It was spooky. The entire house was engulfed in an eerie silence. The three of us went through our morning routine. No, that’s not correct. I could not get any work done. I had not screamed once. The younger fellow was so co-operative, I thought he was ill. Was this the same fellow that had to be literally dragged out of his bed and screamed at non-stop, to get ready for school?
Even the ubiquitous TV was silent. If truth be told, the TV had been ‘trained’ to only play the music channels (Idiots and the Box) and the person who had trained it was not there. The other channels were mute. And having never got control of the remote in our lives, none of us was confident enough of turning the set on.
So what was wrong? Well, our first-born had left for college. After his departure, the younger kid had become rather quiet. He did all his work without me having to scream nag him to get going. Gone was his boisterousness and antics that drove me up the wall. He clearly missed his elder brother.
How I missed him too! With him around there had not been a moment of boredom. It was one big round shouting by everyone to be heard above the noise of the stereo and TV, which ran not only simultaneously, but also played the same songs. He had this habit of recording his favourite songs of the week in a tape and put it in loop so that they played over and over again till they were printed indelibly on the mind of the listener — even a reluctant one like me!
I wouldn’t have minded had it not been for the fact that the words were unintelligible. On second thoughts I think that it is for the best they remain unintelligible. For, the one time I had tried to get the words, I had almost puked. ‘Digging in the nose,’ went the ‘lyrics’, with a disgusting video of a giant nose being dug by a weird character.
Coming back to our house, the silence was deafening and getting to me. I was in complete panic. I had not been able to get any work done since morning. The breakfast was not cooked, the lunches remained unpacked, and the washing machine was waiting for its load. How could I be expected to function without my adrenalin pumping overtime?
When he had been around, the mornings went somewhat like this:
“If you don’t get up this instant, I will put ice cubes down your back!” I would scream and peel the potatoes in a jiffy.
“Do you want to turn down the stereo or see it sail out of the window?” I would holler, expertly flipping a paratha on the skillet.
“Pick up your clothes/shoes/books off the floor or I will stuff them into the garbage bin!” I would threaten while chucking the wash load into the machine.
I couldn’t bear it any longer. I ran into the boys’ room, tried to switch on the stereo, and stopped dead. There was no stereo. That was not the only thing missing. The room looked bare. The walls had been stripped of the posters, the cupboards were bare, the wardrobe depleted.
It all finally sank in. my first-born had left home and lost to me forever. I felt like crying. I tried to tell myself that kids grow up and leave home and that it was okay to feel miserable, but it was no use. The house was too empty to offer me any kind of comfort.
The younger kid looked at me strangely when I sniffled while serving him half-done toast. I gave him some money to buy lunch at school. My head was banging like the blacksmith’s hammer. I went and lay down. The silence was getting more and more oppressive.
That evening the L&M and the brat went out. They told me not to worry about dinner, as they’d eat out. You rest in the peace of the house, they told me solicitously. I nodded miserably. If there were any more peace in the house I’d go crazy. But my ego wouldn’t permit me to acknowledge that. How could I admit that the ‘music’ that had been played by the older fellow all these years had seeped into my pores and kept me running? After they left, I moped around like a ghost in the empty house.
I lay down and began sniffling. I must have cried myself to sleep by the time they returned.
The next morning dawned bright and clear. I had woken up a little later than usual and was running round like a headless chicken. The water had to be filled and the breakfast needed to be made, the clothes to be run in the washer….
“If you don’t shut off that thing this instant, I’ll hang you by your earlobes…” I screamed as I quickly put detergent in the wash.
“Is this a home or a fish market? See if anyone in our neighbourhood screams as we do! WILL YOU SHUT THE SOUND OFF?” I banged on the brat’s door with both my fists before running back to stir the subzi.
Before I knew it, I had gone through half of the morning’s chores.
But wait! Did I say I was running round like a headless chicken? And why was I screaming at an obedient child? But then, he was NOT being obedient. He reminded me of someone else….
Then it struck me. The silence! It had gone! The house was gloriously noisy. Oh heaven! I went to the living room to answer a phone call and tripped — over a carton of a music system, the one the boy and his father had bought the previous evening.
I sat down with a look of wonder on my face and a prayer of thanks on my lips. Thank God for genes, for if not for them, where would the younger brat have got an ear for music (ugh) of the loud, disgusting (and wonderful) kind? I wanted to hug the kid — for bringing normalcy back to my world. So let the characters dig away at their noses for all I cared! My world was back to normal.