The son used to be a great performer in bed. In fact, if you consider the matter carefully, from all sides, you could say with considered authority that he combined the skills of a contortionist who engages in his craft because he loves it, with that of an intrepid acrobat who, when he finds himself on the thin steel wire with nothing but atmosphere between him and the ground below, merely grits his teeth and continues on his perilous way, saying, ‘The show must go on.’
That the mother is cringing on one side of him and the father waiting bravely on the other for the first blow to fall mattered naught to him. Once asleep, all of life was a battleground, and there was enemy fire coming from all sides.
I put him to bed each night, telling him it was a shame that an eleven-year-old boy, who had a room of his own, should exercise his self-given option to not use that room, but creep into the marital bed instead. None of my proselytisation had the least effect on a personality that combines all the stubbornness of a Libran with all the haughtiness of a Leo.
‘You should feel privileged,’ came the retort, more often than not interspersed with weary yawns that seemed to say ‘must we go through this each night?’, ‘that I am sleeping here with you and not downstairs with Amma.’ And then he would turn over and proceed to snore.
Guilt made me hold back from enforcing his activities to his own bed. After all, I moved straight from my parents’ bed to my husband’s. But let me say this much in my favour: I had good reason to stay put. The only AC in the house happened to be in my parents’ bedroom.
Once asleep, the son’s personality seemed to take on Mr Hydesque tendencies. From a confident, fairly intrepid youngster, he became overcast with doubts and misgivings of all kinds. I could see the questions leap into his mind and befog his judgement. ‘Is this really the head of the bed?’ ‘Are my muscles getting all the stretch their youthful growing state needs?’ ‘Won’t Mum look better — and different — in the morning with a black eye or a fat lip?’ ‘Dad’s working so hard, would a sprained shoulder muscle be the best way to slip him a day’s rest?’
And with just the canny ease that the questions leap into his mind, I could see the answers make their way there. ‘If I shift my legs more to my right, and my head more to the left, I can kick Dad and butt Mum at the same time. What’s more, I can also check how far up Mum’s nostrils my fingers will go. And hang the bed’s head, it’s much more comfy with my head on Mum’s belly, and my feet tucked into Dad’s belly button.’
And thus the daily battle continued to be waged. Needless to say, the husband and I, when not crouching to protect various parts of our bodies, spent the night getting him to snore headboard-wise again. That’s when he pulled off his star turn. Arms up and legs down, he would stretch a stretch that would be the envy of any coy, simpering heroine in a lacy negligee, and manage the otherwise impossible: to sweep off the several dozen breakable objects I keep on my headboard a good two feet higher than the bed.
Don’t keep anything on my headboard, you advise? My dear sir, when a tornado comes a-calling, it seeks something to sweep away, and when it finds nothing to feed its ambitions, it may just sweep away the headboard itself. At least, that’s what I say to console myself when I sweep away the little bits of china strewn all over the floor the next morning.
First published in The Financial Express.