My resolution this year was to write 24 short stories. I'm falling behind, terribly. So now I have a new goal: finish this series by the end of this year. Five chapters, that's all I'm thinking.
It is a rather ordinary scene of a mother driving her son to a restaurant for a treat. They are celebrating the last day of school. It’s an ordinary white Maruti Wagon R, dented and battered, on the streets of a busy neighbourhood in Gurgaon. A moment of innocent bliss that’s broken by a cry of, “What the fuck is he doing?”
“Mom! You swore!” A voice comes from behind a Kindle. The boy with the glasses looks up from the backseat to his mother with impatience and reluctance. It’s just another day.
“Sorry. I’ll pay the fine, but just look at what that crazy bas—head is doing.”
“Fine, Rs 200. Okay, let’s find parking space.”
Kirti Shah is not a bad driver, she tells everyone who listens, but there are so many idiots on the road.
“They refuse to see that I have a child in my car, arrogant pricks,” she mumbles but is heard but the child again.
“You are teaching me bad words, mother,” her nine-year-old son complains. Vir has always been wise for his age, she thinks. Even in his short pants and Batman t-shirt, he sounds like a 20-year-old. He tucks the Kindle in his Batman backpack, pulls up the glasses on his nose, and gets out of the car when Kirti opens his door.
“Because you should know the bad words. I am confident you will not use them, smartypants,” she takes his hand in hers and walks towards the café on the other side of the parking lot.
It’s a hot day, with many more to come. Summer break is a wonderful time of the year. She will plan a week-long holiday with Vir, who will drown himself in extra classes on everything from robotics to piano, and hate every spare moment of his time. “No sports,” he had declared earlier when discussing his summer plans. Kirti was a national level football player, but her son had little to do with the sport, or any other. He liked reading books, playing piano, doing his homework, and watching cartoons. An introvert, she had mused while reading to the shy boy who had difficulty making friends in school.
The café is buzzing with activity, even at 4 in the evening. The bright blue walls painted with cartoon characters had made it an instant hit with Vir when it opened two years ago. It helped that the owner was his favourite person.
With her big round eyes, pixie-like hair, feminine voice, and short frame, Sana is a sweetheart. She is also Kirti’s college friend. Vir and Sana were best friends and sometimes, the understanding between the two makes Kirti envious. As a single mother, it is difficult to see her son rely on someone else, but then she knows that he is more like Sana, intense, quiet, and rational than her, impulsive, spontaneous, and passionate.
She waves to them from behind the counter and they take their favourite table in the corner to admire the set up. The wall behind them is white, with photographs of patrons and guests, but the two walls on the opposite sides are bright and vivid. Batman and Robin, Superman, the X-Men, and some other comic characters are bundled together, with their weapons, stance ready to fight the bad guys. Sana has painted it herself, by taking help from Vir’s various comic books. She has always had a knack for the arts, like her brother.
She joins them with an assortment of new pastries that she has been experimenting with and Vir gives a nod of approval to orange honey and mint macaroons.
“Tell me again, why did you ever go to a media school?” Kirti asks her as she pours green tea for both of them.
“Because I didn’t know what to do with my life. Good thing that I did though, now I can do my own branding, advertising, and PR.”
“Good thing you went to cooking school later,” Kirti adds and watches Vir devour peanut butter cookies, back to his Kindle.
Sana is wearing white pants and pink top. Her silver loops are new, and so are her white pumps, Kirti notices. The girl sure loves to accessorise. Feminine, that’s the word that you think of when you look at Sana, but she is more than that. She has a great left hook and sharp business acumen. She doesn’t miss things, attention-to-detail is her strong suit.
She asks a server to take Vir to the washroom, and when he’s out of the hearing range, asks Kirti without any theatrics or premonition, “So when were you going to tell me he is my nephew?”
Kirti did not see that coming.