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When Meena’s 5-year-old grandson comes to stay for a weekend, she suddenly realizes that something more connects them. And she confronts herself for the first time.
Meena was sitting by the window sipping coffee and looking at the vast skyline of Mumbai. 56 years old, she hailed from a small town and was a small town girl at heart. Her wedding had landed her in this city.
She was a lecturer in a B-school and lived alone in a plush apartment after her husband’s demise. Due to her busy schedule, she rarely felt his absence, but there were days like these when she remembered him more than usual.
Meena was a very social woman and she made it a point to invite her friends to share her joys, big or small, her frustrations, her achievements. Having no life partner, she realised the importance of friends. She also had a son who lived in the neighbouring colony. His wife and he were super busy making a living. They had a 5-year-old son whom Meena would babysit during occasions like their anniversary, office parties or movies.
Life went on as usual. One day her son dropped her grandson Tanul at her place for two days. She enjoyed his company as there were many new things to learn and play with him. She became like a child with him and had a lot of time for him, unlike his parents who were busy through the week.
Whenever Tanul was with Meena, he bloomed as a child should. He laughed, shared, spoke his heart out as he was completely himself. Meena would take him to the nearby park in the evening, where he played with other kids. It was not every day that he got to play in an open space like this, since most of his evenings were spent in the day care where he had a restricted area to play.
Being with Meena, Tanul felt like a liberated soul. He ran in the park, jumped, played football, made new friends and on his way back home, had coconut water. He was totally satisfied with how the day unfolded. Meena too had a sense of fulfillment, of making someone feel contended.
At night, Meena and Tanul had a good dinner with laughter reverberating. After that, it was story time and Tanul lay down with his head on her lap. While she stroked his hair and was deciding which story to tell, Tanul asked her for stories from the time when he was a toddler. He loved to listen to his funny toddler stories again and again. Suddenly he asked about the stories of his dad’s childhood. Meena’s mind took her 25 years back, a time when childhood was different.
Back then, in the summer vacations, Meena used to take her son to her parents’ place in a small town. There, the breeze was fresher, the vegetables straight from the farm, and they were surrounded by the warmth of neighbours, the pampering by aunts, the gifts of uncles, and delicious food cooked by her mother. Everything was perfect. Her son had many cousins to play with and there were nights spent on the terrace having late night conversations, early morning walks and playing on the ground. Summer vacations for kids passed so quickly that it never felt enough. Childhood was about a lot of outdoor playing, and time spent with cousins and friends – no gadgets, no cartoons. Just real games with real people.
Tanul heard every word carefully. He pictured himself doing those things, but in reality his world was very different. He had expensive toys, video games, one or two good friends where he went for play dates for a limited time, many extra-curricular classes, planned activities in restricted areas and loads of screen time. Whatever Meena narrated about his father’s childhood seemed to be a dream world to him.
Meena realised how Tanul felt after listening to this; after all, which child would not like to play outdoors with umpteen playmates for an unlimited time? He longed for someone to play with whom he could share his toys, he longed for someone to talk to, he longed for his parents’ uninterrupted attention, he longed for someone who would let him be and not place too many boundaries, he longed for a heart to heart discussion, he longed for someone who could accommodate his tantrums when he felt down and not brush his needs under the carpet. He longed for a real human bond in this technological emotionless world.
Meena looked at Tanul, who was now peacefully sleeping on her lap. A sense of security and comfort reflected on his face. Somewhere in the corner of her heart she could feel the same longing, the same emotion that this child on her lap felt.
For the first time after her husband’s death, she confronted her emotions. For the first time after his demise, she uncovered her mask of being social and got in touch with her real, lonely self; for the very first time she realised that momentarily, friends made her feel happy but after that she was all by herself again. She too like Tanul, longed for real human touch in this technology filled world, longed for a hearty discussion with her son with no intervention from the virtual world, longed for someone at home with whom she could have dinner every night.
Today, with Tanul she was able to do all this.
That night like Tanul, her face too reflected comfort.
Child’s and old woman’s hands together image via Shutterstock
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