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This was a big day. They had been waiting for this day for; I don’t know how many years. So was I. I remember a time, when going to a hotel was a big occasion. This was a once in 6 month feature when I got to taste something other than the usual rice-rasam. But it had been a long time since we had done this together. Just me and my parents. I stopped at the ATM with both my mom and dad following me into the counter. It was funny looking at my dad, who was warning me against drawing too much and the look on my mom’s face on seeing the working of the ATM. She kept asking me how it worked at least twice since then. I felt like a teacher taking kids on a school picnic. For once I was grown up.
I eat with them every day. My mom never starts dinner without me, and yet I never realized the distance between us. As I stared across the blue tablecloth and wondered what to speak, I realized that I had never had a proper informal conversation with them in a very long time. It must have been before my teens that I would have spoken to them without fear or hesitation. It felt odd. I could notice their apprehension in ordering and my mom’s eyes kept skirting the price line. I smiled. Some things never change.
I don’t know when the distance had set in. Maybe it was after my failures. But it had grown too big. I meet them everyday, see them and speak to them every day. And yet, we have not had one proper conversation. Dinners are spent across the television sets and the rest of the day in a blank radio silence. And yet, there they were; across the table looking through the menu and choosing the food. Silently…
Soon we were talking and joking. Like long lost friends who just met each other across the street. The early hesitation had melted away into familiarity. By the third course, we were talking about how much I had changed. My father had never eaten so much and neither had mom. Maybe I had never given them that much to eat. I was caught in the no-man’s land of sentimentality and nostalgia. Where everything you see reminds you of something that makes you want to cry. I couldn’t. Not now.
I paid the bill and looked at my dad’s face smiling at me. I could see that he wanted to say something and was holding it back. I knew what it was. We walked out the lobby and got into the rick to go home. My mom looked at me and said ‘Thank you.’ Was that how big a jerk I had become? My parents had to thank me for treating them to a good meal. Was this how far we had grown apart? I didn’t know the answers but I didn’t want to. I just wanted to hug them and cry, cry like I never wanted to let go. But I couldn’t. I was too stunned at my own stupidity.