ROUND – 1: Monday, 7:45 AM
‘Please tie your hair.’ I politely request my teenage daughter, while unlocking the car.
‘I will. Later!’ She replies nonchalantly.
‘You will. Now!’ I muster up a deep bass voice from somewhere.
She looks at me. I look back. We keep on staring at each other. I win. She ties her hair.
I won round one. I am pretty proud of myself.
ROUND – 2: Monday, 7:450 AM
‘Baba?’ The teenage dragon sitting beside me, growls.
‘Yeah my love?’ I sense lightening crackling in the belly of the storm clouds.
‘Why haven’t you shaved?’
I look at her from the corner of my left eye. She has one eyebrow cocked. It is a sign of danger, but I choose to ignore it. Fatal mistake……!
‘I wanna keep a van dyke.’ I declare and caress an imaginary beard. ‘I think it will suit my persona.’
‘Get it shaved today. No beards for you.’ Her voice carries a deadly finality.
‘I am an independent person. I believe a van dyke would suit me. I am keeping one.’
‘You are also my father. I have an image to take care of. I don’t want you to look like a mullah. You will shave it today.’ She is beginning to sound more and more like her mother.
‘I will certainly not. I will keep a van dyke. I will also get one ear pierced and wear a gold ring like a pirate.’
I hear snickering. I look in the rearview mirror. My son is trying to hide his mouth with his hand. He knows what is happening. He knows what’ll be the outcome. He is wise.
‘I want to see you shaved once you come to pick us up in the afternoon.’ The dragon breathes more fire.
‘Ok.’ I admit defeat meekly.
I have lost the second round.
ROUND – 3: Monday, 7:55 AM
The dragon is watching me closely. I can feel the heat scalding my left cheek. I ignore it and keep on nodding my head.
‘Please change to FM and stop playing an imaginary electric guitar on the steering.’ She is coldly polite.
‘I need my morning dose of Pink Floyd.’ I keep on strumming the guitar.
‘And I need my morning dose of Justin Bieber.’ She changes the station to FM and I can’t do anything about it. So I roll the window down.
‘What are you doing? It’s cold. Roll it back up please.’
‘I need to throw up. I am allergic to Bieber.’
She keeps on staring at my foolish exaggerated gestures of gaging and throwing up. After a while, I realize the futility of my actions. I smile sheepishly and role the window back up.
I have lost the third round too. I admit my defeat graciously.
We have reached their school. They both get down. I kiss their heads and watch them disappear into the school gate.
I turn the car and take a deep breath. The car is filled with their young vibrant smells.
It is the smell of menthol from their toothpastes.
It is the smell of lemon from their bath sponges.
It is the smell of their body sprays.
I inhale the smells and cherish them. I am already starting to miss their absence.
The day is over soon. It is time to pick up the devils from school.
‘Hello!’ I greet them both with a smile.
‘Hello baba!’ The dragon is cheerful. I am happy.
‘Hey!’ My son waves at me, trying to act all adult. I am quite comfortable.
The car is flooded with their smells again.
It is the smell of rubbers and pencil wood.
It is the smell of body spray mixing up with sweat.
It is the smell of the school dust.
I inhale the smells and cherish them. It is the smell of their childhood and I wanna save them somewhere.
ROUND – 4: Monday, 2:30 PM
‘You are late again!’ The dragon announces.
‘Yeah! Please accept my heartiest apologies. I got busy.’ I know when I am wrong.
‘No. You forgot because you are growing old.’ She smiles at me lovingly.
‘You have got some white hair. Why don’t you dye your hair?’ She is examining my head closely.
‘I don’t want to dye them. White hair have a certain character……….’ I prepare myself for a mildly philosophical lecture but she has already lost interest. I swallow the lecture.
I lose this round.
ROUND – 5: Monday, 2:35 PM
‘Baba?’ The little man from the rear seat pokes his bushy head in between the two front seats.
‘Yes Sir!’ I run my fingers through his coarse hair.
‘I scored ten marks in the science quiz today.’ He announces proudly.
‘Ten out of what?’ I inquire hesitatingly.
‘Ten out of ten.’ He chews his words deliberately.
‘Why not eleven?’ I am curious.
‘Because you cannot get eleven out of ten.’ He sure has a point there.
‘You can if you have a perfect handwriting. The teacher can always give you one extra mark.’ I insist.
He gives me an exasperated look. He is getting bored of my dry humour.
He tries to pull his head back but I grab hold of it.
‘I am proud of you buddy.’ I kiss his head.
He is the winner.