“Mummy! Did you ask dad to sign the report card? He’s gone out again!”
“Not now, Ravi. I told you it is Rahu Kaalam. Nothing good will happen if he signs it now.”
“Great. My bad time is due in another hour, I guess.”
“Shut up, it is your fault.”
“Then riddle me this, mom. What do you think about school starting in Rahu Kaalam? Shouldn’t my day be… Okay, never mind.”
“Keep asking beta, the answers are always there. You’re only 10 now, you’ll eventually figure it out”, his mom was always quirky with her short and sweet retorts.
Equipped with books for the brain and beets for the tummy, he set out on an expedition with only one goal in mind, return home safely from the temper tantrums of Mrs. Kali (short for Kalaiselvi). He did make a last minute attempt to gently slide the card over the table and get it signed, but his dad didn’t budge. “I can’t lie to your mom, son.” Ravi managed to sneak in a quick retort, “Then what about that ridiculously expensive Shiva statue you bought for your office which she deeply antagonizes with?” His dad did him one better. “It improves the aura of that place, son. She doesn’t visit our office anyway”.
“Bye dad, bad aura wants me desperately at school, the bus has arrived early.”
“Don’t worry, son. Here, apply this on your forehead,” he said as he passed the sandalwood paste. “Right dad, a few particles that will eventually disappear will make my problems disappear too,” said Ravi being more critical than ever. “Pity, son, problems find you more attractive. The sandalwood can only do so much. This will improve your character.”
The day eventually began and it couldn’t have gotten better without the headmistress’ arrival. “Hope you have your report cards signed! Else you will have to come meet me. And trust me, you don’t want to.” The principal was getting on her nerves and she did a fine job of passing it on to the students. Ravi, trembling in fear, couldn’t even stand up to apologize, but somehow had enough energy to curse those above the skies. As he kept mumbling cuss words, Mrs. Kali went down the roll call and called Ravi.
“Stupid time makes no sense…”
“Wha… Yes, Miss!”
“Do you have your report card? Never mind, I can see it in your face anyway, get going. She will leave in 30 minutes.”
“Lemme guess, bad time gets over then?”
Mrs. Kali couldn’t have been more delighted. “For her, maybe. For you? Never!”
The day kept rolling downhill. After an insightful meeting with the headmistress, he was happy that PT came up next. But then, for all the effort taken in securing his belongings before leaving, he sure wasn’t careful while playing as he slipped over his laces and fell down. Brushing the dust off and grumbling in pain over a few scratches he headed back to pack his bag for a zestful sprint towards home. As he set off to leave, he didn’t mind the extra weight he pushed into his bag while randomly clearing the table. Did it matter, when he was already burdened, internally?
The day ended and he reached home to be greeted by a message.
“Hi! It’s me, your distant cousin. Yeah, we never talk. But at least we meet once a year. So about that, we were wondering whether we could do the cousin reunion this Wednesday. It’s now or never, so finalize at the earliest.”
Ravi let out a sigh of relief and became dreamy. One evening of fun, enough to forget the woes leading up to it. The week wasn’t completely done for. Well, until his mom arrived and looked at the message.
“THIS WEDNESDAY? No way! Last Tuesday was a new-moon day, no?”
Ravi came back to his senses. “Eh? What about it?”
“What high-school student are you? Well, do the math, it’s the 8th day from then. Bad day to leave the house.”
“That sentence has so many flaws in itself. You know I don’t believe in any of this.”
“Well I do, and I don’t want any bad omen to have befallen in this house.”
He had enough of this and went outside for some fresh air. He strolled about, mumbling to himself. “God, how many families must be free of this perplexing nonsense. Christians? Maybe they have something for themselves. But this is taking it to a new level. Life must be nice for those don’t have to deal with any of this.”
He looked up and cursed the Moon. A few minutes later, his mom called him in. “Oh come on, mummy it’s just….”, he fell short on his snappy response. “Oh no,” he muttered to himself as he realized he must have lost his watch when he fell down during PT.
“It’s just what?”
“Wonderful of you to remind me. I’ll be inside in no time.”
Panic got the better of him, as he paced up and down in exasperation instead of ranting about his non-existent religious beliefs. He called up his best friend hoping he would help him find the watch but that wasn’t to be .
“Sai, I’m not kidding, my dad will find out easily and I’ll never hear the end of it.”
“I don’t know Ravi. Pray to God, you find it tomorrow”
“God? GOD? Seriously Sai? If it wasn’t for God, I would have had the report card signed. With the report card, I wouldn’t have had to meet the headmistress, who by the way was having her head chewed off by the principal for screwing up a lamp in some ceremony. If not for the headmistress, I wouldn’t have played with so much fury that I had to lose the watch.”
“Isn’t playing rough your fault? Didn’t you…”
“Shut up!” Ravi didn’t let him finish.
Sai felt sorry, but then he came up with a technically sound solution.
“How about I pray to God that you find the watch so that you get your faith reinstated? I lost my faith earlier too, and I regret it.” Sai didn’t know what happened next. Felt like a loud sound, some random words and then the constant dial tone.
Ravi sat down at the dinner table, and it didn’t take long for destiny to arrive.
“Where is the silver watch, Ravi? Seems odd, you not having it. Also didn’t mummy tell you to wear it all the time?”
“Umm, it’s in the room dad, I’m fixing the strap now.”
“Oh, is it, I’ll come there after eating and help you.”
Ravi was totally unaware of what he had said, and it slowly came to light.
“Why is my life so dark? Why did I blabber that for no reason?”
His mom joined in. “Why? Is it so? It seemed fine in the evening, how did you break it so soon?”
“What? Oh, um yeah, butterfingers.” Something wasn’t right then.
His dad received a call just then and his mom went about clearing the table.
He rushed back to his room and saw a divine light. Or rather the shining reflecting surface of his watch. He stood there, doing nothing. His mom came up with his clothes for the next day. Seeing him transfixed in amazement, she chuckled. “See how nice it is to see the watch? Keep everything clean no, beta. And stop worrying about everything, nothing seems broken, maybe a minor scratch.”
Nothing made sense now. Or did everything? Did his friend’s prayers come true?
Did his mom hold divine powers? Questions kept hitting him till he eventually drifted to sleep.
“I found it in your shirt pocket while washing your clothes and it was very dirty. What did you…? Oh. Sleep well.”
Dawn arrived. A new Ravi emerged. And fell back down for ‘5 more minutes’.
“Beta, whose pen pouch is this in your bag? Seems to be pretty expensive, where did you get it?”
Half asleep, he didn’t want to check.
“Oh, somebody must have misplaced it. Pray that he gets it.”
From assuming things and being forgetful to having his own beliefs, Ravi went on a wild ride. From witnessing a horrible fight between his parents and losing his faith in God, to having it reinstated with a miraculous watch recovery.
Pity, Sai had to take his place.
In a distant house, the high sounding call of a distressed human being echoed. “Where is my pouch ma? Why is God doing this to me?”
Faith was analogous to an oscillating pendulum, at least in these young boys’ lives. They kept reaching extremes in notions and so, find it hard to have a solid set of beliefs.