Tuesday, July 13, 2010

An attempt at a not-so-short story

“Abhi is always getting into trouble. The bigger problem is he gets into it because he starts it”. Saying this, the principal began listing all the mischief Abhi had been up to that year. Abhi stood quietly near the door of the principal’s office, fingering the transformer he had got with his last happy meal, while his mother looked at her watch and back again at Abhi with chagrin.

“Abhi, stop fidgeting! Why do you do this?” You know how busy I am, yet you keep doing these things which require me to come to school, apologize on your behalf and keep postponing my meetings”. Abhi looked at Mom blankly and went back to work on the transformer, transforming it from a robot to a car and back to a robot again.

Sighing, his mom addressed the principal, “M’am I am sorry, you have Abhi on your hands for just a few months now, we plan to send him to a boarding school for his sixth grade. I know you suggested, one of us should consider leaving our jobs and pay attention to Abhi full time, but that’s just not possible now” Saying this Abhi’s mom looked at her watch again and rose to go.

Leaving the principal’s office, both Mom and Abhi made their way to the car. Mom tried talking to Abhi again, “Abhi, what is the problem, can’t you talk to me?” Abhi just quietly got into the car, rolled down the window and resolutely stared outside. Mom gave up and got busy on the phone to re-schedule her meetings. She asked the driver to first drop Abhi at Mona Auntie’s house and then move on to office.

As they neared Mona Auntie’s house, Abhi got out of the car without looking behind and adjusting his back pack started walking ahead. He dragged his feet all the way upstairs but skipped Mona Auntie’s house and went on to the terrace of the old building. Mona Aunty was Mom’s distant cousin and was interested only in watching cookery shows on television. She never got around to cooking anything from the shows, giving Abhi just the same curd rice every day. But she lovingly wrote down all the recipes in a thickly bound book which also housed lyrics of old Hindi songs. She hummed the songs during commercial breaks and the recipes were meant for when her grandson, who lived in Singapore with his parents visited her.

Abhi meanwhile had reached the terrace already warmed by the afternoon sun, and unmindful of the heat he climbed the rickety ladder leading to the water tank, from where he could sit and stare at the city and where no one would come looking for him.

Abhi sat on the tank for half an hour looking at the distant builidings. He hated being alone with Mona Auntie, watching cookery shows and hated his parents for never being around. He especially hated mom, who tried very hard to make him feel loved, but he didn’t remember the last time she fed him or read him a story, like Sharad’s mom did. She didn’t pack in upma or idli or even plain biscuits for Abhi in his tiffin like other mother’s did. Instead he had a generous pocket money to eat from the canteen every day.

He didn’t hate dad as much, who he thought was brilliant. Dad was a scientist and had taught him to build a model airplane, had taken him to the club to teach him swimming and also played cricket with him at home. But all that was before he received funding for his project. Now he and his team were working hard day and night for a breakthrough on their project. Dad was absent most of the days, now practically living at the lab.

Abhi suddenly felt restless, he felt a cramp coming up his leg. He climbed down and decided to use some of his pocket money to buy a packet of chips than being subjected to curd rice and the forever hungry Nigella Lawson. Just as Abhi was paying for the chips at the corner shop, a small round faced boy came running right at him and pushing him, ran laughingly past him. Abhi saw that four older boys were chasing him and they were pretty close on his heels. Abhi quickly pocketed the chips and started running behind them to see what would happen if they caught the little laughing boy.

They were quick on their feet and Abhi ran as fast as he could to keep up with them. He saw them all running into a huge open gate, beyond which there were stone benches, a mud track, swings, a slide, a huge climbing wall and massive trees. He was wondering what kind of a place it was, and read on a plaque that it was called the Green Valley Park. Though Abhi had heard and read about parks, he had actually never seen one. Mom and Dad had always thought that Abhi needed to concentrate on studies, learn judo, swimming and computers and then spend weekends with them at the club.

As Abhi got in further into the park, he saw the little boy climb a tree, quite like a monkey and scamper high up above a tree. The four boys chasing him gave up and started fighting for the swings instead. Abhi sat down on a bench and watched in fascination as the boys started swinging high up in the air. He sat there for a long while munching on his chips. Slowly the light began to fade, with the bright afternoon giving way to a breezy evening. The lamps in the park began lighting up one by one, throwing shadows in the corners of the park.

With evening, came fluttering moths and different groups of people. A group of old men with booming laughter wearing shorts and sneakers, young couples with little kids all dressed up. Women who looked close to Mona Auntie’s age, all wearing huge sneakers below sarees and swinging their arms wildly. While a group of teenage boys came and sat on a bench and watched pretty young girls jog by with their earphones on. Abhi was so fascinated with these sights that he completely forgot all about Mona Auntie and Mom coming to pick him up.

He heard a car honk somewhere nearby and with one frantic look at his digital watch, Abhi picked up his bag and raced towards Mona Auntie’s house as fast as he could. Mona Aunty was mid-recipe with Jamie Oliver this time around and Abhi’s explanation that he was at Sharad’s house finishing his homework was satisfactory enough for her to not look up from the TV.

Abhi combed his hair, washed his face and dusted his bag. He told Mona Auntie that he would go down and wait for Mom. When Mom did finally pick him up, Abhi tried very hard to contain his excitement and look indifferent; but Mom noticed Abhi looking less sullen. That night as she served his dinner, Mom ruffled Abhi’s hair lovingly like old times, and for once like the old times Abhi didn’t push away her hand.

Next day, Abhi put Mona Aunty’s gullibity to test again, saying he was going to Sharad’s house. Hearing a feeble yes, Abhi didn’t wait but picked up his bag and dashed to the park. Today he saw a group of boys getting their knees dirty playing with round glass discs on the ground. Abhi saw that the little laughing boy from yesterday was a part of the group. Abhi made his way towards them with curiosity and before he knew it he was a part of the team - cheering on, haggling over the glass discs, aiming and hitting one perfect shot and even managing to pocket three of the yellow green ones.

Soon unknown to Mom and Mona Auntie, Abhi was spending almost all of his afternoons at the park. He spent his time getting dirty climbing trees, scaling walls, playing marbles and learning to spin a top with his new found friends. They would play hide and seek, ride the swings and slurp on ice cold golas from the golawalla at the park, using Abhi’s money.

The fact that Abhi was the rich kid among them and went to one of the poshest schools in the city made no difference to anyone, least to Abhi. Abhi no longer felt alone, or even in need of playing his favorite games on the computer. He had four friends to share everything with now. He no more played pranks at school to seek Mom’s attention, or try and make life difficult for her. In fact, his relationship with Mom had changed completely.

Abhi had slowly now started talking to Mom again. He was also now helping out at home as Dad was not around as much. He had even accompanied Mom on her shopping for the weekend. After shopping, Mom took Abhi out for the new Ice Age movie. When Abhi saw Mom laughing at the antics of the animated characters, he realised he had seen Mom laugh like that after a very long time.

After the movie, they bought pizza and ice –cream back home for dinner. Seeing Mom in such a good mood, Abhi decided to not make things difficult for her any longer and gathered his courage to reveal all about his visits to the park in the afternoon and skipping Mona Auntie’s house.

Sure of a sermon, a shouting or pasting, to Abhi’s utter surprise, Mom began to cry. She hugged Abhi and started crying uncontrollably. Abhi tried his best to console Mom but she kept sobbing. “Abhi, I have been a terrible Mother, haven’t I?” I didn’t even know my son was so unhappy and so alone. I am sorry Abhi, I am really very sorry” saying this Mom continued crying.

Both Abhi and Mom talked late into the night that day over cheese pizza, their favorite ice-cream and lots of wet tissues. Abhi learnt Dad was not coming back, he had found someone else at his workplace and soon there was going to be a court case over Abhi’s custody. Abhi also learnt that Mom worked so hard and left him with Mona Aunty because she was planning to buy another place close by, big enough just for both of them.

Mom told him that she was okay with Abhi spending time at the park, but wanted him to be back in time at Mona Auntie’s house everyday to finish his school work. And to Abhi’s joy, she said that she would also come and meet his new friends over the weekend and that he could play with them on Sundays instead of going to the club.

That night onwards there were no more closed spaces between Mom and Abhi. Just one expanse of open space that was Green Valley Park had changed a lonely child and a lonely parent’s life forever.


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In Musing Mode is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.

4 comments:

Anushka said...

awesome...

Kasturi said...

phew!.... thanks ann....wasnt sure about this one...this is so not my writing style...but trying out some styles different from sarcasm :-) thanks....

Raindrop said...

what a lovely story :) such beautiful narrative and simple. loved it :)

Kasturi said...

@vandana: Alright I cant believe you read it?! Its looong....and I must thank you, because this is a deviation from my usual writing style....so thanks a ton, coming from a fellow writer, sounds good :-) and I have read some stuff from oot patang, more to read, will comment there :)

 
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