Where did that dog
that used to be here go?
I thought about him
once again tonight
before I went to bed.
“What’s after six?”
“Five,” said my daughter. She’s three now.
“No. On the other side?”
Pause. Head scratching. “Seven?”
House is in a perpetual mess. One of these days, if you enter our house unannounced, you’ll feel like you have entered a cowshed by mistake, and you turn around to find the right entrance on the other side. Only to realize there’s no other entrance.
I think there’s some kind of evil pleasure in leaving things around——creating the mess. That’s what the little devil has been doing these days. Initially we, parents, tried to maintain order; But as soon as you straighten one room, things fall apart in the other, and then after sometime you are so tired with this routine, you leave everything to God.
Kabir Das once went on a long search to find bad guys. He could not find one. But when he looks into himself, he admits, he’s the worst of all. Anyway, I once circled the neighbourhood searching for a messier house. And, like the mystic poet I too have failed. But when I see our house, I admit, it is the messiest.
Kids are like sponges. You’ll be amazed, how they absorb only the bad things from parents. Ria has noticed me struggling on the weighing scale, often. (Something is wrong with the weighing scale at home; the numbers never come down.)
One day, she decided to check her weight herself. Only she didn’t use the weighing scale. I heard the cracking sound from the couch. And realized immediately something important had broken. I dashed for the rescue. Picked her up. When I saw what she was standing on, my heart cringed.
“This is a laptop, not a weighing scale!”
Laptop survived though. I guess the Quality Control teams of these laptop makers have young moms, who consider households with small children. Maybe the laptops are built to withstand such harsh treatments. But certainly no laptop is waterproof. I have found this out recently, when she spilled milk on the key board. Now some of the keys work and some don’t. ‘E’ is not working——the most used letter. The Pause key is working——though I don’t have any use for it. I don’t remember the last time I used the PAUSE key on my laptop! In fact I have forgotten the very use of this key!
What I want now is a pause button for my life. Yes. That’s what I want. I want to pause this life, tear this computer screen, come out and sit next to you. I want to listen to your stories. You have listened enough of mine. Now it’s your turn. I would appreciate a cup of tea, if that’s not much of an inconvenience. Tea and Britannia Good Day biscuits. That’s my dream: sitting next to you, eating tea-dipped Britannia Good Day biscuits, and listening to your stories. How about that?
She goes to preschool now. I was not in any hurry to put her into school; but she pestered so much, we had to give in. No one in our family was so excited to go to school——certainly not me. I went to kindergarten only for a few days; there when I saw the kids fighting their turns for the rocking horse that didn’t make any advance, I got an idea about our education system. After that I made such a ruckus not to go to school, I was allowed to loiter at home.
Later, whatever I learned at school only helped me in getting good grades, but didn’t prove to be of any use in real life. All those theorems and math equations really were of no use to me. In college, when I learned ‘sin square theta plus cos square theta equals one’, I asked myself, where in the world am I going to use this? And, sure enough, I have never used any of that stuff till today; and now, after so many years after college, I have to recollect the wretched math equation just to show you how useless it is. I learned Languages, History, Geography etc. in school. But the technical knowledge that was needed in the outside world was not taught at college.
After the college, in the initial days of job hunting, the interviewers laughed looking at my resume; since, the computer languages I had mentioned——the ones taught at college——were outdated before I was born! I had to do a six month’s emergency crash course to bring myself up to speed. In these six months I learned more than 4 years of engineering.
My grandfather, Louis Serao, a wonderful gentleman——it’s possible you would have ran into him if you ever attended Kinnigoli’s weekly market fair——one who, if you start writing about, you’ll end up in long sentences, fragments, redundant adjectives, dashes and commas, as far as I know, never used Calculus, or any second derivative math equations, or iPhone or email id. Yet, he lived up to 90, enjoyed his life to the fullest. And at that late age, like the great writers Hemingway (suicide), Virginia Wolf (Suicide), Sylvia Plath (suicide), Gogol (suicide), Jerzy Kosinski (suicide), he lost hope on the mankind. Grandpa didn’t commit suicide; he just lost hope. I wonder where people get such ideas.
Ria had to have her choice of school bag. Her mom suggested better ones. But the options were ignored and the brightest bag with Disney character Tinker Bell was chosen. The bag is huge. Half her size. In it, she can haul college books easily, if she retains the bag that long. Every guest, visitor gets a free demo of its features. School bag has put her on cloud nine; I wonder when was the last time I was that happy? Or will I be so happy ever?
“I miss you,” she said, after the first day at school. I asked myself: when was the last time someone, anyone for that matter, had said those words to me? And, regretfully, after rattling past memories, I need to inform you this: no one. So here I am, a loner whom no one will miss if I have to leave this planet right now. Suddenly I feel like I am standing alone on the divider of NH-17 highway, somewhere near Surathkal bus-stand, while express buses dash on both sides with great speed.
On the second day after the school, she fought with her mom, not to come back. Beats me. It’s a miracle. I, on the other hand, went to school only to please Mom. Not going to school was not an option. Mom is like thousands of Mangalorean moms who want their children to be number one in everything. Even now, with all my writing, she’s not impressed. The fact that I didn’t make any money from almost a decade of writing, is pricking her heart. Such a waste of time she says.
In her time, Mom had to wake up early and work in our rice fields, before going to school. Grandma was strict. She made all her children work in the farms. Though Mom was an early riser, I’m sure she never took a break to enjoy the sunrise. In her free time, she had to weave flowers. But I can assure you she never stopped to smell the very flowers she was weaving. She didn’t have time for such finer things. Life was tough. Even after her marriage, when life became a bit easier, she got blessed——ha ha ha——with 3 demanding kids in a short span of time; at least one of them was doomed to become a failed artist. Because of this background things without monetary values became useless to her. She is quite a pragmatic person.
I was paid once though. When I was in Bahrain, I wrote a small article to an American website. As a token of appreciation, they mailed me a $25 cheque. The bank in Bahrain said, being an international cheque, they’d charge around 12 Dinars, which in fact is more than $25. Any sober person would have ignored the whole thing at this point. But deep inside I am a poet and a romanticist, I had to convince myself that writing is worth it. So I ended up paying from my pocket to clear the cheque.
I have opposed, in my past articles, children watching cartoons. I take that back now. Sometimes it’s a blessing, especially when you need a few quiet moments. In those times, I make her sit in front of the TV——switch on her favorite cartoon. (Right now, she’s watching cartoons in the next room.)
I have watched more Disney animation movies in the last few months than in my whole life. When I was a kid, we had only 2 VHS tapes of Tom and Jerry. I watched them all the time——again and again. Now there are so many cartoons. Some of them are violent, meaningless, and painful to watch. Only a few months ago, I was unaware of the existence of such cartoon characters as Tinker Bell, Dora, Caillou, George, and Martha. The last one is her current favorite.
It seems that the dog, Martha, accidentally ate alphabets and instead of going to its tummy, these alphabets went to its head. And, now the dog talks! This is probably the dumbest idea. I know. It doesn’t deserve mentioning here. But my daughter loves the dog.
If a big word pops up in the conversation, the show kind of pauses, and the dog turns to its viewers and spells out the word. Also, gives a few possible meanings. Sometimes it asks questions to the audience, and waits in anticipation for the answer. Sometimes there are long lectures on what the good kids should do and don’t.
All this preaching is a big NO in adult fiction. Writers can no more lecture their readers; although, such a thing was prominent in Victorian literature.
Before the child, I had this constant feeling that I am in a Satyajit Ray movie: nothing happened for long periods of time. Now I feel like I am in a Mangalore-Udupi express bus. She has become mischievous and overly imaginative: eats only the center circles of bread slices; Quietly enters the room while I am writing, switches off the light, runs away and hides; has developed a strong liking for licking ice cubes, and shuts my mouth while I talk on the phone. (Imagine the last thing, while explaining a critical thing to a client.)
A few days back, She tried to staple my finger. In a sense I am metaphorically stapled to frozen time. You’ll notice this when you read my short-stories. The super-ideal characters have baffled many readers. Where do such people exist? They have asked me. And, I have gracefully accepted, these people exist only in my imagination.
“Can you hold my hand?” I asked her in the crowded mall, one time.
“I’m scared,” I said. “I might get lost here.”
“Don’t be scared. You are a big girl now.”
She cannot differentiate a boy from a girl. So she has by-hearted this information. It is so silly. This notion of roting logical things probably she got from me.
At school, I was extremely good at by-hearting. I would even by-heart math problems. The same problem with different parameters would have multiple copies in my head. I was so good at this, I was one of the toppers. Here’s what I have to say: In any school, if the topper is a person whose way of learning new things is roting——then there is something wrong with the system. Don’t you agree?
Such people, whose Modus Operandi is roting, should not join computer industry. I did exactly that, and had a tough time in the initial days of my career. Most computers are dumb——they understand only 0s and 1s. Imagine talking to a person who understands only two words: Yes & No. How do you communicate with such a person? In short, to make these dumb-computers work intelligently, whoever programs them, need to be quite logical.
Only much later in my career, I realized that any complex idea can be dissected into smaller, simpler parts, which are easier to digest. This applies to writing as well. Writers who lack clear thoughts, use jargon and convoluted language. (Convoluted? Gosh! Should have used a simpler word!)
One day she offered me water in a small plastic cup from her kitchen set. She cooks imaginary dishes for me now and then. Sometimes I ask her to add more salt or ask for a second serving. This is a kid game. But might turn out fatal for writers. I am now at a position where I am slowly losing the sense of reality. When I read some of the stuff I had written in the past, I am not sure if those things really happened or they are just my imagination.
Anyway, the water in the cup was real; I saw the little circles. She signaled me to drink. I was about to oblige, but then I realized she cannot reach any of the water taps in the house.
“Where did you get the water?”
At first she refused; after much cajoling, she obliged finally, pointed to the commode.
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