There was a kid. 13 years old I think. his school was four streets away from his house. not more than 5 minutes of walking. If he started walking at 7 45 am, he would reach his school by 7 50 am, unless he stopped at a stationery shop to buy a Nataraj pencil. When your upbringing is humble, an extra unsharpened pencil in the geometry box gives you a sense of security that your family can't. He tries to use all his sharpened pencils fully till the point that he is actually holding the lead, in order to delay sharpening the extra one as much as possible. It's now his support system. A two rupees metaphor.
At 11 10, the math teacher gives a five-minute early recess. Math teachers are generally not lenient but it looks like this one is upset today. Last year, he married that beautiful teacher from kindergarten. Neha ma'am. Maybe his mood has something to do with that. Anyway, five minutes is a lot of time, especially when the recess is just 15 minutes long. Most people take out their lunchboxes from their bags. Our kid doesn't. Why? Because his mom will bring hot lunch to school at around 11 20. She always reaches at that exact same time. Six sigma should recognize her, he thinks. He had read about six sigma in social studies.
He climbs down the stairs and reaches the school gate. It's not a huge school. Just a two-storied building with four rooms on every floor. After the eighth standard, the children get shifted to a different school, a little far but a lot better. The other school has a big ground where kids can play cricket or football. Getting into this school is something these kids have looked forward to for three years. It's one of the very few motivations to do well in exams. As he reaches the gate, he spots his mother standing in the sea of other mothers. All of them look the same. Lunchboxes in their hands and smiles on their tired faces. What makes them tired, he wonders. It's just 11 15. Why is she tired? Maybe because of that five-minute brisk walk. Or maybe because of the lunch preparation. Maybe both. Maybe everything.
His mom hands him the lunch and tells him to finish it and there is some small talk as well. What's in it? he asks. Maggi, comes the reply. Okay then I will have to eat this somewhere alone, he thinks, as he doesn't want to share the Maggi. In school, Maggi is perceived differently. In the sea of mediocre lunchboxes, Maggi makes you feel like Ambani. Before leaving, his mom fixes his hair, even though it is all set. She can't help it. It's her natural instinct. After this brief meeting, they both start walking toward their respective destinations. Whatever that may be.
After having lunch on the staircase, he decides to utilize the remaining five minutes of recess by just sitting and watching the other kids play. Most of them are fighting, but today he is in no mood. He is a good fighter himself, but yesterday his mother scolded him because the pocket of his shirt was torn. So he skips today's WWF. He is waiting for the bell to ring. The bell rings. The chaos settles in just a minute. Everyone is on their seats forgetting whatever happened just two minutes ago. Now we shall wait for the new recess. Every day comes with a new recess. That's the best thing about days.
The fifth period is gone. Sixth gone. Seventh gone. Eighth gone. Now it's time to go home. He still has three rupees left. That day he didn't buy anything from the canteen. So on his way back, he purchases one eraser and one sharpener. Now he has a perfect set of a pencil, an eraser, and a sharpener, which he intends to never use. More security blanket. He himself doesn't know why he bought them. Guess he was feeling a little too unsafe that day.
His mom helps him carry his bag to his room. There is no such thing as his room. It's his room till his father gets back home. There is only one room. Why are you looking tired today, he asks his mom. Actually, he doesn't. He frames the question very differently in order to know what his mom had been doing till now. She says usual household work. But something is off, he thinks. Leave. He starts doing his homework because at four pm he wants to go to the park to play cricket. At 3 50 his mom gives him a glass of milk and off he goes. Wait, she fixes his hair. And now, off he goes. By the time he returns, his dad is home. He is angry at something. Maybe at his mom. Or his work. Or himself. Maybe everything.
When middle class dads return from work they are always angry. There are hardly any happy mood days. Such days come only on special occasions like your birthday or your mom's birthday. His mom makes him tea, then both the kid and the mom watch him watching the news. It's KBC time, the kid whispers to his mom. Let him watch the news, we can watch KBC in the break, mom whispers back. Much like the story, the pronoun 'he' in this story has also shifted from the kid to the dad. KBC is over. They didn't watch. It's time to put the kid in bed. Of course, mom does that. Dad has calmed down. A day has gone.
The kid hasn't slept and it's past 12. He is thinking random things. Like on which exact day he will use that extra pencil. He is forecasting the usage of the current pencil. When will i start writing with a pen though? he wonders.
The mother too hasn't slept. She is also thinking of something. What? Wish she also had a mother every time with her so she could share things.
Finally, they both fall asleep.
Why was the mother tired? Something was definitely wrong. What was wrong? Nobody knows. Nobody will ask her. The kid has forgotten. The dad didn't notice. She has made peace with it. Maybe she will be happy the next day. Hopefully. She should buy extra pencils too. For support system.