Like most other men and women his age, he is fascinated by Hector, so every evening he comes in his little feet to our house. Hector himself has no affection for anything that is below puberty years, or below five feet (Mum at five feet one just about passed his acceptance standard). So whenever these little children come to him with shining eyes, he pouts as if he were a pretty princess and gracefully sashays down the length of the hall and burrows under the sofa muttering under his breath,
‘ When a dog goes under a sofa and leaves only his butt in view,
you should really know what he thinks of you.’
Shantanu, however, does arouse some enthusiasm in my mother. It is a welcome change in a day largely indulged in looking after man, dog, kitchen and garden. In his arrival, also approaches the entertainer in Rekha Narayanan, and both potter about the kitchen discussing the latest trends and fashions in the life of a nine year old. I suspect that Rekha has been secretly going online and reading up on Rebecca Black while I am asleep.
Kids these days are very different from how we were. This little four foot something imp has a facebook account, loves basketball and attends cooking classes after school. Whatever happened to only being good at cricket and nothing else! Facebook at nine? Whatever happened to staying in parks long after a hard day’s game and discussing which girl ended up as your ‘love’ in that delightful invention called ‘FLAMES’. A boy attending cooking classes, and knowing the difference between asafedita and baby corn? Yeah yeah, call me sexist, look down upon me, cheer for the new metrosexual India, but in your hearts you all know it is the die-hard cricketer who can’t cook anything except Maggi you all lust for.
We do have our similarities. Shantanu hates girls and swears that he will never have anything to do ‘with that lot’. At that age, I felt much the same way. Just like R K Narayanan's, neither did my 'Malgudi Days' have any trace of err maals. We didn’t see quite the point of why God would invent such a gender. Back then, Gaurav and I swore to stay ‘brahmachari’ all our lives. Dear lord.
Every time the poor lad comes to our house, he peers at me through his big glasses as I challenge him for mock fights. I let him beat me at arm wrestling but if he makes fun of me, he is made aware that he is nano seconds away from being stripped off his tee, or worse shorts. If he checks his facebook, I tease him about every girl in his list, and he screams so loud that Hector wishes it was his bones that he was gnawing at. When he sits behind me on the bike and holds my waist tightly because he is scared, I thank him for being such a physically affectionate girl friend, and the “put me down, PUT ME DOWN RIGHT NOW” is lost in the buzz of the engine. I think we like each other.
At regular intervals, Shantanu asks my mother, “why is your son like that?” You see Shantanu, I grew up in a house full of girls – sister, cousins, whatnot. They are brilliant, but my timidity only deserted me properly when I reached a Belgaum Engineering Boys Hostel. So when I do see a young boy anywhere in my breathing space, I find a brother whom I can bully, amuse or tease. To maybe build, inspire and make a man.
p.s Back in those brahmachari days, the sadistic souls that my parents were, they would keep teasing me that they’d marry me off to the girl who lived next door to us. So one day, shoving my 4th Standard Science book under my armpits, I marched solemnly up to my mother and leafed over to page 48. A red and blue picture of the male anatomy stared back at us.
“I’m going to cut mine off. Then I can’t have babies or get married”, I spluttered pointing an indignant ring finger at the pinkish looking reproductive system. Mother collapsed on the floor laughing, but I felt like a proud martyr then. Just think..what commitment, even at that age. Err thankfully nothing was ‘cut’ then or ever, and soon with the first signs of puberty and the airing of Baywatch, all earlier brahmachari pacts were forgotten.
For crying out aloud, what is wrong with our school science books? Those look less like a pair of kidneys and more like a potato farm. and why have you named that fried egg your gall bladder?#$#$@@$#@ If you show your reproductive organs in such an unreal form, how will any innocent boy ever understand what he was really going to sever off? Pah!