For as long as I can remember, I have been a talkative child. Not that anything much has changed over the years. If one happens to spot me in a group, the one speaking with the most animated expressions would always be me. Whenever Ma went for a parents-teachers meeting, there would always be one ‘not so pleasant’ comment about my desire to speak to everyone in every class. The return trip back home would see an angry Ma demanding to know how is it that I always had something to talk about, even in places where silence was the norm. My mother-in-law had once told me how the Banerjee clan was amused by this new daughter-in-law after watching our wedding video. I was found to talk to everyone despite the photographer’s voice in the unedited version asking me to please act coy or at least keep quiet.
Truth be told, I can still speak about anything under the sky. And I must credit my equally vocal Dad for passing on his garrulous genes to me. With time, I had learned to use this trait as an advantage by mentioning communication as my strength on the resume or in the interviews. And the places where this became my USP were my marketing classes in B-school and then, my Banking job that involved speaking to every potential client before pitching him a product.
Sr. T was no different as a child. He was often found talking about cricket and football with his friends in class. With time and getting into a profession that demanded a lot of restraint in his nature, he has turned out to be a man of very few words. But his personality undergoes a complete transition the moment he finds himself in the company of his friends. Suddenly his voice is often found to drown every other sound. My mother-in-law credits the Banerjee clan’s genes for this nature. She says that my father-in-law, who is quite reserved in nature is found in a different avatar amidst his friends and with his grandson.
With such a legacy behind him, it was but natural that the boy was expected to be talkative. Tuneer didn’t disappoint and started speaking in broken sentences much earlier than his peers. The house had started buzzing with his gibberish. Just before he started preschool, we were quite confident about the kid turning out to be an outgoing preschooler. Like I said in my previous post, first the tears refused to stop and next, the next feedback came from his class teacher. He didn’t open his mouth for anything except eating those tasty snacks served by the school. While I was happy about having priorities right about food, the part about not communicating was worrisome.
It feels overwhelming to accept that I survived the A2Z challenge until today and reached the alphabet R. Last week Tuneer’s new school brought in a complete change of schedule for all of us. And then we had Satyanarayana Pooja at home last morning keeping me on my toes the whole day. the fatigue gave rise to a strong urge to skip writing for the day. But this series has become so much fun that I couldn’t resist myself from writing this last post for the week.
For more two and a half decades of my life, I had really not known what rejection meant both in personal and professional lives. Two numbers in my life have always been high – the digits on the weighing scale and my marks in most of the examinations. The former ensured that I never have any kind of distraction in the form of affairs until I went to college and the latter gave me the confidence to face those who tried to body shame me. When I faced the first rejection in academics, my skills to handle the same were underdeveloped. With experience, this has improved though I must say that I am still quite wary of any kind of rejection for the simple fact that I don’t know how to deal with it.
On the other side of the spectrum, there’s Sr. T. This man seems unfazed by both selection or rejection. For him, there’s always a way out and everything is predestined. Now how does one argue with someone who starts quoting verses from Gita at the slightest of opportunities? For Tuneer to be brought up by two such radically different people speaks about the kind of contradictory situations that the boy often finds himself in!
In this era of ‘Digital India’, booking a movie ticket, purchasing a product, paying bills or transferring money can all be done online. Sitting in the comfort of my room, I would usually feel that the world had decided to make itself available at my fingertips. As an erstwhile Banking professional, I strongly advocated the usage of online portals as a medium to save time and harrowing experiences of standing in a queue. Of course, there are people like my seventy-year-old father who have no trust in this virtual medium and still prefer to visit a Bank or the local market in person. But we belong to the generation of comfort-seekers and I had no clue that my life was going to become so offline dependent once the school admission season started.
The first school which came out with the admission notice (the interview in English only one) delighted us with the option of having forms available through both online and offline mode. We had assumed the rest of the schools in our list would have a similar process. It came as a rude shock when the next school (a new age school with world-class infrastructure and facilities) asked us to collect the form in person either from the school campus or a designated Bank branch.
The next school was even more difficult. We had to collect the forms from their school campus during a designated duration (three hours only) on any of the two dates mentioned in the notice. This school was famous for forms getting out of stock on the first day itself. For a 200 student intake, the number of applications always went to 2000. From what we had heard, the parents had to stand in a queue outside the school campus from as early as 5 am (I am sure this will remind you of the movie Hindi Medium starring Irrfan Khan or the Bengali movie Ramdhanu). Though the reality was not so disastrous, the number of parents standing in the queue on day one was more than to a thousand.
Even for the other three schools that we had decided to apply to, the process involved offline issuance of forms only. Like I had previously mentioned, with a husband posted in a different town, it was always me who ended up standing in a queue beating the hot and humid weather and hunger pangs. This seemed to be life’s way of getting even with me. The only time that I had ever stood in a queue until then was to get an entry in a restaurant in Bangalore over the weekend. What I hadn’t realized at that point was that this was just the first phase or beginning of standing in queues.
Nothing delights a foodie mother more than discovering her son’s growing love for food. But I am quite sure that this post is going to get a big nod of disapproval from medico father. Ideally, the post should have been written on luchi – a traditional puffed, deep-fried Bengali dish made from maida and white in color. Considering the fact that the boy prefers it deep-fried and slightly brownish made from whole wheat or atta, I can conclude that his choice is more akin to the national dish poori (I think poori deserves that status).
The first time that Tuneer was introduced to solid food, he rejected all kinds of food except anything that tasted sweet. So we tried tricking him into eating the regular dishes with a dash of sugar or jaggery in it. It didn’t take long for him to figure out the adulteration and we were back on the path of struggle to make him eat. On his first birthday, my mother-in-law prepared luchi from a mix of atta and maida with dum aloo as an accompaniment. His initial reaction was to refuse but once we could convince him to take the first bite, there was a glitter in his eyes that was enough to prove that there began a relationship that was going to stay for long.
During my childhood, luchi used to be a mandatory Sunday morning special breakfast. I would ask my mother multiple times on Saturday night about what kind of side dish she was planning to prepare along with the luchi. Honestly, it didn’t matter. I just needed to confirm that luchi was going to be the dish the next morning. I started waking up early every Sunday only to savor that perfectly round and puffed luchi with dum aloo, aloo sabzi or chana dal (Bengali favorites). And, if it was made on any other day of the week, it usually meant that either Ma had kept a fast related to some pooja or it was someone’s birthday. In the former case, the side dish with luchi was usually veg item and in the latter case, luchi was served with chicken or mutton kosha.
The scene was quite similar in Sr. T’s house except for meat that was barred in my marital home. As we grew up and started living in different cities, we had the option to explore a variety of cuisines eventually leading to evolved choices in food. The love for luchi had taken a back seat. Looking at Tuneer searching for frequent opportunities to have luchi, we were reminded of our own love for this item. While we humored him with homemade luchi once in a while (despite Sr. T ‘s lack of support), he craved for more.
In the first parents-teachers meeting held with Tuneer’s class teacher in May last year, the first line of the report read,
“Tuneer is a soft-spoken and sweet child with sharp observation skills.”
Until then, the family members already had experiences with his nature of observing things. He rarely adapted to new situations spontaneously or made friends with new people instantly. He preferred to stay at a distance noticing the happenings and then deciding if he liked it enough to get involved or preferred to stay away. Even in his preschool, he had no inclination to try anything new until and unless he knew the final outcome of his efforts through someone else’s performance. Yet when he finished his preschool in March, he knew the names of all his twenty-four classmates along with their preferences in things like sports or puzzles. It was a startling revelation for me. The final report card started with,
“Tuneer is a bright and sensitive child with a natural flair for keenly observing people and his surroundings.”
Other than the basics of education, my boy had well utilized his time at preschool to hone his hobby related to observation.
Growing up, I used to be a kid with chubby weeks (actually a chubby kid!). Random uncles and aunties would feel that they had every right to pull my cheeks while blurting out “Aww, so sweet!” or plant sloppy kisses on them. If my parents, especially Ma was anywhere in the vicinity, she would politely but sternly ask them not to do that because it hurt my cheeks. Well, consent and children were completely unrelated words at that time. But eventually, I turned out to be quite a gundi and very soon learned how to keep such people at bay.
Child molestation is the sad reality of every generation. There has been a steep rise in the number of such cases over the years with the level of violence becoming horrific, to say the least. I personally feel that even earlier, most of such cases were brushed under the carpet because the perpetrator, in most of these cases was someone close to the family.
The concept of consent was introduced to me quite early on in my family. My parents would often say that I had every right to stay away from doing anything that made me uncomfortable. Even at my in-laws, my husband grew up with a strong sense of seeking consent. So, it was but natural that after Tuneer was born, the same idea of consent would be passed on to him.
It started with me stopping people from pulling his cheeks. While a few understood the reason, others judged me as an overprotective mother. Once he started preschool, I taught him how it was perfectly okay for him not to give anyone a hug or kiss, if he didn’t wish to. Sr. T thought it was too early to teach him these things. But I was an anxious mother trying to give a blanket of security and a cushion of trust around my little boy.
In every school class, there’s exists one kid who is always caught by the teacher for either talking loudly or laughing too much. Most of the time, the sarcastic comment that follows from the teacher is, “What’s the joke? Why don’t you share it with all of us here so that we can all laugh with you.”. The next step is usually to reach out for the diary to write a complaint. In my circle of friends, that kid happens to be me. Fortunately, I was saved from an overdose of complaints by my good academic track records. However, that didn’t spare me from Ma’s wrath when she kept hearing about the same talkative nature and laughing syndrome repeatedly at every parents-teachers meeting.
Baba, of course, was empathetic. My mother was a soft-spoken lady and it was the era when girls were expected to limit their laughter to a smile only. But my dearest father possessed one of the loudest voices in our family (also, he proudly attributes it to be a virtue befitting a Professor). So, for the two of us, there was hardly any occasion when we didn’t display our happiness or power of the vocal cord by going ha, ha or lol as the millennials call it now.
Though I drew criticism from certain people, my kind of laughter stayed hale and hearty in a way that my intestines hurt. People remembered me for that special kind of laugh. Once in B-school, the juniors were asked to describe one senior in just a single line during the fresher’ party in the girls’ hostel. To them, I was “the one who synonymous with the word laughter.”