It’s 2.30pm. Peak hour – for going crazy. That’s the time when my girls hit home, and have tons to share about their day, while I am caught in the midst of giving my freshly cooked food one final garnish, move the hot pots from the stove to the dining table, roll out rotis in the background while tempering mustard seeds that floss into a seasoned splutter, dancing their way into the bowl, adding flavour to the otherwise boring carrot salad with a dash of peanuts and lime, all while doing my best not to hyperventilate with the multitasking that seems to play like perfect symphony on a daily basis at the said hour.
Oblivious to my state, a storm brews up, no not among the girls, but a real one this time. Seems like Zeus took something upon his ego and began duelling with Poseidon. Ends up, we mortals feel a gust of wind, actually a wild and fierce swoosh of anger that throws me off the grind as I scurry into the balcony, to frantically pull out half-dried laundry, shut all windows and make sure we are well moored, lest the 16th floor takes off, just like the house shown in the movie – UP. The key difference, who needs balloons?
As my mind is too stretched to focus or prioritize, I am reminded of my tomato plant that has been sun bathing since morning. The delicate little darling hasn’t even hit puberty yet. Luckily my handy helper, the 8-year-old risks her life to step into the storm-swaddled balcony that could send her flying out without any parachutes; rescues the future of tangy soups in my kitchen and makes it triumphantly indoors. A close escape, phew! I gulp as my soon to grow tomatoes are successfully resuscitated.
As I run back to the kitchen where the gas is still burning, and a roti has attained martyrdom, thanks to the storm, the better half, forever locked in the study, bleakly barges his head out of the door like a lightening bolt, hollers at my little farming lieutenant, reminding her that the rescued tomato pot is resting on the carpet dispersing dirt and disappears back into a disillusioned zoom meeting.
I gape in horror at the complete ignorance towards the kind, life-saving act displayed by the little angel versus, her negligible, okay perpetual ignorance to detail and wonder, why do fathers have to pick on mistakes? Why do they need to be reminded of underlying intentions?
A minute later, I am back in the kitchen salvaging the situation and rolling the last couple of wheat breads, watching them puff to perfection on the naked flame, when the usual chirpy suspect makes her loving appearance by my side, ready to shoot hoops, oops stories of the day. I have to confess she has taken after me when it comes to predictability. One can never guess from the look on her face, what she has been up to.
She speaks of school and sermons by teachers on PSLE dos and donts. Then, all of a sudden, she jumps topics (the deep quality I have proudly passed as legacy).
“Can you guess what job would l like to take up as a witch?”, she excitedly blurts with a smile.
“You mean witches need to work?”
“Of course, the life of a witch isn’t all rainbows and sunshine flying on brooms and making magic potions. They have real jobs to keep. How else would they earn money? It’s not like they can make money with magic”.
Have you ever felt like a nincompoop? Do I have to go any further to reveal I lived the moment feeling like one? I mean, all the Enid Blyton books I read as a little girl mentioned witches, wizards and goblins as wicked little creatures, some having long aquiline noses with a wart at the end, others too short or too rugged to fit into the real world, always tricking the so called naughty children into teaching them life lessons. But to think, my daughter would love to be a witch someday and even have plans of a real future living as one, is far beyond my imagination. I feel the storm outside gaining strength and assaulting me by sending a chill against my burning cheeks that have gained heat from toiling in the kitchen for the past couple of hours. But as I come to my senses and think what professions could a witch possibly like, I realise, the storm outside has in fact, subsided. So was it really Zeus? Sibling rivalry at its peak to beat the lunch hour queue? Gods must feel hunger pangs too.
Back to my beti (daughter in Hindi), she cannot hold her excitement and purrs, “I would like to be a Quidditch player”.
So that’s where it comes from, it’s Harry Potter again. I should have banned all books to do with witches when she showed a strong liking to ‘The Witches’ by Roald Dahl five years ago. And although Roald Dahl never made them fancy looking or having a good heart, she loved the story. But Rowling has been a game changer. Her books have left my girl enchanted. My bad, now suffer I will. With Hermione Granger for a role model, what more can I expect. I wonder, how hockey, soccer or tennis have never lured her, but basketball in air, aka Quidditch, sitting on a broom, has scored brownie points. The closest I can imagine some muggle enjoying the game in real life is Arvind Kejriwal. After all, the broom isn’t best know to give a high to every living soul in the capital.
As a result of the startling storm, even my homemade food including the stone hard roti seems more palatable than living in the world of Hogwarts under the lurking dangers of the dark lord. The only silver lining to this magic world is the fact that my daughter isn’t looking forward to ape any of the Bollywood biggies who seem all ‘Hash Hash’ about life these days. They need to weed out (pun totally intended) some whatsapp chats from the servers of service providers now. Oops, I jumped topics.
Back to us. I ask my almost teenager what would her choice of profession be in the muggle world.
Pat comes the reply, “I don’t know. I need to think”.
Tell me I am bewitched. My jaw drops, as I take down the last Roti that burns my fingers. I don’t know what scalds me more, her reply or the roti. I decide to wash down both with some desi ghee or clarified butter as they call it in English.
P.S. With just three more days to PSLE, it is these conversations that spruce up life; it is these moments that define a 12-year-old who is about to take her first national exam; it is these sweet nothings that tell me imagination and fantasy are such a great part of growing up, no matter what exam you take. So what if you preferred an OWL like the one in Hogwarts that tests aspiring wizards and witches on spells as opposed to PSLE that test a child on muggle subjects of language, math and science.
I look at her lovingly as she devours lunch after a last day at school before the dreaded exam begins. After all, this is first among the many exams life has to offer. There won’t always be grades, but we will grade ourselves nevertheless; there won’t always be something to look forward to, but we will always find a purpose; these carefree days are numbered too, for once I stood where my little big girl stands now.
This may not be the best year to take PSLE, but it is certainly an adventurous one. All the very best to the cohort of 2020. Witch, I mean which school are you planning to go to?