20 February 2018

Those embarrassing moments…

Affection demonstrated by parents in front of friends must rank among the top 5 ‘Most Embarrassing Things’ for a young boy or girl between the age of 12 and 16 or so.  That’s when they believe or want others to believe that they are adults, mature, capable of taking care of themselves and even the entire world.  

A kiss immediately conjures up baby days of wanting to feel secure, the clinging to the hand, the waiting for arrival, expectations of love and fulfillment of simple but all-so-very-important wants.  It’s not a situation you want to be reminded of when you are, in your mind, Mr or Ms Universe. Well, not exactly Lord of the Universe, but most certainly not a baby or in need of parental affection.

It happened to me when I was 14.  That was the O/L year.  We usually traveled by bus but that day my father dropped me off at school.  He stopped the car inside the school, just outside the Principal’s office. It was almost 7.30, so I was in a hurry to get out and run all the way to my class, which was located a fair distance away.  

I didn’t say ‘bye’.  I just opened the door and ran. Then he called me and signaled me to come back. We were obedient kids, I suppose. I was agitated, but a father’s command was not to be disobeyed. 

I might have thought that he had something important to say. He did not. He just tapped his finger on his cheek.  That really annoyed and agitated me, I remember. So I kissed him and fled, noticing as I ran my mathematics teacher, Mr Nelson Fernando, turning the corner. I worried for a moment that he might have seen, but decided he hadn’t.  

I lived, back then, for the interval, which I knew would arrive at some point and whose inevitable arrival made all things sufferable.  By the time Mr Fernando came for the Maths period immediately after the interval, I had forgotten that I had seen him that morning.  I had even forgotten the kiss.  

Mr Fernando was an amazing teacher. He was friendly, jovial at times, and made the subject interesting even for bad students like me.  After the customary ‘Ayubowan lamai’ Mr Fernando smiled.  It was a long smile.  I was in post-interval bliss and didn’t take too much notice. Then he explained (in Sinhala).

‘I saw something very sweet this morning.  A father came to school to drop off his son…’

That’s how he began. He cast a couple of glances at me. I cringed. He didn’t say it was me.  After relating the entire incident, he said ‘that’s sweet, isn’t it Malinda?’

The whole class laughed. I wanted a big hole to open before me and swallow me up.

They laughed, but didn’t tease me. Later, thinking about such things, I realized that the laughter came from having faced similar situations. I’ve seen friends in similar situations. I’ve seen them cringe. I’ve laughed. I’ve understood.

I have seen my daughters suffer the same way. I’ve seen their friends being amused. I don’t think they teased the girls thereafter. 

Last night, I was notified of a comment posted below a blogpost. It didn’t take long for me to realize who had written it. 

‘Go away. I'm not smiling. Irritated!!! Also,akki definitely misses aththammi more than me- I can't even remember her. And, i'm not a grandmother!!!!!!!!’

I clicked the link given in the notification. The title was ‘Of grandmothers, old and young’.  

‘Grandmother’ has been a sore word between us because I referred to her as grandmother in one of my poems.  The following is the paragraph that had prompted her indignant response:

“My little girl blurts out now and then ‘I miss Aththammi’ (that’s my mother).  She lights an extra clay lamp at the temple of full moon poya days and asks me ‘Do you know for whom?’  She knows that I know, but still asks.  She knows I miss my mother.  And I think that’s her way of saying ‘don’t be sad’ or ‘I know’.  She is such a grandmother, this little child of mine.

“[No, I will not tell her about this article, but she will find it someday and smile].”

Yes, the parenthesis was also in the article.

I went into the room after posting my comment (‘time is long. perceptions change. but you will always be my little girl. tiny. loved.’).  I just looked at her.  She wanted to show annoyance, but couldn’t.  She said ‘what?’ and smiled.  The ‘someday’ had arrived. 

A little embarrassment now and then is a small price to pay for a memory that will last a lifetime. I smile too, now, when I remember that terrible morning of a kiss demanded and given, seen and publicized.