The Guessing Game – I
Madness begins to reign in our household before the Sun and the son rise.
Before Nikita can indulge in the luxury of her morning yawn, and stretch the sleep-sloth away, she jumps out of the bed, rushes to the kitchen, bleary-eyed to put water on the gas stove for the morning tea. And even as the water is boiling, she takes out Tunnu’s (his pet name; full name is Tanank Kanjilal) school uniform, rolls it into a ball and hurls it at me with the words, “Iron it, please. Quickly.” The presswallah has been on strike to get the rates increased by the Housing Society we live in. So this is an additional chore added to the routine.
Before getting down to ironing the uniform, I fill two steel containers of drinking water to last for the day, as water shortage has been dogging our Housing Society for six months. Because of the insensitivity and carelessness of many residents, whose coolers keep overflowing regularly, the water bill shot up and the Society decided to reduce the supply of water to the flats.
Then I make tomato sandwiches for Tunnu’s lunch and embark on an in-house investigative mission to locate his lunch box, water bottle, books, note-books, pencil box, and other sundry items. He hides them to get even with us for dragging him out of the bed at the unearthly hour of 5.45 am to ready him by 6 am, so that he does not miss the school van. It is quite a job to retrieve these things, as he puts them away in unlikely places.
Each member of our family of three has to beat deadlines: Tunnu for his school van, Nikita for her bank, (being the Senior Manager she keeps the keys to the locker room) and I for my college, as I have the first period in the timetable. The college is thirty kilometres from our Society.
Waking up Tunnu is as easy as stopping the Sun from peeping out from behind the eight-storey building in front of ours. At one stage the scene resembles a chaotic wedding ceremony, where the only unruffled person is the Pundit, who sits cross-legged issuing threats that the auspicious time for the ceremony is slipping away and if the bride is not brought to the bedi forthwith, the ceremony will become tainted and her marital happiness will be jeopardised.
In the middle of the drawing room, I am holding a limp Tunnu from under his arms, while he is either getting his standing snooze or is bawling non-stop. Nikita is trying to slip him into the uniform, combing his hair, making him drink milk, removing the white moustache, and garlanding him identity card, strung to a shiny blue ribbon. Suddenly, Nikita screams, “Anshu, the other shoe. Where is it?”
“How do I know?”
“Tunnu, where did you take off your shoes yesterday?”
This is asking a question of Sphinx and Tunnu does not care to bestow even that enigmatic smile. He remains sullen at the torture being inflicted on him by two adults, who profess several times in the day that they love him. With the Child Rights NGOs gaining ground and popularity, there is a serious danger of Tunnu pressing some digits and the appearance at the door of an eager team to rescue him from the clutches of victimising parents and get us behind bars for cruelty on a hapless child.
(The Author, Subhash Chandra is a former Associate Professor of English, University of Delhi)