23 August 2007

An everlasting affair

My earliest memories are of Mom. In retrospect, I cannot imagine a single moment without her. Mom was always there, like a shadow, like a bodyguard. Life was mom centric!
Mom would take all my decisions; in fact she did so many things for me——she almost made me a handicap! She would sense dangers miles and hours ahead. I was 24/7 under Mom’s care.
As a child, strangers could not talk to me, they were politely denied access. I don’t have a single lone picture of my kid days; Mom is there in every one of them! My toys were carefully scrutinized not to have any sharp edges, large enough not to swallow.
I was not allowed near any of the water resources or creeks or dried—out wells. So many things were denied, there were really not many things I was allowed to do. It was a difficult child hood, almost like that of Cinderella before she met the prince!
Father and Son
For a long time, I thought Dad was a guest! He was working in the Middle East. We could see him only once a year, for a month, during Christmas. He used to come just before Santa.
Those days, I was suspicious of him, who talked, dressed and looked like me. I would wonder for hours, how he could emulate me so much. Only later, I realized the things are the other-way-around.
Since Dad was away most of the time; Mom filled the role of Dad!
Samson’s assets
Once a month, Mom would take me to Raganna——the village barber. He was the barber for Grandfather, Dad, me and may be for my children too. (This prediction has been somewhat fulfilled: Raganna’s son gave my daughter——2 years now——her first hair-cut. A few weeks back the son shaved my daughter’s head.) Years will pass, kingdoms will fall, centuries will turn, but Raganna, the good man, with his sharp scissors, simple smile, will be always available to serve the people in need of an emergency haircut!
“AS short as possible,” Mom would guide Raganna.
“Ma’am, short hair will spoil the looks of the boy.”
“We don’t want to visit you every week!” she would say. “He is not going to become a movie star.”
“I understand, perfectly” Raganna would oblige.
“Please, keep the hair bit long in the front,” I would beg him.
“Can’t do that boy, can’t imagine losing a good customer in this small village!”
Another mom
Grandma saved me a lot of times. I was her pet.
“Don’t be so strict to your son,” Grandma would tell Mom,
“I was not”
“Don’t tell…” Mom would start, but Grandma would cut her right away, “Don’t raise voice to your Mother in front of your son and be a bad example!”
For local church feast Grandma would give me 100 Rs note.
“I will give you 2 notes if you give me the one Grandma gave you” Mom would say. I would fall for it; only to realize years later that I bartered for two 10 Rs notes. Ever wonder how kids lose their innocence?
Friends in need
My friends were mortified of Mom. She would corner them and interrogate. “Are you guys my son’s friends?”
“No, ma’am” they would reply intelligently.
“I know you guys; tell me which brand you smoke?”
“WILL………yeaaks we don’t smoke”
“Do not, I repeat do not,” she would shout like a military officer, “spoil my son!”
Superman’s Identity
“I would like to have VIP underwear.” Shy to death; croak somehow those words to the salesman at the counter. In those days there used to be an VIP ad, where a naked or almost naked man jumps from the roof-top to save a girl from an imposter wearing only a VIP underwear!
What this naked man was doing on the roof-top in the first place, was beyond my comprehension! It went to my young mind that these VIP briefs would give me a macho look and some how relieve me out of Mom’s influence.
“What size?” Salesman would ask with indifference.
Before I say anything Mom would jump “22!”
“Its 24 Mom,” I would correct her.
“24 is too loose for you; give him 22,” she would order the salesman.
“What color?”
“Pink,” Mom would say.
“Pink is girlish!” I beg.
“Pink is good for you. No one is going to check anyway!” she would wink.
Doctor Holla
“Are you Prashant or Pratap?” Doctor Holla used to ask that question every time I visited him. Pratap is my younger brother. Except the surname we don’t have anything in common. One of us is a mutant; guess it is me! Strangers, upon seeing us would express serious doubts of being us belonging to the same mother. Even then, Doctor Holla would ask: “Are you Prashant or Pratap?”
He was soft spoken. I had to concentrate very hard to hear him. (The good doctor passed away some time back.)
“He is Prashant; the slower one,” Mom would reply for me.
He would slowly poke a finger at my tummy and ask “Does it hurts here?”
Mom would quickly jump, “Not there, the other side.”
Dr. Holla with his immense patience shifts his gaze slowly from my tummy to her “Ma’am, I am asking the patient.”
“You may be asking the patient, but the patient is my son!”.
Then she would continue, “give him some antibiotics and may be 1 or 2 Brufen for the pain. Nothing too strong.” At this even the mountain of patience Dr. Holla loses his control, with great difficulty he would say: “Ma’am, I am the doctor here.”
“You may be the Doctor, But I am his Mom,” She would even argue with a doctor.
Eli Eli lama sabachthani
Whenever I was alone in the church, I would pray: “God get me out of my moms influence, and take me under yours!” I would put 50 paisa and wait for response; when there was none I try again “Here is one more coin!” and wait for ever!
Before leaving the church I would whisper, “I have got more coins, think about it,” A final offer to God! Like the one in God Father – the offer he can not reject!
Unknown Future
Being kid, I was fascinated by automobiles. I wanted to be a bus driver.
“What career you want to pursue?” once a guest asked.
“I want to be a bus——”
“He will become a priest!” Mom interfered. “My other two kids will marry and have children, but this one, the slower among the three, will become a priest——he lacks competence!”
“Mom, I want to be a bus driver.”
“No, you will be a priest.”
“Can I become both?”
“What do you mean?”
“I can become a priest and bus driver at the same time. So after the mass, I can drive people around!”
“A 2-in-one, driver/priest; I don’t think that would be practical. You may need permission from Rome.”
At this point, the same guest who first asked the question would initiate, “Ma’am, why would a perfectly normal boy needs to be a priest when there are other more profiting and promising ventures available?”
“As I said he doesn’t have the competence, he is slow, like a tube-light!”
“On the contrary,” I said, “I know how a tube-light works, there are two input wires, kerosene flows in one, fire flows in the other!”
A sudden silence ensued. The guest went berserk, nit knowing whether to laugh or be serious.
“Who told you that?!” Mom snapped.
“Peddy master,” I said. He was my favorite teacher. He used to tell all these imaginary stories. I believed each one of them.
After this incident Mom started hunting for Peddy master. He was in her top priority list. She caught him one day in the market. “Are you the MAN,” (not are you the teacher) she hollered, “who told my son that tube lights work on kerosene?”
It took him some time to comprehend the whole situation. Sheepishly the old man said, “Ma’am, I told him a story in which a village boy thinks like that!”
“Well don’t teach him what the village boys think, teach him what Edison proved!”
Other moms
I was not allowed outside after dark. Sometimes when I was late, I was locked outside.
“Mom, open the door!”
“What time is it?” She would ask from the window.
“No it is 7:05!”
“I am sure; Sachin’s mom is allowing him to play all the time. He is making the news. He will one day play for the Indian team.”
“If he plays all the time; he won’t even clear SSLC; who would allow a SSLC failure in the national team?”
She was right about Sachin failing to clear SSLC, but terribly wrong about him not getting an entry in the national team. Later Sachin Tendulkar would become the most famous and most loved cricketer in the history of the game!
Friends forever
Now that I am married and mature, (both things are not linked!), when I recollect those old days, I simply laugh at them. All that possessiveness, rules and regulations from Mom, somehow worked for me——made me a regular guy.
When you become old and your parents older, they become your best friends. They are the best people to lean on. You are always sure their love is unconditional. They are no more possessive. They become confident; they defend you with the strangers.
Sometimes, I barge into the kitchen while Mom is cooking, and pick something from the dish (which I was not allowed to do when I was younger). I say, “This is simply the best food I ever tasted.”
“Is it tastier than your wife’s?” she would ask mockingly.
“Mom, are you jealous? You know I cannot answer that.”
“How is your sex life?”
“What the H——” I contain myself “How can you ask me that question?”
“I am your Mom I can ask you anything.”
“You are becoming senile,” I wander out of the kitchen.
There was a kind of survey and I was caught hold by a young man with a questionnaire. He asked me a lot of questions, my opinions on sex education, my sex preferences, life after death etc. etc.
“Who is the most important person in your life?” Before I could say anything he said, “You can do the Aamir-Khan-Trick?”
“What is it?” I asked him.
“In Dil-Chahata-hai, when asked the same question, he closes his eyes, eliminates everyone else, and finalizes Preity Zinta!”
“Oh, that’s a nice trick, though I don’t need it.” I cleared my voice and confidently said: “The most important person in my life is - my mother.”

Note: If you liked this memoir, you might like the others in the series as well. Click Here. 

Unlike my other articles, I wrote this one in just five days. It was initially titled, MOM; but changed at the last minute to, An affair to remember. Dad didn't like the new title, because he had seen the movie with the same name; he thought it is misleading. Later, one of my friends, whom I met after 22 years, suggested the current title. I guess when you meet a person after such a long time, you are obliged to grant their simple wishes.

It got good reviews though. You can read it on daiiji here.