I am a programmer, and I am glad that I am. Because if I were an artist instead, mom would throw me into a cauldron, add some mint, coriander, and a gallon of water, set the flame to high, and boil me until I was soup for cannibals.
She already hates the fact that her son is a programmer. According to her, she can’t look her kitty-party friends in the eye anymore, because wifey took a shiny glossy Engineer-MBA and changed him a…what do you call that thing….a programmer?! Her son who was once eyed by all her kitty-party friends as a prize catch for their convent-educated daughters, is now a buggy-eyed programmer!
Yesterday mom got a call from one of her kitty-party friends. I guess they are starting to miss mom’s dahi-bhalle, her biggest contribution to their monthly get-togethers. When mom’s cellphone rang, wifey was sniffling through pages of “Not Without my Daughter“, Dad was devouring the glamor section of The Delhi Times, and I was doodling on my sketch-pad.
Mom took the call. After exchanging loud virtual hugs with the caller, She suddenly became very quiet. We could hear only her end of the conversation, which I am faithfully reproducing here.
“Poor Mrs. Mehra.”
“No, no. I understand.”
“And her son was so bright as a child.”
“What is she going to do now?”
“No no, but it’s really sad.”
“Now what can I say? One can’t stand in the way of fate.”
“Poor Mrs. Mehra.”
The call ended but for the next whole minute, she continued to make sympathetic clucking sounds with her tongue.
We were curious as hell, but none of us wanted to be the first to ask. Wifey caved in first.
“What happened Mummy Ji?” she said, marking her place in the book with a 3D-bookmark that she had bamboozled me into buying for her.
The moment wifey pressed the trigger, Mom shot off like a bullet.
“You remember Mrs. Mehra – the fat one?” she asked, helping us visualize Mrs. Mehra’s girth by spreading her hands a lot wider than what was warranted. (I think I must’ve gotten the genes of exaggeration from Mom.)
Dad neatly folded the newspaper and tossed it upon the center-table. Now all of us were waiting to hear the unfortunate story of a corpulent but poor Mrs. Mehta.
Mom dropped the bombshell. “Her son has told her that he wants to be an artist.”
Dad raised his right brow and allowed a sarcastic smile to play on his lips.
Wifey got bored, mumbled “Khoda pahad nikli chuhiya,” (You dig a mountain and find a female mouse,) and opened her novel again.
“Mom, what’s wrong with being an artist?” I asked, smoldering inside.
“Puttar (Son,) it’s worse than being a programmer,” she said, with a smug smile. Now, on the Successful Moms ladder someone stood a few rungs lower than her.
“What’s so bad about being a programmer?” I asked, trying to keep a lid on my anger that was about to boil over.
“Everyone is a programmer these days. Even our maid’s son is a programmer.” She bristled. The fact that even her maid’s son is a programmer, cut and bruised her heart like nothing else could.
Wifey signaled me to stop.
Dad signaled mom to stop.
None of us took the cues.
“Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the son of a maid, Mom,” I said, my voice rising.
“He is an exception, not a rule. Programmers are the rule these days! And you….my son, MY SON”, she jabbed a finger into her chest, “…an Engineer and an MBA – he finds nothing better to do than programming?!!!” She was now a Punjabin in her element, spewing fire from her mouth, fuming from her ears and her nostrils!
Wifey got up and murmured, “I’ll make us some tea.”
Dad picked up the newspaper and said, “Pressure aya hai,” and went inside the toilet.
(Dad’s dialog translates to “Pressure has arrived” – an Indian Euphemism for the need to go potty.)
Mom and I were left sitting, glaring at each other, across the table.
Then mom’s angry face morphed into a smiling one. She reached across the table, tapped my cheek and said, “Puttar, I am grateful that you decided to be a programmer and not an artist. Or I wouldn’t have been able to show my face anywhere. If nothing else, you at least work hard…what does Sonu do? Sits alone and draws. How shameful!” (You might’ve guessed this – Sonu is Mrs. Mehra’s son.)
I wouldn’t dare to tell her that once in a while I get paid to make funny pictures for a journal or a website, nor that some people pay me for pushing and pulling their features to make them look comical, because she might get a heart-attack wondering how will she ever face her kitty-party friends again – For what greater shame could be there for an Indian mom than to accept that her son has become…an artist.
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