“I hate running, I hate it!” he stormed into the room around eight thirty. Throwing his backpack into the corner of the room, he ran into his mother’s- my, study.
“Ma, did you make something to eat? I am famished!”
I knew his anger was targeted towards someone else. Amit hated being told what to do. Be it me, his step mom; be it Raghu his Dad, or worse- people he couldn’t scream back at – like his football coach.
“What did he do today?” I probed gently while serving him mashed potatoes. Had to be clinical here, one wrong word and he would visualize his coach and give me an earful. “He made me run, like a mad man! Mad man!”
“Aren’t you supposed to be running? I thought you played football”, Raghu walked in with his laptop and teased his only son. He loved messing with Amit. Both of us used to wonder where he got his temper from. We were peaceful, gentle souls who never even said a curt word. Amit would go bonkers at the drop of a lid. He didn’t pick it up from somewhere- he was an angry baby, an angry toddler, an angry kid and now he was growing into an angry young man- our own Amitabh Bachchan.
“Yeah whatever! If only he would let us play. I ran like ten rounds today“, he said gobbling down a spoon.
“Ten rounds is…” Raghu started and I gave him one of my stern looks, and he tapered off.
“He’s very tired, Raghu you need something to eat?” Translate- Get what you need and leave- if you want to live in peace, that is. I wanted some time alone with my son.
“Why is dad so annoying? He talks like this high school kid”
“Looks as handsome too doesn’t he?” I beamed.
“Ma, you are hopeless!”
I had a good hearty laugh.
“The worst part is we have been doing the same thing over and over every day. There is no difference, no change!”
“Life is all about change beta! It’s bound to come your way. Don’t worry”
“I don’t know anything, I just wish I didn’t have to run like a dog“. He stood up and walked out, seething in anger.
I stood waiting underneath a tube lit corridor, outside an orthopedic ward about nine months away from this conversation. I was anxiously waiting for the specialist to come out. I knew what was coming my way, but being an optimist I never had lost hope.
A white coat walked outside. There was a look of exasperation in his walk and manner. He came over and muttered the inevitable to me, in a low grave voice. I found it anti climatic. Amit wouldn’t walk normally any more. A drunk bastard behind the wheels had made sure that my son would be a cripple for the rest of his life. The fact that he died in the process, was no consolation.
I walked inside; annoyed, angry and consumed by own helplessness.
He was staring out of the window, awkwardly reminding me of an O Henry novel, except that we had no trees in the city; only lifeless cement blocks.
“I won’t be able to run again”, he announced. There was no pain, just acceptance.
“You don’t have to…”, there was a steely reserve in my voice, but no conviction.
“Things change Ma, I don’t have to. But I want to”
I walked out wiping my tears. Things had changed, but not in the way they were intended to.
-Sr Ja [12/03/2016]