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Sunita, from her experience knew that the age of two and a half years proved to be a major turning point in a child’s life. She very clearly remembered the day when her little son, Santosh entered this most important stage in his life.
Several words of wisdom and gems of advice flowed from other diligent parents who tried telling her about the necessity of admitting him in school at this age. This is not an age for a small one to be tied to his mother’s apron strings, as, even he needed to widen his perspectives and extend his social circle! Her husband also echoed and approved the well-intended advice of their friends and neighbours.
Sunita had never given a serious thought to sending her only child to school at such a tender age. The very thought of him being away from the well protected confines of a home did not go well with her.
As is seen in most of the single-child homes, Sunita was extremely concerned about her son’s food habits, cleanliness, personal hygiene, good company, no screen time etc. Moreover, never once had she left him on his own all by himself. By not attending Ladies’ kitty parties, rumba/Bollywood dancing classes, she had made a big sacrifice for him!
She found several possible excuses to hamper the ensuing ‘calamity’- what if someone knocked him down or snatched away his school bag – thus argued Sunita with her husband Rohit. He quite coolly replied that he was more bothered about the possibility of the reverse happening when Santosh joined the playschool close to their home.
Next followed a series of depressing evenings when Rohit displayed immense patience and put forth his best verbal skills to impress on Sunita the special features of the playschool close to their home and the reason as to why their tiny tot should start attending the same. With much coaxing, finally Sunita consented, though not wholeheartedly. The only one who was totally unruffled by all this ruckus was Santosh! Watching Santosh, who was playing merrily totally unaffected, tugged at Sunita’s heart strings. ‘How would this little innocent one, who is yet to know the ways of the world, cope up with the outside world?
The following one week just flew with the parents trying to prepare their young one for the big D-Day, with the main focus of training being on good manners, self-reliance and learning the usage of the three golden words of etiquette– thank-you, sorry, and please.
Finally, the day dawned; little Santosh was all set to head towards his new school. Donning a brave look, he examined his new possessions – a blue coloured gleaming new school bag, a steel water bottle and a tiffin box. With all formalities completed, the parents were requested to go home and return after a couple of hours to pick up their wards.
Surprisingly, Santosh returned Sunita’s reticent ‘good bye’ briefly and a ‘collected’ Santosh went to his classroom where some kids were wailing continuously. Sunita was a bit taken back at this reaction, but she felt that he probably failed to understand the significance of this situation. With the couple of hours of waiting hanging heavy, Rohit suggested that they go to a nearby mall, to divert the thoughts running in Sunita’s mind. Never had mannequins in shops looked so uninteresting and never had bhel puri and pani puri tasted so bland –Sunitha felt totally perturbed and unsettled.
Rohit displayed immense patience and made the conversations light with his humorous talk and tried being a bit romantic too. But no way- he failed in his attempts to brighten her mood.
Gradually the dreaded couple of hours came to an end. Out came running out their son with a big smile on his face, waving ‘good bye’ to his new teacher.
Sunita ran towards him and embraced him tightly. Santosh started talking non-stop about his new friends and their pranks and of course about his ‘Miss’. Proudly remarked the teacher, “Santosh did not cry at all and was very happy in the midst of his new friends.”
Sunita’s maternal pride took a bit of a beating, but common sense came to her rescue and told her that their little darling son had come of age. This was the moment when she realized that it was time for her to let go her little one… of the all-encircling influence of the parents over their precious son, of the invaluable cocoon that they had so carefully woven around him. It was time for their son to flap his wings and fly slowly into the outside world from the cosy comfort of his nest. This, of course was his first baby step, preparing him for a longer stay in several unknown and vast spaces where several unannounced challenges would stare at him.
Twenty-three years flew swiftly and their precious little son, now a refined and well mannered young man had completed his studies and was all set to embark into this competitive world. Dedicated hard work by Santosh bore fruits, and he now was a qualified engineer, with an M BA from IIM, as well. His qualification landed him in a plum job in the foreign shores.
Santosh came home after his hectic schedule of studies and job hunting as his date of accepting the offer was still a month away. The mom in Sunita was in full gear before the arrival of her beloved son, a doting mother that she was. She saw to it that his room was spic and span by continuously instructing her domestic help to clean this and that! The preparation in the kitchen of sweets and savouries was in full swing. “Hey Rohit, I forgot to get ice-cream essence from the kirana shop last night. Get it from the nearby shop ok, but make it fast.” “Thank God for Santosh, even I am getting treated to these delicious sweets these days, which was not there in the recent past,” quipped Rohit, with one eye on the magazine that he pretended to be seriously reading and the other one, trying to ascertain her reaction to his well-meant jeer.
The day dawned and finally Santosh arrived. Soon, all the preparations for his departure started in right earnest: the shopping list got longer and longer with several deletions and additions – after all, Santosh was not heading towards his college where all the essential items were decided in advance and provided for, however ordinary and mediocre they were. Santosh, the apple of their eyes was now an employee of a reputed organization and would want to have a condominium that was not only well furnished and decorated aesthetically but also boasted of some style and flamboyance!
The ensuing days were filled with hectic shopping expeditions; meet-ups with near and dear ones and friends; and stuffing the suitcase with several items and discarding them at the same time. Paying for excess baggage is definitely not a palatable idea. Sunita just loved the way in which Santosh handled the entire situation calmly without losing his cool even once, considering the fact that he was a novice at shopping and was not all that social either. He was patient and appeared to be a mature guy who gave full freedom to his mother to fuss over him. Finally, with all the preparations done for his departure, the young man was ready to leave the shores of India.
Sunita always shied away from saying good bye and was not good at it either- she deliberately avoided such situations wherein the raw emotions burst forth spontaneously for everyone around to see. Sunita always displayed some restraint and was a very guarded person with no public display of hugs or kisses or for that matter even crying. She always preferred to celebrate love and affection in a quiet manner within the inner reaches of her soul.
Santosh had been a boarder for a few years now and had been coming home during semester breaks and at times unexpectedly for a short escapade over long weekends. Apart from all this, there was this assurance that he was just three states away from home. Also, the commute between home and hostel was easy what with several buses and trains plying between the two places. But this time it was a totally different scenario.
Santosh was all set to cross the seven seas, flying across various continents to an entirely new foreign land, literally as well as metaphorically where nothing would match-be it the time zones or culture or the cuisines.
As Sunita came out of the terminal after the departure of the flight, she looked upwards, and silently brushed away the tears rolling down her cheeks, which displayed tell -tale signs of maternal yearning that had ventured to the brim, over their forcefully and fiercely guarded limits.
She wearily walked towards her car. On looking up she suddenly noticed the autumn sky quickly change colours from bright pink to light orange as the sun was getting ready to retire for the day. The last few yellow leaves on the tall, stocky trees nearby detached themselves and mingled with the carpet of dry leaves that were scattered on the ground.
On looking at this, Sunita started thinking, “Well Nature has mastered well the art of letting go. Is it not remarkable?” Her thoughts moved backwards in time, when Santosh had stepped into the world outside his cosy nest with his baby steps twenty-two years ago to his playschool and compared them with the courageous, firm strides of the confident millennial of today. Her heart bulged with pride yet again – yes, her baby had matured into a fine human being. But why was she experiencing this punctuated sharp stab of pain, as if her very heart was being torn apart and crushed into pieces?
Sunita stood still for a few minutes before moving on. The car engine geared up and soon Rohit reversed the car from the parking lot and started driving towards their home. Sunita felt emptiness in the pit of her stomach. In a spark of bittersweet epiphany, she soon understood that at times it is vitally important to let go; to welcome distance; and yearn for a loved one. All these are necessary so that fresh ties are created; old ones are lovingly fostered and the pursuit of a better stronger self is renewed.
This was Sunita’s moment of carpe diem and she was absolutely ready to embrace this phase of life willingly in the most positive manner. She reached home with a light heart and just as any mother would do, started waiting for a call from her son after his arrival in the country of his dreams!
Image via Pixabay
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