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My 4 year old daughter and her 6 year old boy cousin do not share parents, but as they say, blood is thicker than water.
It was the annual function of his school. The six-year-old had been practising for almost a month. He wanted his whole family to watch him perform so he could flaunt his reciting skills.
Aaraaf’s entire family dressed up to be a part of the occasion. I, his badi Mummy, wore a bright printed kurta. Mysha, my four year old, got into her newly gifted navy-blue frock. Aaraaf’s grand-father left his shop early that day to be at school. His parents were busy arranging passes as a family of six went to be a part of it. Funny kaise ek bacha apna poora ghar samet leta hai!
As we stepped on the school grounds, memories embraced us with dust ridden arms and the smell of grass. It doesn’t matter how old you get, schools have the same story to tell. As a child, you were crafted from the same soil, now your offspring is sprouted from the same earth. Well, School ki mitti ki baat hi kuch aur hai.
After the introductory yet invasive discussion of finding the right chairs, we managed to find one set of chairs which were agreed upon in accordance with stage sighting and cross ventilation.
You wait for that perfect timing to capture a moment against the sunset, but the moment your child steps to a podium, everything waits. It doesn’t matter if your sweat is dripping or you have an urgent bathroom situation, when he/she comes, everything comes to a halt. Time freezes.
It was one such moment when Aaraaf came with the other little ones. We jumped from our seats to greet him with “Aa gaya! Aa gaya!! Wo raha, sabse peeche wala.”
Jaise hum paagal, vaise har bachhe ke ghar wale paagal. All parents were on foot at that hour, some even prepared to climb up the chairs to locate their wards. We had to be tamed. So came the announcement, “We request all parents to take their seats. Please. Children need to perform.”
It’s facetious how parents act more irrational than their children, at times. Well, most of the times.
Seeing those tiny people stand on a platform gives you the thrill only you know, or any insane person like you, we call Maa-Baap! Even when these munchkins stand, doing nothing, you feel surreal. Your child will keep searching for you in that crowd of floating heads while you keep murmuring in your head “Beta left dekho”, even when you know they can’t listen to you. And when his drifty eyes will meet yours, you will give him a look saying “Hum yehi hai. Now go! Own that stage.”
Then the concert started. Focus lights came into action with drum rolls and music. They danced, like little penguins at work. Black and white had so many colours once armoured on children.
The dance was soon followed by a one-act play. Aaraaf, playing the role of a shepherd, had a single line to deliver which he had rehearsed persistently. The play unrolled and it was time when our boy had to make an entry. Mysha raised her head in apprehension and stopped blinking her eyes. Her Affu Bhai was next in line.
“Chachi, Kab aayega Affu Bhai?”, she couldn’t resist asking.
“Ab aayega Beta”, said Sadaf, Aaraaf’s mother.
And sure enough he then came on stage, standing tall, making his family members taller. As he made himself comfortable on his designated place, locating the mike, about to deliver, we were all ears. And then it happened! As the poor fellow was about to deliver, the technical glitch in the mike did not support his voice.
We gave each-other the perplexed look stating “Kya hua?”
The little man tried again but the mike did not budge. His feeble voice could not cover the distance between the stage and the audience and he stood, lost. We saw his face drop but like they say ‘the show must go on’ and so it did.
With a sullen face he left the stage while a senior came to the mike and made it functional again. The ship has sailed and we heard it drown. We sat there clapping for others to finish. The show was spectacular but not as envisioned.
Finally the announcement we were waiting for was made, “We ask all parents to collect their children from their classes. You will find them as follows.”
We knew where to find him but somehow we did not know what dialect to deliver. Every family member picked up one line which was practiced with conviction.
“Excellent. Bahut acha kiya.”
“Wah Affu. Kitna acha bola tumne.”
“Chalo ab ice-cream khatey hai sab. Party!!”
Sadaf, Mysha and I went to collect Aaraaf from his class while others waited by the school entrance door.
We struggled to make our way in the corridors filled with little performers along with teachers and parents.
Seated quietly on a bench in his class, he saw us from a distance. He lowered his eyes and we braced ourselves. His Mummy and Badi Mummy were all ready to cheer him up. We waited for him to come to us. Mysha left my hand and ran to the classroom at the sight of her older brother. She could not handle the wait any longer.
The elder brother got up and they met half way. He extended his hand and she held it with all her might.
And before he could say a word, she confided in him with pure honesty and dedication, “Affu Bhai, mujhe sunayi diya. Very good. Bahut acha kiya tumne.”
His eyes lit. He believed her. The boy had doubts about his performance but then faith came in the form of his sister.
And then, they hugged. And even though other parents and children kept swamping around them finding each-other, they had found themselves. That day I kept looking for an opportunity to have a perfect picture of these two but this was the best mental image I got home. Something I will keep for years.
We met everyone at the school gate. No sooner did he come, everyone greeted him with glee and praises. He did not respond. He was quiet, still.
Half an hour later, standing at an ice-cream parlour with a dripping chocolate cone in his hand, he broke the ice.
“Mysha ko sunayi diya.” He smiled.
Mysha nodded with full dedication.
My husband and I locked eyes with a hard-to-articulate, harder-to-implement look. We were at peace, we were home. Ice-cream was never that sweet before.
Aaraaf and Mysha are not raised by the same parents but share the same parenting goals. They are not raised in the same city, in fact an ocean stands in their way, but their hearts know to swim. We, the parents, ensured our children know what is important in life – family is a priority.
My mother-in-law once rightly said, “rishtey faislo ke mohtaaj nahi hotey. Bachhe agar ek dusre se na bhi miley, unhe ek dusre ki tasveer dikhani chahiye. Unhe rishto ke mayne samjhane chahiye.”
We practise our preaching and the result is the bond these two share. When Mysha stood for Aaraaf, he did not care for others. This in itself was such a win for the sibling bond. They may not even understand what it means, but for us, the guardians, it means the world.
A version of this was first published here.
Image source: shutterstock
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