Talk To Me

For the past 4 months, Arvind and I have been going out for lunch once a week. I pick him up after school at 1:45 and we drive to his favourite dodgy Chinese restaurant and we ask for the “usual” – Macau fried rice for him and Kung Pao beef for me. The proprietor grins and brings us Coke and water without even asking.

We talk. There is no plan, no agenda and inspite of uncomfortable, highbacked chairs, we relax. We talk about everything that comes to mind – what happened in school, what is in the news, salient features of the Triassic age and the Jurassic age, why I should learn Minesweeper. Our words foxtrot effortlessly without stumbling over each other, without awkwardness.

There is the day Anders Behring Breivik is declared insane.

“Does this mean they won’t kill him, Mamma? Or put him in jail? Because I’m sure he is really really sorry that he did something so stupid. Everyone is sorry afterwards, right?”

“I wish it was that simple, love,” I say “but I think he meant to do it. As awful as it is, I think he meant to hurt people and he believed he was doing the right thing. In many places in the world, he would have faced capital punishment. The death penalty.”

“Death penalty?” he says the words carefully before spooning more rice into his mouth.

“Where you are sentenced to die for the crime you’ve committed.”

“Even if you’re very very sorry?”

“Even then.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” he frowns. “Why would they do that?”

“It has never made sense to me either.” I tell him.

I tell him about the various forms of capital punishment, about execution squads, about my impressions after visiting the Spandau prison in Berlin and as he turns his barrage of questions towards me, the couple next to us look like they really wished they had ordered take away Moo shoo Pork.

From death by capital punishment, we move onto apple pie, religion and afterlife and I might have snuck in that at least once in his life, he should read Catcher in The Rye because Holden Caulfield? He will stay with you forever.

“You’re sad, Mamma,” he says one afternoon. “You’re smiling, but you’re sad.”

“I am.” I say quietly but directly. I am unwilling to explain this darkness, this desperate suffocation I am feeling. The feeling that the already tenuous centre of my life is unravelling at a pace faster than I could keep up with. I don’t know how to tell my son that I don’t know how I got out of bed that morning.

I try to remember being myself at his age, so much like him. The child who sensed discord and discontent, who picked up even minor distress and made it hers. I know that I want to accord him more credit and respect than I was given in those circumstances.

“You know how sometimes, in school, everyone seems to be having a great time except you and even though everyone wants to play with you, something is just not right? You either feel too much or too little? Or somedays you are sad or angry about something that happened some other day?”

He nods, sombre in the moment.

“It’s like that for me sometimes,” I say. “Sometimes being sad and being angry comes from a place you can’t see anymore, that you don’t really understand. But I am trying to understand. I need to understand so that I can be a better mother for you and Armaan.”

“But Mamma..” he begins and stops short as if a little overcome by the moment and I am ready to hurry in with my effortless guilt.

He pulls out a pencil and paper from his bag and writes


You are fine just as you are. Just as you are.

There is the 1000 volt realization that no-one has ever said that to me. Not in that way or in any other way. And I have known so much love.

In those moments, a gift so huge, so vastly generous that not a single thing in my life could possibly feel unaligned.

Because I am enough. Just as I am.

“Also, you cry easily,” he says, slightly alarmed by this unexpected reaction.

“But of course I do,” I laugh. “Your mother is an emotional woman. I have tears for the happy and tears for the sad. This is really going to annoy you at your graduation.”

He grins. “IF I want to,” he says, “Maybe I’ll just make lots of money playing and making video games.” And we’re off again.

We still clash, we still fight, but something has changed so fundamentally. We are quicker to diffuse, quicker to get it, quicker to laugh.

Today, on the 17th of January, he turned 9. He awoke to music he’d selected the night before, (“Kiss” by Prince. Spell VICTORY for me.), Super Mario Toad cupcakes, candles and presents.

“Soon, I’ll have to fold you in four if you’re going to fit in my lap,” I joke. He grabs a cupcake and brings his shaggy haired self to the sofa, where he contorts his ever-lankening limbs in to my lap, his head contentedly tucked under my neck.

“I want some Us time today” he says quietly, while his brother clamours that he wants a birthday too. NOW.

So I pick him up right after school, we come home, eat more cupcakes and at the stroke of 2:30, the exact time of his birth, I gather him in my lap again to tell him how lucky we are to have him in our lives. To tell him that he should always be himself, true to himself, no matter what, because nothing in life will ever feel quite as amazing.

You are fine just as you are, I say.

Remember the book All I Really Needed To Know I Learned in Kindergarten?

Well, Robert Fulghum, you were wrong. Or maybe my Kindergarten was just lousy.

All I Really Need To Know I Keep Learning From My Sons.

When Macau met Kung Pao

Nine. Going on sixteen. Occasionally 46.

Because he wouldn't approve of a post without Luigi


Filed under Arvind, Life Lessons, Parenting, Self, Togetherness

25 responses to “Talk To Me

  1. What a lovely boy! Wish him a very happy birthday and I hope you feel better soon.

  2. Totally heartwarming..Happy Birthday to him!

  3. Muthamma B.Devaya

    I have five….three outsourced and two self produced!! And one keeps learning. He is so much like you….questions question and more questions. But this much I know, I love you and that handsome lankiness you brought into this world. He had my heart bursting with the Anti Death Penalty activism. He does his Maasi proud.

    May you always preserve the inherent goodness and innocence within you Aadu. Happy Birthday love……

    Now please fix my heart back in place!!

  4. LG

    Happy Birthday to him and the mom in you.

  5. aaaw….
    and some more aaww…. sigh….

    that kid of your’s is a heartbreaker 🙂
    seems way more wiser than his yrs. and perceptive.

    weekly lunch sounds like a good idea. am thinking i’ll start off with my 3 yr old 😉

    “All I Really Need To Know I Keep Learning From My Sons.” — Very true!

    btw, love the toad stool cupcakes.

  6. YS

    Thanks for posting – been waiting! And thanks more for bringing up lovely young men :).

  7. Can I tell you how much I love your son? I pray that he always remains as clear in his thoughts and feelings.
    I wish I could have magically brought you home for Akatha Kahani- it was indescribably cathatric, intense, magical- ( I’m still fumbling for words), and for many, it was also healing.

  8. jp

    yours is the only blog ever that makes me feel that having a kid might actually be fun. much love to him!

    “the phoebe to my holden” – i love this line from a previous blogpost of yours!!!

  9. Happy Birthday Arvind, he’s wise beyond his years….More and more, I realize kids have a way of getting to the heart of the matter and doing away with all the crap. Here’s to hoping he keeps his clarity of thought, sensitivity and compassion forever. God bless!!

  10. Rani

    I am guilty of lurking on your blog for a while now.. Love the way you write, so full of life .. A very Happy B’day to Arvind and God bless.

  11. Heartwarming post!
    Can so relate… Kids just have a way of knowing when its not alright. And they are so generous.. it does make you feel that all’s well in your world right in that moment!!
    Warmest b’day wishes to your lovely son 🙂

  12. Sue

    You guys are doing a good job with those boys. I hope he enjoyed his birthday and that you did too. Love, Sue

  13. belated b’day wishes Arvind and god bless you b’day baby!

    ps : he is nine going on 146, not 46. THAT wise!

    the blob who melted at “DU ER FIN SOM DU ER”, and has trouble collecting herself together now(lend me a mop?)

  14. Chooch

    Birthday blessings to the dude with a heart that’s wise and warm and compassionate…what more could you ask for??

  15. Deepa

    Happy “Burp”day Arvind. (Thats what my son said when he was younger(meaning, 3years old. He’s 7 now) because he would always burp after eating his cake and say “I burped. Thats why it’s my Burpday”)

    He’s handsome your guy. Keep him close.

  16. A wise old fella at nine. happy birthday Arvind.
    And he is blessed to have such an awesome mom like you. God Bless.

  17. Orange Jammies

    What always stands out to me is how they can be as old as the hills and such innocents in the same stride.
    A happy 9th to Arvind and happier times ahead to you. Bear hugs, distribute them as you please.

  18. Meena Radhakrishnan

    Such a lovely post, Shalini! Knowing Adu, I was not surprised at all at his questions!!

  19. What a lovely post… reminds me so much of my boy… I know you must be such a proud mama… those days you have a hard time getting out of bed.. just think of those wonderful children you brought into the world… & WOW.. you are really a wonderful writer.. xxx glad I found your blog.

  20. YS

    Hi lady, what is going on (= why no posts)? Do write about those lovely-dovely sons please?

  21. Mom Gone Mad

    Everyone, thank you so much for lovely, generous comments! It’s been (another) long absence from the blog. My apologies for not getting back to you all sooner.

  22. Oh my God! What a lovely, lovely post this is! I dont know how i missed reading it earlier…

  23. Hi! Just a-blog-hopped on over! I cannot believe you talked about religion and death sentencing to your 8-going-on-9 kid… that is AWESOME (well, not awesome *topics*, but you know…) and I love it! Especially because that is the kind of open, frank mother I would aspire to be. I am sure he will look back on these blog posts one day, and thank his mother for making him the *good human being* that he is and will be. (I am always terrified, that if I ever have children, they will turn out to be horrible, nasty bullies or worse still, eve-teasers or rapists or liars or cheats…. and I feel like the influence of a mother (or a role-model equivalent) is SO important, especially for young boys who can grow up to realise they unfortunately have so much power to abuse as they get older.. so much paranoia at age 23!!! Oooops?) Happy birthday to him! 🙂

  24. i loved the idea of the mother-son lunch! i have nominated you for the liebster blog award, you can find more details here..
    i look forward to reading your link in my comment box on the related post…congos again!

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