Our Lamby 150 scooter had broken down & papa was repairing it by the roadside. He had picked me up from school, and en route had stopped to collect payment from one of his clients. He did not get payment and now the scooter was behaving in an errant way. I felt sorry for him, there he was, a mechanic by trade, who was trying his best to get his son educated in the best possible way, and here was I, his son, with yet another pathetic performance in Math & Science. My bag appeared to be heavier carrying the weight of my twin failures. I could see wind blowing and dust gathering up at a distance, objects were now becoming hazy, “this aptly reflects my life” I thought to myself.
By the way, if you are wondering about all this, let me give you a brief. I was a not so interested in studies student of PTS, the prestigious convent school of Muzaffarpur. To aggravate the miseries of people like me, the school had introduced monthly test papers. This was done to make the students be better prepared and thereby get good grades in terminal exams. In the last terminal examination, I had performed poorly and had promised mom that this won’t be repeated, but like a seasoned politician, I was well adept in not keeping with my promises and so here I was, back with more eggs in my basket, as my mother used to put it.
When we reached home, mom inquired about my health. After all, I had been sitting on the answer sheets for 3 days and at any rate, I had to get it signed and return to class teacher the next day, the pressure must have been telling on my face.
Today, I had to get it signed somehow, but the two most important questions were who will sign it and how I should be approaching him or her. Neither of the two parties concerned (mom & dad) were aware of the predicament of their son. I weighed my options.
If I presented my case before papa, chances were there that I would get a good hiding. Even though, I would like to just walk in, throw the wretched answer sheets in front of him and ask “ Papa, tum sign karte ho ya nahi” in a Shashi Kaporean style, I could imagine nothing less than a thrashing.
Moreover one slap from him would be worth 10 from mother. But the best thing was that it will be swift and over in a jiffy. The after effect of this too would not be hanging in the air for too long. After all we were men, such trivial matters won’t keep us on non-talking terms for long. Also, if I got more than the usual share of beatings from him, I can always count on mom to bail me out.
But for mummy, it was different. There were 3 possible outcomes. The first was the least dangerous one. She would get angry and may cane me and over the years, I have developed a thick hide to counter it, so that was not a problem. The next was slightly more dangerous, she would emotionally blackmail me by reminding me of my treachery whenever the situation was ripe. This could be in front of my friends, my sisters, or even in front of father, uncles, aunties, neighbors, doodhwala, sabjiwali,….the list was actually quite long. The third and the one I feared most was something which would have done Gandhiji proud, yes, she would boycott me, me her only son. And she had the perseverance to carry it on to ad infinitum. The boycott would go on till I relented and she would extract some sort of promise from me, which would again come to haunt me during the next exam results. So you can see, this was a vicious circle.
After weighing my options carefully, I thought it would be prudent to go to father. So that day after dinner, I went straight to him and put my answer sheets in front of him.
My answer sheets of Maths and Science.
Okay, so what?
Please sign it, I have to give it to class teacher tomorrow.
Hmm, usually you are letting your mother sign it, so why me?
She will get hysterical on seeing this.
Hmm, so you think I find it amusing?
But I could see that he wasn’t in a terrible mood. He took his pen and signed the papers and before he gave it to me, he looked straight into my eyes and said, “she thinks very highly of you, that’s why she gets hysterical, and I don’t, that’s why I am signing”.
Now that was cruel, why could not he just sign it without passing any comments, he had just blown away all the goodwill that he had accumulated from the point he started signing till now. Even though I had got the signature with minimum fuss, the parting sentence had hurt me a lot!! If mom had said that, it would have been okay, I was used to that, but coming from him, it was really un-cool. Next time, I will not let him sign my papers, I made a note to myself as I went to bed.
carefully avoided going near my mother and went to bed.