I’ll be patient, one more month
You’ll wrap your fingers round my thumb
Times are changing, I know, but who am I
If I’m the person you become.
The network was not supporting the video call. Maybe the problem was at Tishan’s end, because here in Rayong the wify of the hotel was quite strong. Soma and I were eagerly waiting to have a glimpse of our son whom we have left behind in Bhubaneshwar a month ago. Since then, it had been extremely difficult for the two of us to stay apart from Tishan for the first time in eighteen long years.
We of course speak daily with him and also exchange texts, but he is not in front of us; we cannot not see him, cannot gauge how much his hair has grown, whether he is still unkempt or the brief stint with hostel life has taught him to manage himself, and above all, how he looks now. “নিশ্চয়ই ভালো করে খাওয়া দাওয়া করছে না, অনেক রোগা হয়ে গেছে”, Soma has always been skeptical about Tishan and his eating habits – much more now that he was alone.
As life would have it, all three of us left Kolkata behind within a span of seven days. Tish moving on to Bhubaneshwar for admission in engineering, and his parents moving out of India to not-so-far-away Thailand with my new job. Tish took it in his stride quite naturally; he was in fact looking forward to this phase in life, having heard so much from his father about the college days and the hostel life. I was also happy that he was happy, but inwardly I was getting weaker every day as the separation moment approached. I never realized that the feeling of staying away from Tish can be so suffocating and painful. The last one month had been very challenging for both Soma and me to stay calm and controlled, we were missing him every moment.
Tishan doesn’t want to come on video calls, it is his typical reluctance to go any extra mile beyond what he perceives as normal. He wants his parents not to get carried away when they see him in person. It took quite a while to pursue him to agree to a short video call, only with the promise of “No emotional outburst please”.
The call connected eventually. Tishan came over to us through my cell phone. In a white round neck t-shirt, hair grown long but tidily brushed to one side, specs on, earplugs in, with a very faint hint of a smile on his face, he was looking quite grown-up and matured already. We looked on and on to him, not able to speak much, just usual words of pleasantry. Soma waved like a child, as she used to do when he entered the school premises and she used to wait outside the big, grilled entrance – he would look back at his mother and wave. Today in response Tish raised his hand slightly just to assure he was there, live.
After the initial choking of the throat was cleared and the moisture in the eyes dried away, I could finally say a few words to my son. The usual “কেমন আছিস” followed by “সব ঠিক তো”, then the one which I really wanted to ask, “তুই ওখানে set করে গেছিস তো? কেমন লাগছে?”
Tish came alive now.
Very confidently and as if to make a point, he said he is absolutely fine there. He has set in quite early, has made many friends within this short time, attending his classes regularly, cleaning up his laundry stuff, even liking the meals in the hostel canteen. He and his friends (a group of CBSites, his earlier batchmates in school) venture out of the campus in the evenings and over the weekends to have ‘chhola-bhatura’ and pizzas and to make the occasional trip to the nearby Big Bazaar. They are planning to come home on the extended weekend leave during the Ganesh Chaturthi in mid September, he said, online tickets for the overnight Volvo bus ride have already been purchased. The classes are okay, sometimes a bit boring, but one has to accept that as normal in colleges. The mid-semester exams are not far away, so he is into a bit of studies as well.
In short, he is doing fine.
Due to the poor network the video call could not continue longer.
We had to switch over to the usual mode of voice calls. Handing over the phone to Soma for her to continue the rest of the discussions with her son, I leaned back on the bedrest. Tish, my dear boy, was now growing up to be a man. All alone there, but sure of himself, confident to manage situations, to explore the world outside his familiar domain beyond the certainties which his parents ensured. It did not matter to him if we were far apart and staying in different countries, he was now keen to live his own life. This is what I guess parenting culminates into eventually; to nurture, to groom, to mentor, and then to let go.
A second trail of thought was meanwhile creeping up and out of dormancy. As the prime wave of emotions settled down, this trail emerged, and immediately took me back decades to the days when I, like today’s Tish, ventured out to meet my own life, when I had put my foot across the First Gate of the amaranthine BE College, and thus started one of the most memorable journeys of my life. I smiled, wishing in my mind the very best for my son in his newfound journey, and letting the thoughts go haywire into the passage of time, to unwind the layers which remain so delicately and meticulously folded and preserved as previous possessions.
But then, that’s another story to tell.