He calls me and says, ‘Amma, I need a sharpener.’ Yes, it’s vacation time but I have asked him to do some coloring. I look at the mess around me. It is evident I cannot go to the cold store, so I ask him to go instead.
Fils in hand he marches. A few paces away and he stops, looks back and says, you need not come behind me. He has his reason. Till date I have not allowed him to go alone. I go with him or behind him just to make sure that he crosses the road safely and does not come in the range of some car driver with his foot on the accelerator.
I nod and watch him go.
Memories of a tiny infant flash by. Has he grown so much that now he goes out alone to shop.
And I wonder how my parents had felt when I had left their nest for studies. My mom was devastated, father was speechless and I had been very happy. (it is a different issue that I had cried bucketfuls by the second week of being alone).
Every year, come June end my mom makes her customary call, have you started packing, have you kept this, this, this (rattling names of things which i should carry). I keep on saying my ayes and nays until in exasperation I cry out, ‘Amma it is almost 20 years since I do everything alone.’
‘I know’, she says, ‘ But you are still my daughter.’
I await now for my brother’s call on the day before the travel. ‘Have you kept your passport, your ticket, your medical records, your medicines…’ I say yes and keep the phone down and then both of us begin the countdown to the meeting. For my siblings I will always be their younger sister.
And though I sometimes resent the instructions but I get a lot of security. The feeling that there is someone who looks after you is great.
He returns from the cold store a blue sharpener in hand very proud of his excursion. For days to come we will hear about how he went, what all cars came on the way, how he had to tell four times what he wanted before the shop wala uncle heard him etc.
I know I will never be able to go with him again to the shop, to show him what is kept where or to hold his hand and say watch right, left, right and cross the street. But I watch him confident and happy and hope that I have taught him right. It is time for him to spread his wings and fly….alone.