“Aai (mother), I want that balloon”, he pleaded. His mother looked at him calmly, smiled, and returned to her job. She was a daily wages worker, and her current job was breaking big stones into smaller ones for some road that would connect a plush area to some other road. She was not interested in the big picture, the convenience, the benefits of her apprently insignificant and unnoticed job. She was concerned about the money that awaited her at the end of the day, and the hungry beaks she had to feed at dinner time. Everything else was a luxury to be ignored. She was ignoring one of it now.
The mid-day heat was unbearable, and he sat on a little rug under the shade of some banner of a political party that was celebrating the birthday of one of it’s numerous leaders. “Bless them”, she had whispered when she found it out in the morning and lay that rug there for her son of 5 years. He was oblivious to the fact that for once, a political leader had done something for the downtrodden, although unintentionally. At the moment his eyes were fixed on the small globe dancing in the air, and he couldn’t care less about anything else. ” Aai, I want that balloon”, he repeated. His mother promised him she would buy it in the evening. The heat was scorching, and she was feeling helpless about the fact that it must be painful for him to sit on that concrete ground on a thin rug. She was thankful that he had something to get distracted. She turned her attention once again. Stones and hammers were patiently waiting their fate.
Finally, the Sun satisfied itself that for the day, this mother-son pair had endured his test, and mellowed down. The evening was pleasant and somewhat bearable. The work hours for the day were done, and he was getting impatient to own that balloon, now that he knew that his mother was going to be free soon. His nagging increased, and his tantrums began to gain visibility and attention of those nearby. Small wrinkles of frustration and irritation began to form on her forehead. An older child would have taken it as a sign, but he was neither that old, nor the motive feeble enough for him to give up. He persisted.
He tugged gently at the corner of her saree, and again pointed out to the dancing globe. She shook her head with a smile. He wouldn’t understand what money meant to her and the other tiny beaks. He again tugged at the corner, this time a tug of annoyance for not complying to the little prince’s demands. The shake of the head was a bit stern. “I’ll take you to the park on the way home”, she assured, ” there are swings and slides and other children you can play with. There’s soft grass you can roll on, and I’ll play with you.” He was confused. “Why can’t she understand that all I want now is that big red balloon?” he was wondering. He decided to bring in the heavy artillery, and his tantrums started again, and ended as soon as they began. There was something more than helplessness in her eyes when she rapped him on his back. Twice. There was a cold look that goes when you do something that needs to be done without pride or guilt. The tears that followed melted a part of her, but the mother kept firm. She clasped her hardened hands around his thin arms, and gently tugged him along with her. Wiping the tears of her son were also a luxury to be ignored.It was quite a pair they made. The helpless mother. The heartbroken son.
Sometimes life is like that, isn’t it? We are that little boy, oblivious to anything and everything, just going after things we want, and nothing else matters. Life is a mother who ignores our silly demands and gives us hope about better things than those that we cannot have. Hope in the form of smiles and indulgence at first, a stern look after that, and when everything else fails, a rude wake up call in the form of a tight rap on our back. Then life just drags us away, whether we want to or not. Frustrated, heartbroken, tired and without an ounce of will or energy, we’re just tugged away, gently but firmly.
The only silent witness and historian is Time.