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How awake do you feel within the first 5 minutes of an early morning, say 6am? Every day, I jump of out bed the minute I open my eyes. Don’t believe me? Come over, stay with us, airbnb style and you will realise what it is like to live with young kids. They have forced us into being called ‘The Early Risers’. The four of us barely spend an hour together before the munchkins enter school. But the gravity of conversations, the variety of subjects and plethora of funny ideas that pour out right at the start of another busy day make me wonder, ‘What does their mother feed them?’
My ignorance and laziness coaxed the 11-year-old to carry her lunch box minus one of the top plastic handles this morning as you can see in the picture. The box has 2 handles that make it comfortable like a picnic basket. My millennial whined. I retorted, “Well, the food won’t taste any different without the handle. We are running late! Plus, I have given you a bag to carry it. Now go wear your shoes.”
She follows my instructions quietly, with a sad face. She is aware morning disobedience comes at a price – consequences! Even though they may not be immediate. I believe in the idea of better late than never.
We huddle into the car, the 7-year-old, almost sleepwalking. The mute husband fires the engine of his car in autopilot mode. Destination, beach; first pitstop – school. On the way, I enlighten the girls about flora and fauna at the Pasir Ris Beach. I mention greeting hornbills, parrots, sparrows, crows, wild pigs, stray dogs and otters too. The 7-year-old who has been drifting into an imaginary landscape that appears any day better that filling worksheets of English and Math at school, suddenly jumps in her seat and exclaims, “Wow! this is like visiting the zoo and the bird park combined. That too for free!”
The overly mature 11-year-old has a different take on things. “Well, you don’t find icy slush at the beach. Duh!”
I am left to ponder if I have been fooled into shelling hundreds of dollars on Singapore Tourism Board by visiting animal oriented attractions only because the older one enjoys slush? No wonder, my Math teacher predicted my future decades ago. Bleak.
As we make the final right turn towards school, the 11-year-old shares her opinion of the one-handled lunch box that has been bothering her all morning. The mythological story of Rukmini, wife of Lord Krishna suddenly downloads into her memory out of nowhere. I suspect it’s the outcome of auto-updates to Story Archives that got triggered because the girl was looking for a metaphor.
There she goes, “The lid of my lunch box looks like Rukmi, Rukmini’s brother!”
To the uninitiated, Rukmini was the princess of Vidarbha. Her brother wanted her to marry his friend Shishupal. How typical. But matters of the heart took precedence and Rukmini had already made her decision. She would walk down the aisle with Krishna alone. As a result, the hero made a planned appearance and eloped with the princess. However, the furious brother followed them to great lengths and finally, predictably lost against the Lord. Krishna chose to humiliate him as against taking his life. And so, he let him go with a half shaven head and a half shaven moustache. A story I have narrated to her hundreds of times during the early years. Why, don’t ask.
We roar into laughter hysterically. Never in my wildest dreams did I see this analogy coming. A lunch box lid looking like a distressed prince with a half shaven head plus moustache! Given my family, it is impossible to predict where mythology will take us next. From Ramayan clouding my head on Sunday to Rukmi making some odd comparisons on a Tuesday morning, I can’t wait to see what lessons the husband has to share.
At the school gate, I remind my older one to commit to studying Hindi after school as exams are just around the corner. She scowls at me. The atmosphere changes instantly and she runs for her life under the pretext of getting late while I sit back and begin my monologue about her attitude towards the mother tongue language. The husband sighs as he is now at the receiving end of unwanted information.
P.S. We drive to the beach. It is only then, almost an hour after we have been up and running, that the wise one opens his mouth for the very first time. “Well, Shonu reminds me of my school days. I always believed it was my mother’s responsibility that I studied. By the way, you should start jog-walking soon.”
Two absolutely unrelated but powerful sentences. I gulp. The weather on my face has taken an unforeseen turn and he knows well he is in for an emotional cloudburst. He doesn’t waste the next millisecond before adding,, “The only thing that runs in our family is emotions!”
I freeze in time. Speechlessness is theatrics, especially when the wife is involved.