Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Rumination of a teenager formerly known as Achint

My mom squawks. Incessantly. All the time. In fact, every time she sees me.

“Oh gawd, smell your socks!”

Should I? Should anyone? Would you?

“Oh gawd, look at your hair!”

Why mine? Look at David Beckham's. Look at Johnny Depp's. Look at Zayed Khan's. Or John Abraham's. Are their mommies squawking?

“Oh gawd! Why are your underpants showing?”

Duh. Got underwear. Will show. Watch the Kaanta Lagaa video for further reference.

The problem with adults is that they start off alright. Then somewhere along the way they lose it. Become mindless. Start parroting each other. My dad, for instance, started off a bit of an alright. Now he's gone into the squawking mode too.

“Oh gawd! Look at your report card!”

Desist. That's the last thing I would recommend you look at -- blood pressure and all that.

“Oh gawd! How do you get marks like that?”

Quite easily. Effortlessly. Yes, that's the word. Don't remember trying. They come on their own.

Anyway, the long and short of it is this. It's official. You can call me God. As in “Oh Gawd”. My parents do. I don't know why they bothered with the naamkaran ceremony, getting a pundit, finding the right letter of the alphabet to start with et al. They should have just stuck to their gut feelings after that first gush of “Oh gawd, isn't he beautiful!”

Alas, the adult mind.

Don't get me wrong. There is nothing old fashioned about my folks. In fact, my mom is so New Age that she's almost future tense. They've invited her to Andromeda, or is it into Shambala, but she's still trying to figure out if the vaastu of the place is right. My mom, she doesn't go anywhere without first figuring out if the vaastu is right. And even then, just to be safe, she carries along assorted flutes, tea-lights and wind chimes. She's into Feng Shui too, for good measure. In fact the rule of thumb with my mum is that if it isn't in English she's doing it – Reiki, Tai-chi, Shaitsu – you get the drift?

However, her chief preoccupation these days is training her monkey. “The mind is a monkey,” she tells me every time she isn't saying, “Oh gawd, smell your socks.” The mater is heavily into cultivating Present Moment Awareness. You know the Hakuna Matata philosophy – enjoy the moment, forget about past and present? What are the chances that she'll succeed? Slim, very slim indeed. Slimmer even than the posterior she's aspiring to get after joining that artistic yoga class. She has a natural inbred hostility to Hakuna Matata. It's there right under her nose, all the time, but there's absolutely no appreciation, even recognition of it on her part. Instead she goes heedlessly plummeting into the past…

“Oh gawd! Do you remember your marks in the mid term exams?”

And then the next minute she hurtles headlong into the future.

“Oh gawd! Your final exams are starting in three weeks!”

Chill lady. Relax. Be in the here and now. The here and now is the Arsenal versus Manchester United fixture at 11 pm on TV. What do you mean what about school tomorrow? That's tomorrow. We're talking here and now. Go grab your monkey. Or at least stop messing with mine. It's perfectly in control. Can't you see it's for you whom the Eckhart Tolles?

Now to move to Papa. Hold on Dad. Salman Khan is passé. Keep that shirt on.

That's the problem with my dad. Always losing his shirt. He goes around giving pieces of his mind, left, right and centre. And to think he is an Economist. He's supposed to allocate scarce resources judiciously and all that jazz. Hey Mr. Economist, dude, what are pieces of your mind doing all over my life?

And then he's just not consistent. My dad, he loves money. No, not the filthy grubbiness of notes or the merry jingle of coins in the pockets. He loves the abstraction of it. Perfectly friable. Frangible. Fully Convertible. Medium of exchange. Legal tender. It's poetry to his economist's ears.

So does he burst into song or rhapsodize when yours truly, his first born, the apple of his eyes etcetera earns his first two hundred cool rupees? No way. Not him. Instead he goes all retrosexual, growling in full-fledged caveman mode…

“What is this letter from your school? Next time you are caught selling Pokeman cards in school, Oh gawd, I swear I'll skin you alive and hang you upside down from the fan.”

No consistency about the man. The least you would expect from an economist father is a polite but firm letter to the concerned authorities explaining the superiority of cash transactions over the primitive barter economy. Perhaps, with a little note on the side, about laissez faire and the spirit of enterprise. A man should stand up for his beliefs. And stand by his son, that too.

Or take the case of Letter No. 2 (yes, my school is in the reprehensible habit of communicating with parents in this prissy Victorian manner, sealed, white envelope and all).

However, before you jump to any hasty conclusions that we're a careless, letter-happy kind of family that goes about avidly collecting stern missives from school authorities like other people collect stamps or coins, perish the thought. After the historic Letter No.1 a family council was convened with the express purpose of averting Letter No. 2. In fact to put in place a foolproof, failsafe plan to avert all future missives.

“The problem is,” said the mother, “every time you open your mouth you drip attitude.”

“Just keep your mouth shut in school for the next two or so years. Don't say anything apart from 'Yes Ma'am' and 'No Sir'. Got it?!” commanded the father.

There's something about me, I suspect, which makes his metrosexual mask itch and slip a bit.

Anyway, I got it. Letter No. 2, that is. It followed Letter No. 1 as inexorably as night follows day.

“What did you do? What did you say now?” yelled the daddy, wildly waving Letter Number 2 in his hands, all of him blistering, blithering, blubbering with anger.

“Yes Ma'am. You said I could say 'Yes Ma'am'.”

“It says here you've been insolent to a teacher. What did you say, let's have it straight.”

“I only said 'Yes Ma'am'. Swear.”

“What did you say 'Yes Ma'am' to?” asks the mother. Her monkey has his bright moments.

Well here's the complete, unabridged version.

“You think I'm an idiot?” said the teacher.

“Yes Ma'am!” said I.

“Last warning,” said the letter.

“Oh gawd!” said the parents.

You, of course, might think this letter business is funny. It isn't. Not at all. Letter No. 3 hangs like the Sword of Damo-whats-his-name on the family. Irreversible damage has been done to the family's peace of mind (not to be confused with father's pieces of mind, alluded to earlier). The problem with this country is that it's too pro-establishment. In a civilized country, say Sweden or Denmark, or something I'm sure I would have been assured lifelong state support, no need to report for work etcetera, as compensation. Even in the US of A which isn't quite that civilized about these things I could have sued the school.

Like I said it's done irreparable damage to the family psyche. The first real things my kid brother learnt to say after “Ma-ma, da-da, wee-wee” were “fire hot-hot!” and “letter no-no!” The child has barely begun to speak and they've gone and frightened him clean of all sparks of originality. He'll probably grow up to be a prefect or head boy.

Your honor, I rest my case.

The author, Ms Manjul Bajaj is grateful to her teenage son, Achint for letting her lounge around in his mindspace for the duration it took to craft this piece.

I would like to Thank Manjul for letting me share her work on my blog. Do visit her blog for more of her columns at http://manjul-bajaj.sulekha.com/blog/posts.htm

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