tone. He was sure he could, as he had ‘planned’ about five minutes ago, manage the guests and then run back into his room and dive into his books as if nothing happened.
The morning was as beautiful as ever with his dad waking him up with his daily bed-tea and himself sitting idly on the drawing room-chair with one leg over its arm-rest, sipping in the beautiful tea, with eyes wide open, gazing into the eternity beyond the wall, wondering how things would be so perfect. Nobody could sense anything special in the way mornings work; not even his dear dad (who could make the most wonderful of teas) who would now begin his routine chorus telling him to study.
Finally, after five minutes of the chorus every day, he would understand that if he sits there further, things would get ugly. So, he goes to his room, sits on his study chair and opens a book which is ever-present on his table. He had a special notebook to gaze into on every morning whose ownership, content or even the cover page is unknown to him till date. If one were to ask him what that book was, all the acquaintances with it over the years of mornings would only bring into his head a crocodile tattoo stuck in its front page. After all, the front page was all that mattered.
But this particular morning was quite different. He had to do something today. He had his examination the next day and he was as ignorant of the subject as ever. So, he opened his text book instead of his daily buddy. The lines in the text began making sense when he tried reading. “It is just like making new friends”, he thought. “You just have to get to know them and they will remain with you”. But frankly, friends and text books are entirely different issues. Firstly, not making friends will not make you fail in exams, but not reading text books will. Secondly, friends are not boring (enough said). However, he could not run away. He had to face the exams no matter what.
It was then that he remembered that he had guests today. He had to help in the day’s chores. So, he made his first ‘plan’ for the day. He would clean up the house in not more than an hour and then dive back into his text. As the plan was being formulated, he heard his mother’s footsteps in the kitchen. Soon, the smell of chutney would fill the home and the sweet ‘clang’ of steel on stone would herald the birth of a new ’dosa’. “How perfect can a day be?”, he thought, “dad making tea, mom making dosa”…according to him, it was high time his sister too started doing something towards making his day perfect. She could help mom in the holy process of dosa-making, or dad, who would, by now, be watering the plants. It would be a whole lot better if she could do anything……anything at all, except greeting him with a sullen “oh !” in this perfect morning of his. But he “forgives”. After all, he needs her to get things from the top floor or to help him wash the car or in cleaning or n a million other ways. Although his relation with his sister is ‘parasitic’ in many ways, he likes to think of it as a ‘symbiosis’ (mainly because he doesn’t want to feel guilty).
The guests were to come by noon. He had finished his breakfast and was halfway through the cleaning process. Clearly, his so-called ‘plan’ had failed and so he made a new one, one which seemed better. He would begin his studies after the guests left. That would give him the necessary peace of mind.
By noon, he was ready for the guests. Apparently, they too were ready for him. He had to pick them up from different places since none of them knew the way to his house. He wondered how people could get lost in the narrowest of lanes when there was a whole wide world of roads waiting for them to get lost in. He was surprised by the number of different ways his guests would come to his silly house. There was a straight road, however, that no one took. After all, people never like taking straight roads.
After an hour past noon, all the guests were in his home. He was neither tired nor exhausted and helped his mom serve them. In the midst of eating and drinking, people, it seems, have a particular tendency to throw certain ‘casual’ questions which were supposed to ‘break the ice’. This, however, was theory. The practical occurrence follows a particular questionnaire which is strangely similar, irrespective of the nativity, race, clan, gender or even the age of the guest.
Question 1: Hi son, and you said your name was…???
He wanted to say, “ Oh, I didn’t say what y name was. What’s yours? “. But what he actually said was his real name with a short smile which was supposed to be pleasant.
Question 2: Hmm…which class are you in ???
“Buddy, ‘class’ was a long time ago. Now I’m in college” would not come out of his mouth. Instead, he said, “engineering, uncle/aunt”.
Question 3: Ooh!!! So how’s your studies ???
Now they were not breaking the ice. They were breaking his heart.
“Going good” plus smiley was the answer.
Question 4: What about you little girl ???
Ahhhh!!! Cease-fire. The Americans have now fully exploited Iraq and had gone to the next country for their petroleum.
But his sister was not going to fall. The first and second questions went unnoticed. It was the third question that brought sparks in the eyes of my father. He said, “Oh, she’s fine in class. She does everything on her own, studies well and knows how to look after herself.”
He wanted to say, ”Hey dad, that first part is sufficient answer for the question. They aren’t interviewing her for a job.” But he had to keep ‘mum’ plus the smiley, of course.
Now, it was mom’s turn, “oh she’s a great help for me, whether in kitchen or outside. I always wish my elder one was a girl.”
“Hellooo !!! an elder girl couldn’t do half as much as he could”, he thought. But he didn’t care to speak anymore. The smiley was long gone already.
Now, it was time for the people to comment. “Yes”, they would say, “boys are usually on the lazy side. It is the girls who will come to be of help in the end.”
His mind was roaring, “Traitor !!!, it was the ‘boy’ who picked up your sorry **** from the lane you got lost in. I should have left you there.” But he had to swallow that thought, of course, plus the smiley.
This way, after heated discussions about various things for which he never cared and talks which he did not pay attention to, the conversations ended. The guests left.
According to his ‘plan’, he had to study now. But his house needed him. “Oh shit! , look at this mess”. Cleaning up is never easy. It took a hard effort to bring his home back to normal, after which he was really exhausted. He decided to take a bath. His shower was his elixir. It usually recharges him fully. But this time, it went a step further. He was sleepy now. Thinking, “maybe I’ll rest for a few minutes”, he fell into his bed.
”Aren’t you having an exam tomorrow? Shouldn’t you be studying?” were the next words he heard. His dad was glaring at him. He looked at the clock. It was half past eight.
“A few minutes??? You idiot…” , he said to himself. Running to the wash, he splashed water on his face , some on his head too and ran back to the study table.
“Anyway, its late. Why don’t you have dinner and then start studying ?”. His mom was pushing steamcake out of the cylinder. This is something he hated about tasty food. All his favourite foods presented themselves during his worst times (a rare coincidence maybe), and so he had to finish it in a hurry.
Now he had not less than three modules to study and a single night ahead of him. He stretched himself and opened his book. Now, the curse of good nourishment is that it is often accompanied by good sleep. Was he going to sleep? The well-spread mattress was beckoning him invitingly. “No”, he thought. The words he had scribbled in his book seemed to make sense now.
“The woods are lovely, dark, and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep?”
The crocodile in his book was smiling at him…
later in the night, he thought lying in his bed, “So, I’ll wake up early in the morning and cover as much as I can. Maybe I will get time to read the previous questions too.” That was his last ‘plan’ for the day….