As an adult, you don’t get a summer vacation like you used to as a child — not unless you’re an academic or a teacher. That’s what I used to think.
Then Kattabomman’s school, which had closed for the summer, reopened in the first week of July, and I realised that the whole of May and June — during which I worked every working day — I was actually enjoying my summer vacation. How so? Because they were days I could wake up when I wanted, have my morning coffee with the previous day’s bad news, and have a few minutes to myself to contemplate the country’s inexorable descent into darkness.
No such luxury now. The first indication my non-existent ‘summer vacation’ had ended was the school WhatsApp group going nuts. Apparently there were summer projects that should have been completed.
“What summer project?” I bellowed. “He is barely six!”
“There is also holiday homework,” Wife said.
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We got down to it on Sunday afternoon, the last day of the vacation. Wife sat down at the dining table with scissors, Fevicol, cotton, play dough and art paper to construct ‘projects’ of all sorts — scale models of the pyramids in Egypt, rainforests of Brazil, gaushalas on Mars, god knows what else.
I sat down with Katta at the other end of the dining table, goading him to finish 30 pages of ‘missing numbers’, ‘fill in the blanks’, ‘match the following’, and ‘vyanjan’. By 9 p.m., there were still 13 pages to go and Katta was getting into Kyrgios mode — bemoaning the poor quality of the pencil, the weather, the substandard parenting he has to put up with.
I stepped away to get myself a drink, and when I came back, he had dozed off. Wife was busy filling his pages.
“You can’t do that!” I said, snatching the notebook. It’s been given for HIS writing practice!”
“I know that,” Wife said. “Poor kid has been at it since afternoon. No way he can finish it.”
“Then let him take his incomplete homework to school!”
“It will reflect poorly on us as parents,” she said.
“Anyway, what kind of example are we setting as parents — waiting till the last day to do his holiday work?”
“Same kind as the example you set by waiting till the last minute to file your articles.”
“Did you just call me Putin?”
“I didn’t even open my mouth,” I said.
“I can see it in your eyes,” Wife said. Thankfully, both our phones, which had been watching the proceedings with rising alarm, intervened before tensions escalated. We both got calls from — according to Truecaller — ‘Spam’ and ‘Fraud’, respectively. We answered our mobiles, and peace reigned once more.
Katta hates going to school, to put it mildly. On Monday morning, however, his tantrums stayed within manageable limits. But by Wednesday morning, he’d had enough.
“Can I take holiday today?”
“No,” I said. “The weekend is your holiday.”
“When is weekend coming?” he wanted to know.
“Is today Friday?”
“Is tomorrow Friday?”
He burst into tears. He demanded that Wednesday be renamed as Friday.
“Wednesday is not a town in a poor Third World country governed by bandicoots,” I said. “It belongs to the Babylonian calendar. The entire solar system is involved. To rename Wednesday as Friday, you’ll have to first rename Mercury as Venus. That’s not possible.”
“Then every other planet and star will start making similar demands,” I said. “What if the Sun wants to be called the Moon? Then your Sundays will become Mondays and you would have to go to school on Sunday also! You want that?”
Blame it on Wimbledon
He pondered that for a moment. Then reluctantly got up to get ready. Thursday passed without incident. On Friday, there was massive resistance — but not from Katta. My batteries had run out. I could not get up from bed. Over the week, I had racked up a substantial sleep deficit, partly because of Wimbledon — whose matches were scheduled with little thought for parents of school-going children in India — but mostly because I was pulling all-nighters to make my country a $56 billion economy by 2023.
Katta was up by 6. “Get up and bathe me,” he demanded, yanking my hand. His idea of waking someone is to try and detach a limb from torso.
“Let him bunk school for a day.” I said.
“What kind…,” Wife mumbled through sleep.
“You said something?”
“What kind of example are we setting as parents? Making him skip school because WE lack discipline?
“Urghh!” I dragged myself out of bed and began the customary search for my glasses.
“Take,” Katta said, handing them to me.
“How are you in such a good mood?” I said. “You are going to school.”
“Today is Friday,” he said, bouncing up and down. “Tomorrow is weekend, yay!”
The author of this satire, is Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu.