The boy has a new superhero, and no, this time round it isn't any wearing his red-undies-on-the-outside kind of superhero that has got his attention. His hero is closer home: the Y-chromosome donor. The Brat hangs onto his every word like a besotted fanboy. He asks him infinite questions. He waits for him to come home, with the patience of a newlywed, with umpteen phone calls to ask how far he's progressed in the 10-minute distance between office and home. He fears his censure the most, something that I heartily exploit when I need to get things done now without the dwaddle dwaddle dwaddle that will have me shrieking hysterically for him to "get with it", "speed it up", "we haven't got all day" and suchlike. How did this happen? When did the dad, who was hitherto, a fringe player in the boy's life, suddenly become main lead? And how had I, who was until recently, the main lead and font of all things beautiful, been shunned into the distinctly uncool premenopausal witch territory?
The boy had grown up. I realised with shock that he no longer needed me to do things for him, that he was quite capable of managing his routine on his ownsome. But before I could do the contortionist act of patting myself on the back for having trained him so well, I realised that I had, well, made myself redundant. Mamma now, was to be turned to only if the playground wars turned bloody, or when scrapes and cuts needed to be attended to, or if a throat felt sore and painful. For the most part, Mamma had reduced herself into a predatory shadow on the fringes of his day, rearing her hood and displaying her fangs only when the iPad had been on for longer than the permitted time limit, or when the water was running and the kid still emerged unsoaped and unbathed as was evident by the intact dirt ring around his neck.
I think it all began with the fact that the boy is a reduced copy of his father, a pocket version so to speak. No DNA testing needed to prove paternity for this twosome. "Pappa ka copy," the folks chorus delightedly as they tweak his cheeks and look on adoringly. The boy kind of basked in this validation that he was indeed, his father's offspring, no matter that I've been crying myself hoarse declaring it. Not only is the boy, the physical copy of his father, he even has the same muscling gait that sweeps a path into a crowd, never mind that he still has to develop the shoulders to do so effectively. This apple, didn't fall too far from the tree. And then he takes it further.
So complete is the adoration, that the other day, the boy dressed up on his own to attend a function with us and emerged wearing a checked shirt tucked into a fitted pair of jeans, with the sleeves rolled up to the elbow, so that I had to blink hard to affirm that the spouse hadn't become a Honey I Shrunk The Dad, and shed a tear or two for the end of the dapper phase when the boy wouldn't be seen in public without a matching 'jakkid' and cap. He sits to read his books (on the rare occasion that he does, which has me doing the chicken dance in delight) in exactly the same pose, in the same chair the pater uses to get his daily dose of reading done. He hangs up his towel in the same manner, he is learning, sadly, to be the strong, silent type his father is, bravely biting back tears when he has a cut lip being attended to ineptly by a nervous mamma, who has only just learnt not to faint at the sight of blood. He's learning from his father how to be a fighter in spirit, how to challenge himself and how to pick himself up and keep going after a fall. Every little boy needs a hero to look up to. Superheroes in comic books and the movies are too distant for them to reach out to and touch; they don't even know of the existence of a little boy in a distant suburb in a foreign country looking upon them with starry eyes and unswerving adoration. A father, on the other hand, is right there, unlikely to swell up like a helium balloon with all the unmitigated adoration being showered on him, and just as likely to temper the adoration with some stern pulling up when mandated.
Now that the father is serious role model business, I hope he reins in the occasional cuss word. The boy is listening agog, ears flapping. There should be a law that forbids dads from using unprintable language in the presence of legal minors, even if that unprintable language slips out while driving through the mean streets of Mumbai, where, the god knows that even Mamma would be hard pressed to keep her limited and hard earned repertoire of cuss words under wraps.
Also, now that the father is the current object of No Can Do Wrong, I'm getting him to spoon down the veggies into his gullet in full sight of the boy hoping to get superhero emulation of diet underway. I'm also ensuring that I get the Pappa to help around the house more than I did earlier, and I'm hoping my future daughter-in-law will thank me on bended knee for this, even though I have to learn the art of speaking like I'm biting back bullets in order to get the simplest task done without needing to burst a blood vessel in the process of getting it done. I hope when he grows up to be a dad himself, he will remember, with undying gratitude, the 25,876 times his father patiently explained to him how to get the stroke right, without actually, physically getting into the pool but doing a convincing stand-up act at the poolside, with walkers and joggers queuing up to watch and latecomers asking if there were tickets available for the show.
I hope he grows up learning how to be a good, dependable man. I hope he grows up to be his father's son. I hope he learns that it is okay to be strong, but it is better to give strength. And I hope he learns that the greatest superheroes are those hidden in plain sight, in our homes, in our everyday.