The son is currently involved in a swim versus basketball imbroglio. And after three weeks of ignoring his whines and moans, this morning, I found myself actually cursing a fellow basketballer with vim and vigour… but I am digressing here.
The son’s school offers several sports options in the summer holidays and, most years, the son manfully declines all but the swimming, which I insist on. But this year, there’s a little curly haired girl on his horizon and his thoughts have been wandering to muscles and tight stomachs. And, of course, inches. He’s going to hate me all his life for this, but since he takes after me in most things, he’s unlikely to grow more than the average Indian male. But he doesn’t believe in giving up without a fight. Hence, the basketball.
The family took one look at the timings on the circular and snickered. Basketball at 6.30 am? ‘You’ll have to get up at six for that,’ Amma said sadly, ‘and I thought I’d get a few late mornings during your holidays.’
‘He won’t get up,’ said a voice from behind the newspaper that we’ve all come to know and respect as the head of our family, the husband.
‘Why don’t you sleep with Amma?’ I suggested brightly. ‘I have enough trouble waking you up at 6.30 am during school-time.’
But, as we discovered later, the little curly haired girl too learns basketball and, three weeks later, the son’s still getting up clockwork at one call from Amma, missing only two days so far. Obviously, the pull of true love is just as strong at twelve years as it is at sixteen.
The hitch lay elsewhere. The swimming class came bang in the middle of the basketball lesson. The sports teacher suggested the son change his swimming class to the one after his allotted one. A day of that and he switched back. ‘I got to do all the exercises in the basketball class and none of the matches,’ he complained.
‘Try the one in the first half then,’ I suggested. ‘But that’s the advanced class,’ he moaned. ‘Well, it’s got to be the one or the other. Sort it out for yourself,’ said the oracle from behind the newspaper.
What was left unsaid was that the son’s efforts in swimming are mostly energy and very little style, and the little curly haired girl was part of the advanced swimming class. Not the best way to progress on the path of true love.
So he reverted back to a little bit of basketball, a swim, and then again a little bit of basketball. And that’s how things were when he trooped into the house yesterday morning just as I was rubbing the sleep from my eyes. ‘Why so early?’ I enquired.
‘I couldn’t play basketball today,’ he said gloomily. ‘The match had already started and, though there was one person less in Ketan’s team, he ordered me off the court.’
‘But… but… how dare he?’ I said, the fond mother in me roused at this injustice. ‘He has no right to do that!’ ‘You should have complained to the teacher,’ said Amma, equally indignant. ‘You’ve paid for the basketball coaching, so he can’t do that,’ said the voice, but since the newspapers had not yet arrived, we paid it no notice.
‘I’ll sort it out tomorrow. If he orders me off the court, I’ll just punch him,’ said the son.
I was puzzled. If he could force Ketan to let him into the game the next day, why hadn’t he done it today? The son’s regular intake of Hindi movies ensures that he takes punches and brawls as a necessary part of his life. So he couldn’t be getting squeamish about it.
The mystery was solved in the evening when the son’s friend dropped in for a chat. I was reading, with half a ear on their conversation. ‘Shefali didn’t come for swimming today, did she?’ asked the friend. Shefali being the star swimmer with curly hair, who’s setting half the class’ hearts – those of the male half at least – aflutter.
‘She didn’t come for basketball either,’ muttered the son gloomily. ‘And that ass, Ketan, was throwing his weight around. He saw her smile at me yesterday. I decided to come home and read my book.’
I smiled to myself. And wondered, would Shefali come for basketball tomorrow?
PS: Thirteen years and many curly haired girls later, I am happy to report that the son’s growth spurt gave the lie to the in-laws’ dire predictions to the contrary – he now stands a good inch taller than the husband.
First published in The Financial Express.