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Boys are boys, they got a social gain in the evolution. Her brother dragged his feet in everything, a slow poke, but mom never found fault with him.
Madhuri stuffed her bag with the tiffin box, flask, purse, car key, and the grocery list. She placed it on the coffee table in the living room with two office files she pulled from the side shelf. Just another day.
As she waited on the sofa, the warm rays of the September sun snuck in through the window and made her giddy, signalling a throbbing headache. She got a strong feeling of wanting to take a break from everything and take a trip somewhere, alone.
“One minute ma,” she heard Ankush call out from his room. It was nearly eight, she should be driving to school.
“I have a test in the first lesson Ma, cannot wait for him!” Megha complained, from the sofa across from her. She was ready for school having packed her lunch herself and had an uneasy look in her eyes.
“He will be ready soon.”
“Ankush is lazy, and selfish. He makes me late every day.”
Madhuri looked at her daughter with a pang of anger. Boys are boys, the species got a social gain along the evolutionary trajectory. Her brother dragged his feet in everything, a slow poke, she never found fault with him. Madhuri’s mother had successfully fed her sister and her with the tradition-tested wisdom, where she failed.
She tells Megha something to hear her new theories. The girl takes lessons from the internet, and her mother, about gender inequality, unfairness, and gender discrimination. Her father from Dubai had warned her a few times to stop the internet subscription to take control of her.
“Let me keep your bag in the car,” Megha grabbed the car key, went out with the bag.
Madhuri noticed the money-plant in the pot next to the curtain had disappeared. On closer look, she saw the withered creeper had fallen off the truss tumbled on to the floor. The soil in the pot hardened into a lump of rock due to the shortage of water. Megha had given Ankush the responsibility of watering it.
She rushed into the kitchen, returned with a cup of water, hurled into the pot, keeping an eye on Megha. A burning uneasiness surged through her, what’s bothering him? His counselling teacher had recommended a dietitian for him as he lacked a properly nutritious diet.
“Nutritionists are a rip-off,” Megha dismissed the idea at the onset, she was jealous of him. First thing today, she should get an appointment with him and keep it a secret from Megha.
She heard, Ankush’s feet thumping on the stairs he ambled along into the lounge and plonked the school bag on to the floor. “I want to change that school,” he kept a sombre expression on the face.
Madhuri pulled the bag up kept on the sofa. “Don’t throw the books on to the floor that is disrespect.” He didn’t respond but kept the same look on.
She took a good look at him. Hair unkempt, strands straggling about his face, shirt tucked in untidily, the pants dishevelled, the face thin with sombre eyes.
Tears welled up in her eyes, he was the apple of her eye. Was she a bad mother? Had she let the evil spirit punish her through her son? How had he lost the interest in learning. Did a teacher or a friend insult him? He didn’t tell her anything.
She hugged her son, mumbled an apology into his ears. He hugged her back, wrapping his delicate arms around her.
She pulled away, and looked into his eyes, “What happened to you, my dear?”
“I want to join your school,” he grabbed her hands.
“That’s a poor government school, not fit for you.”
“Why? Megha is there.”
“We gave you the best school.”
“That’s not the best school, Ma. Please tell Papa.”
Five lakhs capitation fee, tuition fees and other expenses are going over their head. As he began to cry, she melted at his beautiful eyes filled with tears.
“Ma, it’s time!” Megha called out from outside, “We’re getting late.”
Madhuri carried Ankush’s school bag, and dropped it into the car boot, planted an kiss on Ankush’s forehead as he dragged behind her. He tossed himself onto the passenger seat and Megha fixed him with a look from the back seat.
Madhuri backed the car out of the front court pulled into the road in the front of the house, hit the highway, digging into what went wrong. At times she glanced at her son, hurriedly made an offer to god to get him blessed in return.
Madhuri stood in front of the tall iron gate, instead of opening, it the security man grunted through a grill above her head. She stepped back to see his face the frontward bill of the black cap that covered the upper part of his face.
“Open the gate,” she urged. The man ordered her to go to the small gate beside the main.
He took time to quiz her with a set of mind-numbing security style questions, his red eyes measuring her body. She hadn’t come to steal anything.
“I came to see the principal,” she fished the letter out of her bag to show him. He didn’t even look at it. Had she come to the right place, she checked the name board hovered over the gate, JC School of Excellence.
“Sign here,” he showed him three places in the books.
She remembered the saintly look and the humble gestures of those who welcomed her during the school registration made Ankush feel a star. She handed the bundle of five lakhs rupee notes to a man seated on a throne-like seat, signed in a few papers his secretary had handed on.
The air smelt divine, he didn’t say a word, blessed Ankush spreading his hand over his head without touching. She felt an overwhelming presence of divinity. The interview was one on one. Three times his class teacher had a video called her to discuss his exam report. She proudly spread the news among her colleagues. The school’s logo was tradition meeting the modern.
The man opened the gate.
The moment she stepped inside, she realised that wasn’t the registration place. She had to walk a long stretch of the road, lush lawns on both sides sprawling over large areas broken by dark shadows of tall trees rising to the sky. A loud guttering noise sliced through the gloom, a wave of peacock blue bloomed merrily at a distance. There was nothing of colour anywhere other than the blue, no plants no flowers.
Into a few meters, she saw a building faintly. She remembered Ankush nagging her with complaints of getting tired by a long stretch and a whole lot of other things. But each time, she bluntly negated him. She wasn’t willing to open up for a talk with him.
A large gate like the one outside opened in front of her. She walked into a deserted lounge, the reception sign hung above a small window. By the window was a cubbyhole where she found no one. A lady appeared in a while, no word, no facial expression to acknowledge her presence.
“Can I see the principal?” she asked.
“For what?” the woman asked in a baritone voice.
She showed her the letter. The lady gestured to pass it on to her and with sweaty shivering fingers, she slipped it in through the window bars. She looked around for support to sit on found nothing.
And she reached the principal after being pushed through corridors and rooms. “We have suspended your son from the school for a week,” he told her just like that. She couldn’t utter a word her tongue got stuck in the upper palette.
Him, in his white robes on a chair, his bald head freckled with black and red spots. A minute passed in sombre silence, then his red eyes raised in her direction to remind her the meeting was over that she leaves the room.
“Why?” She forced her tongue.
“Our security squad caught him abusing drugs,” he said in a hurry.
“Father, please.” Tears welled up in her eyes.
“We can’t keep offenders here, not our policy, drug abuse is a serious offence.” He stated as if gifting her a donation out of the charity.
“Seek advice from counsellors we recommend. We don’t want the news to reach the public to affect our reputation.” He stood up to leave. The room smelled like frankincense of death, she ran out of the room.
Ankush sat outside the office, head lowered, the security man kept a watch over him.
She considered him. He looked away as if a strange alienation had swallowed him. Neither did he cry, not complain, as a dark silence hung between them.
Picture credits: YouTube
Academic author, born and raised in Kerala, a teacher by profession, worked in different African
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