Chapter One: The Inquisitive Kid

At the beginning of this year, I went to attend a wedding. Now, weddings are not my thing. I could never understand why marriages are almost mandatory in our society. And this lack of enthusiasm extended to the grand spectacles of weddings itself. Never understood all the different rituals that goes on; different people have different opinions on how to do the things and none of them made much sense to me. Can’t we just exchange symbolic rings, say a few heartfelt words and sign that damn book, paper or whatever it is that needs to be signed. In other news, I am still not married and people wonder why.

But the wedding ceremony by itself is a small and almost insignificant part of the day. There are many other highlight reel items such as the photo session, the food, the dance etc.

  • The photo session is essentially a bunch of professionals insisting everyone to smile as they simultaneously burn and blind you with their devices of torture they like to call camera lights. Of course, nowadays everyone owns a camera with calling facility and so they also take pictures which they aptly label as selfies, groupies, families etc.
  • The next item on the agenda is the food and that is popular because… well, it is free and there is lots of it. The mad rush to get to the dining hall is surprisingly without causalities as if everyone is an expert in dodging and out manoeuvring people, a trait passed on through generations, I presume. By now you might have guessed, I am not a big fan of the food or the crowd either.
  • In some cultures there is dancing as well. Apparently snake dance is a thing nowadays. I don’t dance, ever, not even in my dreams and therefore I am just gonna skip this part.

And this wedding was no different. It had all the above stuff, except for the dance part thankfully. After the photo session and the lunch were over, we went back to the hall where I chose to sit far enough from the dais where the photo sessions were still going on in full swing but not that far to look like a creep. I was checking twitter because I always need to know who made the latest stupid ass comment that would lead to a new controversy. That day there was a lot of stupidity going around in the world; in other words, it was a completely normal day. Tennis was abnormal though, I was still adjusting to Federer getting knocked out in the Australian Open! I was checking the latest scores when suddenly, I hear a voice…

Hi.

I turn to see a small kid looking at me smiling. He must have been around 7 or 8 years old. Why is he looking at me though? Is he lost or something?

Yes?” I knew I was going to regret this. Unfortunately since I was the only one around, I couldn’t exactly ignore this kid hoping that he would find someone else to talk to.

Who are you?” He asked. ‘Who the fuck are you??’ is what I was about to respond out of instinct but since I would probably have to explain what the word fuck means to a 7 year old, I refrained.

Ryan.” From experience, I have learned that if you don’t want a conversation to go ahead, you utter as few words as you possibly can and never ever ask questions. But this approach doesn’t work on kids as I was about to learn.

My name is abcd. My dad’s name is xyz. He is a doctor. You can see him down there. And that is my mother. By her side is my …” umm, I don’t remember asking this kid his family tree. After what seemed like an eternity, the kid finally stopped emitting noise talking. I looked at him vacantly, hoping he would go away. He didn’t.

Then he started again. “My cousin sister? Have you seen her?

Kid, I don’t even know who You are, let alone your sister!” The kid became sad and hung his head. Strangely, that brought a smile to my face. One of my friends always called me a sadist, I think she was referring to little moments like this.

But I already told you who I am I heard him whimper. I pretended not to hear that and decided that ignoring him would be the best way to go about it. Small kids get bored easily and would move on to something more exciting. Hopefully this one would also do the same.

I noticed him looking around, I assumed he was looking for the cousin sister he was talking about. What about the parents? Are they not missing him? Isn’t that the default nature of parents, always worrying about their children?

When someone is looking around, you also tend to look in the direction they are looking, almost instinctively. I saw many girls on the stage and randomly pointed to one of them and asked, “Is she your cousin?

No

I moved my arm a bit, more like twitch actually, and asked again. He again replied in the negative. “Well, she has to be one among them” I told him because there were no other girls or young ladies anywhere else (trust me on this, my girl spotting radar is insanely awesome!). The few people that remained were the older parents and grandparents, lots of grey hair could be seen.

No, she won’t be because she was having food downstairs and she will be coming up only.” What the hell??!! “Then why did you ask me if I had seen her if you already knew she wasn’t here?!” I made no attempt to disguise my irritation. “I wasn’t sure if she had already come up and I wanted to check with you.” I actually did the face palm! See, it is stuff like these why I don’t speak to people much!

I should have ignored him when I had the chance but I didn’t. Now that I learnt my lesson, I turned my focus back to my mobile. I was still miffed that Federer lost to Seppi in the Australian Open couple of days before. But the tournament goes on and I was back to checking the live scores.

Can I sit next to you?” I always hated my inability to say no in certain situations and this was just one more time where I knew I was going to regret it. I shrugged my shoulders, mumbled an okay and turned my attention back to my mobile.

What are you doing?” “Ignoring you!” I replied by reflex. Evidently, it wasn’t loud enough because the kid asks what. I take a moment and say “I am checking tennis scores.” His blank expression told me that he has no idea what tennis meant. “Do you know what cricket is?” I asked him. “Yes!” his face lit up as he emphatically declared, “I watch it all the time!” Of course, every Indian kid knows about cricket. I am willing to bet nowadays, even babies still in their mother’s womb would know about cricket. Such has been the proliferation of that game!

Virat Kohli is my favourite. He is like a God, no?!” This kid was still rambling on; I thought it would be best to let him ramble on about whatever he is rambling about until he gets tired or bored. It took 5 minutes but finally he stopped talking… stopped talking for more than 5 seconds that is. I have absolutely no idea what he was saying in those 5 minutes though. I looked at him carefully. He was about to erupt into another bout of ‘noise emission’ but I was able to stop him before that. “Let’s play a game now.” I suggested.

Yay! I love games. I play games all the time. Do you play? What is your favourite?” Man, this kid is a nonstop chatter box. I tried interrupting him but was hopelessly unsuccessful. He is like a freight train thundering down a slope with no brakes on when he starts talking!

You know, I recently started playing this game. I play it all the time. You can play for hours.” Nope, there was no way he is stopping anytime soon. It would be easier to wait for him to finish.  “So what you need to do is kill these animals.” Wait what?! Did he just say kill, animals? “The more pigs you kill, the better. Sometimes you can kill more than one pig in one shot” Good lord! I thought he was just annoying but this is getting weird now. “And you need to shoot birds.” Wow, he is shooting birds now? Okaay. “Yeah, you put the birds in this rubber band thingy and shoot them into the sky.” He was positively gleaming now. I might be looking at Hitler’s reincarnation! “But you have to make sure they fall on the pigs” Wait a second…. “Just now I remembered the name, Angry Birds!!

FUCK!!” I let it out, involuntarily.

There was a long moment of silence. We were both staring at each other, each with questioning looks. He probably wanted to know what That word meant. I wanted to deduce if He knew what it meant.

Fork, I need to buy forks.” Time for damage control.

Okay…but why were you shouting?

No. I just remembered I am supposed to buy them.” My lie wasn’t convincing but at least it bought me some time and more importantly, silence. I knew I had to change the subject into something I can control before this mini devil started talking again.

Okay. So my game, these are the rules. We both stay quiet and not say a word to each other. Whoever is able to last the longest, wins!

Okay cool” The kid was so excited. Little did he know that I had just tricked him.

Wait! I have a question. What do we win?

Umm, bragging rights.

Bra what?” Whoa! Did this kid just say bra? Does he know what it means? I mean, is that even age appropriate information??

Just… You can tell everyone that you beat me. Okay?!

Okay” He seemed satisfied for a moment but within a second he asked, “But what is bra though?

What??

I overheard some of friends talking about bra and laughing.

Kids these days. I remember back in my day, I didn’t even…umm…okay, never mind. At least he has only heard of bras.

Okay, why don’t we do this?  We will play this game and if you win, I will tell you what a bra is?

Okie dokie!

WTF! How did I end up having to explain what a bra is to this tiny creature?? I mean, you don’t explain about bras with words, you have to use pictures, right?  But I can’t do that, can I?! Can’t this squirt Google this stuff himself??!!

So we both sat there, in silence. I was obviously happy with how my devilish plan worked out. Not talking for hours on end comes very easily to me, after all I have been living alone for more than 4 years now. Piece of cake, I remember thinking, I will have my solitude finally. Unfortunately, I forgot to take into account one thing. People are weird, they rarely do things the way you expect them to.

It must have been just 5 minutes where I sat in silence. I could hear and see people coming in by the door behind us and make their way to the stage below. They all looked like they were satisfied with the meal they had downstairs and were now looking forward to the photo session with the brand new married couple. My eyes instinctively went towards the many beautiful young women around the vicinity of the stage. One of them has to be this terrorizer’s cousin. I felt a tug on my right sleeve. I turned to look and saw that the kid has his grubby paws on me. I looked at him questioningly. Hopefully he had seen his cousin sister and was bidding me goodbye. No need kid, just leave. Please!

Instead what I heard shocked me. “Look look! Look at how quiet I am being!” My second face palm moment of the day. And more extreme as it made a loud noise when my palm thudded into my face!

What happened?! Are you having a headache?” Yes. I have a headache. YOU are my headache! How can you not realize that??

It was my turn to give a blank stare. He looked genuinely concerned though. After a couple of moments to compose myself, I said “You do realize you have lost the game now, right?

Huh?!” His facial expression turned from one of concern to one of surprise and then to recollection. I sat by counting the seconds passing by before he would get it. “Ohh” there it is! And it took him only 5 seconds, smart kid.

He was in full on admiration mode now, “Wow! You are really good at this game!” I know, but it is not like you are world class competition.

Do you play this often in school?” Ehh?! “Umm kid, I am 28 years old. I go to work every day, not school” I know I look very young, getting mistaken for a college guy is common, but school??!! What nonsense!

Really? Wow! You look really young!

Yeah, I know. I don’t age.

Really?

Yep.” I was tempted to go into my vampire hypothesis but I didn’t want to, not with this kid.

So…if you are 28, then are you married? Do you have kids?

What?! Et tu kid?? I thought I will play it cool. “Why do you ask that?

My parents said you should get married by 25 and have kids by 27

Ohh really, they have prepared a universal time table?

The blank look on the kids face gave away the fact that he obviously doesn’t understand sarcasm.

Well, you don’t marry just because you turn 25.

Why not?” The curiosity in his voice was painfully evident. I began imagining a scene. Me to a girl “I want to marry you” She is surprised yet excited and asks “Why so suddenly?” So I answer “Because I turned 25!” And she is like “Ohh God! Stop. The romance is killing me!!”

It’s complicated.

Ohh…” He said and then looked down. 5 seconds passed by and then 10. Yes! He has finally finished with his questions! There was no outward expression of emotion from my end but inside I was absolutely jubilant. I was dancing inside my head. I specifically remember doing the Michael Jackson Moonwalk routine.

How?” I heard him say and immediately, the Michael Jackson inside my head froze in the middle of his Moonwalk step and fell forward, nose first. This kid will be the death of me, I know it!

Suddenly I felt a change in myself. For some reason, I was reminded of Dan and then I remembered the first conversation that Dan and myself had. (Who is Dan, you ask? Well that is an entirely different story and most likely, a sequel to this one)

A nefarious grin began developing on my face. I knew what was going to happen next and I am not a good person to be around with whenever I am in that kind of mood. This kid didn’t look like going anywhere soon though. Well then, welcome to the dark side, kid.

What exactly did your parents say about marriage?

They said when you turn 25 you get married and then have kids within 2 years.

I don’t know about getting married by 25 but almost half of them have kids exactly  9 months after getting married.

The stupefied look in his face meant that he had no idea what I said and I preferred to keep it that way. “By the way, do you know how old the two who got married just now are?

25?

Nope, 27!” I lied obviously. I know for sure the bride isn’t 27, she is my cousin.

So my parents lied to me?” He was in shock.

Of course. Everybody lies. Especially parents.” I paused for a bit and then added, “I bet they have told you that you have to study all the time otherwise you wouldn’t get a good job

YES!!” he emphatically declared. Haha, I got this kid by a string now. “I know! Listen to me, I rarely studied but still I have nice job, great pay and a house to myself.” Of course, I left out the part of studying effectively and knowing what shortcuts to take for tackling exams. But hey, I am not here to do social service.

Is it?” He was in a shock and awe mode. His tiny world had been jolted by a conversation with me.

Listen kid. I am going to give you some free piece of advice. Do you want to hear it?” he nodded. He was transfixed. I have his full attention now.

Don’t trust anybody in this world. Always question what they tell you and try to figure out what they really mean by what they say.” I paused to let the words sink in to his tiny brain. If he really, really understood the magnitude of what I was saying then he should have realised that he shouldn’t trust even me and whatever I was saying. I was looking at him to see what his reaction would be, to see if I can kick this into the next level.

Vegetables!” he suddenly exclaimed. “Does this mean they were lying about vegetables too??” What the actual Hell! Did this punk just ask about vegetables?! Of all the things he could have thought of, he thinks of goddamn vegetables?!!

Not sure what to reply, I weighed my options. Saying yes would make his parents the clear villains, the ones who can never be trusted. But that was easy. Saying no would make him confused and question everything he has been told his entire life. Plus, he would have to eat vegetables too. So I replied “No, they were right about vegetables. Especially brinjal & bitter gourd” I picked the ones I hated the most.

He looked up and exclaimed “Ohh God! Why?!” Wow, this just keeps getting better and better. Time to take it to the next level then.

God huh?! Which god do you pray to? Wait, let me guess. Thor, the God of lightning and thunder! No, no. I know, the Flying Spaghetti Monster!” The kid was just sitting there, blinking.

I didn’t wait for a reply. “So do you pray every day?

Yes!

Because you parents tell you to?

Yes…

And what did I tell you about trusting what people tell you?

He looked up at me in shock, the tears in his eyes betraying his confusion.

Tell me this, have you prayed every single day? Surely you must have forgotten to pray a few days, am I right?

He nodded his head, a bit meekly, I noted. “Did you notice any difference in those days because you didn’t pray?” he went into a thoughtful mode. I thought it was best to let him think it through, I mean, it is not like he has a lot of memories to go through; the kid is just 7 years old, he probably wouldn’t even have memories from the first half of his life!

I decided enough time had passed and asked “Have you seen god?” He looked at me and said, “No, my parents said you can’t see God because he is invisible to us humans.” Ahh, yes, how convenient. At least, he has asked about this to his parents, I am impressed.

But God is everywhere” and he is off again. “He is all powerful and can see everything we do and read all our thoughts” I have always wondered why god is almost always referred to as a he even though there are numerous goddesses present as well. “Hmmm, if he can read all your thoughts, then why do you need to pray? It seems unnecessary, right?

He was again lost in thought. I was debating whether I should press on or change the topic to something else. Talking about god didn’t feel diabolical enough anymore. So I enquired, “Do you have any brothers or sisters?

No, I am the only child.” He replied almost immediately.

Ohh…” I feigned surprise and then looked away with a tinge of disappointment. The idea was to make him insecure and that he became. “Why do some people have only one baby but others have two or three?

I don’t know” and then choosing my words carefully, I shrugged my shoulders and continued “maybe your parents decided not to have any more kids after having you.” He was obviously shocked, wondering if he was a bad kid as I hinted. “Or you know, they are just waiting for some more time before adding to your family.” The relief on his face was clearly visible. Man, I am just evil, playing with this kid’s emotions like this!

How are babies born?” Ehh, what? He was looking at me expectantly, waiting for my answer. I really need to teach this kid to Google stuff for himself!

You should be asking your parents this.” I replied trying to buy myself.

Prompt came the reply, “I did! They said babies are God’s gift to a married couple.” Lol, what the actual fuck! Wait, no…that pun was not intended.

And you don’t believe what they say?” I asked him. “No, not after talking to you, I don’t!” The song ‘What goes around, comes around’ suddenly flashed in my mind.

Looking thoughtfully into the distance, I said “Well kid, you are my friend now. So I will tell you the truth.” And then I looked back at him, sized him up & down and continued “But you are way too young to understand. Let’s just say that there are certain ‘bio mechanics’ involved between the parents to create a baby and after many, many months, the baby is born.

He didn’t look convinced and I could see that he was dying to know more so I changed the subject, “You are 5 right?!” Mistaking someone’s age/weight/name is a proven way of getting them flustered. This 7 year old was no different and took the bait. “No, I am 7!

At this specific point in time, I heard a loud coughing noise. Suddenly I could feel myself being aware of my surroundings again, as if I had got lost in some zone for some time. I could hear the commotion again and see the people all gathered near the stage or making their way towards it. And then I heard the coughing noise again. It came from behind us.

I turned around to see a girl standing behind us. Her hands were on her hips but she had a wry smile as she was looking at us. She was easily one of the most beautiful girls to have graced that wedding. She was now looking straight at me and I was looking right into her eyes. Out of the corner of my left eye, I could see the kid jump up from the seat, arms in the arms and happily screaming her name. The little brat went around the couple of empty chairs to get to her. And all the while, my eyes were locked with hers and for the first time in a long while, a genuine smile formed on my face.

As soon as the kid reached her, she turned away to look at him. Stupid kid! She bent down and was on one knee as the kid spoke “Were you behind us all this time? Did you hear everything we talked about?” His eyes were sparkling. Clearly his pea sized brain was impressed by my awesomeness. But he wasn’t the one I cared about impressing. What did she think? There was a small pause but without looking back at me, she replied to him “Ohh yeah, I think I heard enough of it.” My brain was temporarily overwhelmed with her beauty that I couldn’t immediately process the sarcasm in her words. “Why don’t you run back to your parents, they were looking for you.” And just like that, she sent that little ball of terror hurtling down the stairs to a bunch of people, half of whom I assume are my relatives. Ohh wow, this girl is good!

Now that we got a moment to ourselves, I decided that I would introduce myself. I got up and started to speak, “Hi, my name is…” I could never finish as she held out her hand and showed her open palm to me, a la ‘Talk to the Hand’ style. And then she spoke, those, words. “Please! Don’t ever have children!” And then she turned and walked away. I could only look on in silence; even in retreat she was an epitome of grace and I didn’t want to interrupt that. It took some time but slowly the realisation percolated in my thoughts, I Did Not make a good first impression!

 

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