“Dad, I will be home soon.” My daughter’s voice was saying said in a cajolingly tone, over the phone. “Give the phone to my son.”
Anshu sulkily grabbed the handset and listened for a while, then disconnected.
Usually I was long gone by this hour for my evening walk. But, the nanny was down with fever and resting. She was not supposed to even come near Anshu, as she could ‘give’ him the bug; so I had to stay and look after Anshu, until his mother returned from her kitty party. Anyway, the rain that was pouring down made a walk impossible!
Anshu was my grandson.
An adorable, but moody child. Roly-poly, a curly mop of hair falling on his forehead, but now his face was a thundercloud of impatience. I knew that a big tantrum was coming.
“Anshu. Shall I put on the TV? That movie of winged creatures?” I tentatively asked.
A decisive shake of the head.
How to distract him, I wondered desperately.
“A computer game?” I thought that a game on that gadget would please him. I had seen him play games on it.
I could have played cards with him ( and let him win). But I was not not sure if Anshu even had a pack of cards!
“Carrom khelna hai, Anshu?” He looked puzzled. Probably never played this game. I was relieved, I was actually rather poor at carom.
In truth, the room was strewn with gadgets of all sizes, shapes and capabilities, but which failed to engage his interest beyond a few hours. Anshu’s parents bought these at an alarming rate to keep his boredom at bay.
In our day, we stayed out and played so much that that our mother had to screech out our name from the entrance of our tiny home and warn us of dire consequences if we did not show up. And even then, we would trudge in reluctantly. During the holidays, the morning would start with a game of badminton in the yard, the shuttlecock, as sorry-looking thing after repeated battering. This was followed by a game of cricket till the heat made us dizzy ( or a broken window scattered us). Then, carom or chess in someone’s home. Evening were for football . Playing till we could see the ball no more in the dark. Nights were for lolling on the terrace and counting the stars, telling ghost stories or whispering secrets.
Anshu never stepped out to play anywhere in the open. He would sometimes have friends who came over to play, but with a prior appointment and each of them would be tagged by a nanny, who watched over her respective “baba” or “baby” with the diligence due to the Kohinoor diamond.
My grandson was a healthy child, but according to his nanny, everything, from the food he ate to the water of his swimming pool was scrutinised and agonised over. He had an hour of different classes everyday-Music Class, Gym Class-whatever that was and some more. Teachers and coaches were perpetually trooping in and out.
Long ago, I had decided to not interfere with my grandchildren’s upbringing, but today something moved within me, as I watched Anshu staring longingly at the terrace. It was raining heavily outside. He seemed fascinated by the play of the water raining down…the little rivulets after they hit the glass.
“Has this child ever played on the wet grass?” I wondered. “Has he ever felt the rain on his face?” The penthouse apartment was centrally airconditioned, with the windows completely closed. Even his school was supposedly airconditioned.
On impulse, I jiggled with the latch and opened the door. A gust of wind blew in a few drops of rain and peppered the child’s face. Anshu gurgled with joy, revealing the little energetic boy that he could be. He cupped a hand to collect the raindrops. Anshu and I stood there together for a while, savouring the experience. Anshu, feeling the thrill of the rain and I, the satisfaction of having given him some real pleasure.
A screech behind us. “Anshu will fall ill!”
My daughter stood there, a heap of shopping bags at her feet.
A change came over Anshu. From a broad smile of welcome for his mother, he suddenly grew sullen.
“Off for a hot bath, Anshu.” She said.
I sighed. I knew that I was in her bad books, but what the hell! That kid needed to breathe and play and feel, I thought.
The rain had stopped. I stepped out for a walk, trying to postpone the earful that I would surely get from my daughter.
A chawl that was nearby had its entrance dotted with shallow puddles.
As I neared, I caught sight of some children launching paper boats in the puddles, shouting gleefully.
A completely drenched kid ran up and gave his exasperated mother a hug.
“Aai, my boat won the race.”
He continued, “And…a cockroach was struggling to get out of the water. I rescued it on a piece of paper and carried it to a dry place.”
Such joy with so little!
I surveyed the radiant face. And thought, Anshu had so much, but the simple pleasures of childhood and the innocent joy of doing silly things. Would he ever have them?
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