After reading all those L&M and Brats posts, I am sure you think of us as a crazy family. We might be a little quirky and crazy. Well, ok,. The L&M still does not allow one of the brats to go over 50km even on the highway screaming ‘That is over 100kmph!’ at regular intervals; he still wears his T-shirts inside out; and the lady still hides the laddoos and barfis from her brood, now reduced to just the L&M. But we are as normal a family as the next one. Honest.
To put the record straight, I am writing a normal L&M post — about the time we were laughing and dancing on the lawns in front of Chandigarh railway station. What? You say even that is crazy behaviour?
I am sure that is what any normal family would have done after one of their brats had got admission to the Computer Science course in a premier engineering college. And that too the only seat in that discipline that was available for students outside Punjab. (We were in Delhi then, remember?)
Let me begin at the beginning.
Having set his heart on Computer Science, the most coveted stream at that time, the older brat had been dejected when none of the results that had already come in were good enough to guarantee him one. When the results from TIET (Now Thapar University) came in, he was ecstatic. There was a fighting chance for the solitary CS seat, but nothing could be said till the counselling session. Well, it was a thriller that beat all the Hollywood and Bollywood thrillers hollow.
There was no way the younger brat and I were going to miss all the excitement. Chandigarh being the most convenient point for travel both ways, we reached that city the previous day and checked into a hotel.
‘I think you should stay back with the younger one,’ said the L&M.
‘No way!’ said both of us in one voice. We had not come all the way to stay back.
‘It might be chaotic, we don’t know what arrangements are there. Besides, the letter mentions one parent/guardian to accompany the student. You both could do some sightseeing here,’ he pointed out.
‘I am sure there will be many families there,’ I said.
‘And I can get you snacks and cold drinks while you wait in the queue,’ piped up the younger brat helpfully.
Even as he spoke, I realized that the L&M was right. What was the point when we might not even be together in one place? Instead….The Rock Garden! That would be a good place to visit while we waited. The brat reluctantly agreed.
‘I will bring you a treat,’ assured his elder brother to console him.
Stunning as it was, the Rock Garden only partially held our attention. Designed and created by a genius called Nek Chand entirely out of waste materials, it was a pleasure walking through its winding paths and shingled walks. Amidst exclamations at the artistic creations, we kept speculating about what must be happening back at the college. Would his turn have come? Would he have got his seat or would he have to settle for another subject, maybe in another college? What was keeping them so long anyway?
‘We should have gone with them,’ said the brat for the umpteenth time.
He was right. Maybe we should have all gone together, no matter what the arrangements there were. At least we wouldn’t have been so tense, not knowing what was happening! Mobile phones were still unknown then. He was as tense as his elder brother must have been, the poor kid. While he wanted his brother to get admission to college, I knew how much he was going to miss him.
We had decided to meet at the station if L&M and the older brat hadn’t come back by 4 PM. It was sweltering hot as we waited outside the deserted station. Chandigarh in the ‘90s had a only small railway station, situated way out of the city with hardly any traffic or activity except just before and after the arrival of a train. And in those days there were only a few trains passing that city, so the place used to be deserted for most part of the day.
Just a little while before the arrival of the train, the place filled up mysteriously with people and voices. The train came, stopped, hooted and left. Just as mysteriously it had filled up, the station emptied out. One minute it was buzzing with activity and the next moment, Poof! Soon the last passenger had left, the parking lot emptied out and the coolies and kiosk owners had wandered off till the next train came.
It was growing dark and I was getting a little nervous waiting in the small landscaped area outside the station. We stayed there since the platform was even emptier and scarier. There were a few rock sculpture like the ones in the Rock Garden.
And suddenly a white Ambassador car, which used to be the preferred vehicle for cabs turned into the station in a cloud of dust. We jumped up and began running towards it, the luggage abandoned….
Even before the car came to a complete halt, the older brat had jumped out and lifted his brother clean off his feet and gave me a hug, all in one motion. His sweat streaked face was fatigued but wreathed in a big grin. ‘I got it! I got it!’ he exulted. The younger brat whooped and I laughed like a loon.
By now the father had also joined the frenzy. We were all hugging, laughing, shouting and jumping up and down like four crazy creatures. The cab driver looked on indulgently and the coolies came running to investigate the commotion.
We heard the story from the L&M and the older brat amidst the pandemonium: With just one seat, it had always been a touch-and-go affair. And true enough, there were two boys with the exact same rank and the exact same marks in all the subjects and both wanted Computer Science at the same college. The counsellor looked at the boys and did some quick calculations. And since our brat was a few months older than the other boy, he got the seat! I didn’t even know there was such a criterion in case of a tie, but what the heck!
The happiest was not the older brat, but the younger one, for not only had his elder brother got admission to his chosen college, but we were also a full family after having been separated for the whole day!
When he had been little, he would wait for the L&M to come home from work – usually the last to arrive. Once he did, the brat would declare: ‘Now we are a full family!’ with the utmost satisfaction, beaming at each of us with such contentment that it made us all happy to be together. He did this every single day of the working week. Weekends of course were the happiest for him.
And that evening outside Chandigarh station, we were again a full family and in a celebratory mood, no less! Though he had not said the words for many years, I knew he was thinking them at that moment.
There have been many such days of happy togetherness before and after, but nothing to beat that day, for it had been the culmination of several years of hard work on the older brat’s part and a lot of adjustments and accommodation on the part of the rest of the family to help him in his quest.
In the end, that is what a family is all about – even the L&M’s, don’t you agree now?
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