FIND A WAY OR FIND AN EXCUSE

Saturday! Yummy home-made afternoon lunch – Saanvi was at her best! After a week of eating cold, dry lunch of sandwiches, Shen relished the Saturday feast. After a satisfying burp or two, he pitched in with the usual clean-up in the kitchen and then proceeded to his favourite recliner chair. He had insisted on buying the red colour recliner chair. ‘I want it, and that’s final.’ Saanvi humoured him and gave in to the unusual demand.

He stretched himself in the recliner. Oh, for that wooden rocking chair! During his childhood in Goa, he had spent countless hours in it. The chair would convert into whatever he fancied or required. At times, it would turn into a galloping horse, and he would be out riding in the wild west. Other times, it would be a ship – and he would be an explorer of the uncharted world! Very rarely, the rocking chair was meant to be a rocking chair. He learnt about the ‘armchair traveller’ in his college days – but he was a savvy wayfarer since his early childhood! He sighed and closed his eyes. Not to sleep but just to delve into his childhood. Soon he was snoring.

“Swimming”

“Yoga!”

“Swimming!”

“Yoga!”

A rude awakening, indeed! There was a marked increase in the decibel level with each repetition. The siblings were quarrelling (what’s unusual about this?) as to which was the best form of exercise. Each tried to out-shout the other. The cacophony surpassed the point of endurance, and Shen yelled:

“Quiet.”

 “Swimming”

“Yoga!”

“Swimming!”

“Yoga!”

“I said QUIET!”

“But dad…”

How he wished they were still in India! He would have just strolled to the kids and boxed their ears or slapped their cheeks – whichever body part was nearer or convenient. In Canada, he had to live by the caveat: ‘Though shalt not punish your children’. He swore silently and strode towards the patio where the children continued their diatribe. Saanvi also emerged from the kitchen – dishevelled hair, dabs of atta on her face and dress. She sported angry flashing eyes. She was seething. She was almost frothing. Shen sensed the impending storm that would wreck the whole weekend.

“Saanvi – you look so beautiful – let me wipe off the dust from your cheeks.” He dabbed and patted her cheeks gingerly – got rid of the dirt and bit of her anger. Her demure smile could be compared to the sudden appearance of liquid sun after a big thunderstorm. The rainbow of smile gurgled in Shen’s heart.

“You know something – before our marriage, Satish asked me to make you laugh. Again, and again. ‘This is the BEST way to make her fall in love with you. She will laugh with you – and then she will fall in love with you!’ And I did attempt to make you laugh. The trouble was every time you laughed; it was me falling head over heels in love with you.”

Anju and Gyan exchanged knowing looks. Shen knew the next dialogue:

“Dad, that was so cheesy!”

“Dad, please repeat the line that you used while dating mom – Please step into my garden – I want my roses to see you.

“Ahem! Enough of your cheekiness. What is this about Swimming and Yoga? Are you planning to join the Yoga classes?”

“Gyan says yoga is the best exercise, whereas I say it’s swimming.”

“If swimming is the best exercise, how come whales are so ‘fat’?”

Ouch! Shen remembered the five ruler hits he had on his left hand and then again on his right hand. The Grade Six teacher – who was slightly on the plus size, and a good swimmer – had written on the blackboard.

‘THE SWIMMING IS A BEST EXERCISE IN YOUR WORLD.’ Please correct the errors in this statement.

Before anyone could say anything, Shen had blurted out – ‘No, swimming is not the best exercise. Else whales and you would have been slimmer.’

Ouch! The teacher’s whacks on his hands were just a molehill, as compared to the Himalayan Heights he had faced at home. The disadvantage of having elder siblings in the same school meant not only using the ‘hand-me-down schoolbooks’ but also instant broadcast at the home of the latest misadventures. The disciplinarian parents were not amused. And they did not live in Canada!

Shen shook his head vigorously to shake off the bad old memories. Saanvi explained to the children that there was no one exercise that was the best. ‘It depends on situations and circumstances.’ Like she couldn’t choose who is the best child? Could she?

The answer seemed to pacify, and the silence reigned again.

“Yoga – yoga is the best exercise! Much safer and better than swimming!”

“Dad, you used to love swimming. Is it because of that incident?” Anju asked.

Shen hurried to the sanctuary of his red recliner rocker. He blocked the guffaws and Saanvi’s silent smile. He remembered…

That NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN incident.

He used to proclaim: ‘A family that swims together stays together’ – but Saanvi refused to step into the pool. So Gyan, Anju and Shen went for the swim– twice a week. Gyan in his early teens, and Anju who had just entered double-digit age – would play and swim, whereas Shen would religiously do the laps. Distance and not speed was the criterion.

The 5 Unwritten Rules of Open Lap Swimming

One summer evening, the pool was oozing with young brats, and doing the laps was a little difficult. Anju swam towards her dad and challenged him. ‘I will give you a head start, still finish the lap before you do!’

The father figure was jolted into action; started dog-paddling madly. Midway, he started losing the speed and found Anju going ahead of him. Faster and faster he swam. To slow her down, he grabbed one of Anju’s legs, trying to pull her underwater. And the world fell apart:

“Mama, MAMA – SAVE ME.” The panic-stricken voice did not belong to Anju. A young girl (of Anju’s age and build) of East Asian Origin was spluttering water and screaming. Shen turned to see Anju and Gyan behind him – laughing hysterically. The mother hen clucked from the safe shores of the swimming pool, pointing out to her little girl and the child molester. ‘My God! This is the end of the world.’ He imagined the judge throwing the book at him – the child molester, and spending years in the prison. A social pariah.

Gyan intervened. He managed to calm down the hen and the chicken. A genuine mistake, my father thought your daughter was his daughter, my sister – he is an old man and can’t see well without his glasses – which he can’t wear while swimming. He was just trying to play with us. He is very harmless. Really.

Harmless, indeed. Shen ingested all the superlative words – just to avoid the sentence. The mother hen stared at Shen accompanied by the two children. At last, she was pacified. She muttered something below her breath – which Shen was sure was not very flattering or complimentary.

Anyway, that was the end of debate for him. He swore off the swimming – which may be the best exercise in the whole universe. For Shen – from that moment onwards, it was only YOGA.

 “Yoga – yoga is the best exercise! Much safer and better than swimming!”

3 Comments

  1. Ron Kidd

    Sweet

  2. vinay chaskar

    You rock Mister, just like the picture in your story of “Rocking Chair”. Enjoyed reading the (TRUE) story, Or should I say, Truly enjoyed reading the story. You know what I mean. Vinay Chaskar.

  3. LM

    Oh I can only imagine that hen! Thanks for the the opportunity to laugh with this poor dad. Yikes!

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