Sunday, May 15, 2016
1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Narayanan Rev 1
Name: Priya Narayanan
Genre: Middle Grade - Slice of Life, Humor
Title: The Promise
Once upon a time, I made a promise.
Now, I’m not one to make promises since more often than not, I end up breaking them. It is as though promises were invented only to be broken -definitely the invention of a cruel mind. You goad someone into believing you, rely upon you for something of great importance and then
You simply break the promise along with the person’s heart. NOT a good idea. But that’s not to say nobody should make a promise. You want to make one? Go ahead . . . but hey, make sure you know to whom you’re making it out to.
Your friend? Cool.
That girl you have a crush on? Umm . . . fine.
Your best friend? Red Alert!
But your mother? NEVER!!
Never ever make a promise to your mother. Especially if your mom is anything like mine. Amma has the knack of coming up with punishments (she calls them ‘self-enrichment exercises,’ by the way) that seem harmless at first glance but manage to make my life miserable nevertheless.
Take the Case of the Unfinished Assignment from a few months back, for instance. I promised her I’d complete my EVS assignment soon as I finished watching my favorite TV show. Just as I was about to turn off the TV as promised, a trailer for the latest Batman movie jumped out at me and I thought, ‘won’t do me no harm in sneaking a look, will it?’ But then, the next show started without warning and I was drawn into the curious plot revolving around banana-eating aliens. The next thing I knew, it was time for dinner followed by bed.
When I came back with a note from the teacher the next day, Amma let out an exasperated sigh that said, ‘Why ‘O why did I want a second child when my life was just fine with one!’ I spent the next weekend in the neighborhood nursery where I received hands on experience in the topic of my missed assignment – composting and vermiculture. YUCK!
So, call me a chicken if you must, but I choose not to make a promise at all.
But wait . . . hasn’t someone somewhere said ‘Never say Never’?
So welcome to that doomed moment in my life when I made a promise to . . . you guessed it, my mother. Early one morning, when all I wanted was to sleep, sleep and sleep some more, Amma ambled into my room like and angel and left like the devil that had extracted her pound of flesh. Before I proceed to lay before you the transcript of how the table was turned on me, there’s something about me that you must know. If I were to find God and the Devil standing at the crossroads with signs pointing to Heaven and the land where I could indulge in only two activities -TV watching and Sleeping- respectively, I’d choose to follow the latter. That’s how much I love the television. . . and sleep.
So here is what transpired that morning as I lay sprawled on my stomach on the couch, with one hand dangling down and the other hand still gripping the remote control under my chest.
“Shamit . . .”
“Mmmm . . .”
“Shamit . . . wake up dear, it’s nine o’clock.”
“Mmmmmmmm . . .”
“SHAMIT! Wake up!! Everyone’s already at the breakfast table. And remember we’ve planned to visit the temple after that?”
“Five minutes Maaaa . . . and in any case, I’m not interested in the temple. You go ahead without me, okay? And wake me up after you’re back.”
“But you promised me you’ll come to the temple this time! Grandpa and grandma are going to be super upset. This is not done!”
“Shamit, did you hear me?”
More silence . . . followed by Amma shaking me vigorously, causing the remote to fall to the floor.
“Oh, so that’s the way it’s going to be . . . huh? Well, you can sleep through the afternoon, right until evening for all I care,” Amma raised her voice quite uncharacteristically. I could see a blurred vision of her picking up the remote and staring hard at it as though her top-secret laser vision would teleport it to the land of the banana-eating aliens for good. “But you get this straight Mister, you break this promise and I’ll make sure you pay for it with a far more torturous one. Do you hear me?”
Honest to goodness, I did want to get on my feet right then and follow her to the temple like a dog on a leash. But hey, I’d watched TV until four o’clock the previous night (or early morning if you please). And I now had to choose between one of my favorite things and a darned promise? So you know what I chose.
“Mmmm . . . okay Ma, I promise to do whatever you say; just leave me alone okay . . .GO . . . PLEEEASE . . .”
Amma was furious. “Okay, have it your way. If your ears are awake, let them know your new promise is that you’ll not watch TV for the rest of the week.” Amma’s voice started off as a whisper and gathered enough decibels along the way to help her achieve the glass-shattering level that only divas at the opera are blessed with. This was followed by a thud, which I assumed was the sound of the remote landing on the rug, and the bang of the door.
And then there was silence . . . and sleep.
When I finally woke up to narrate my surreal dream to Amma over a mug of hot chocolate, I was met with an icy glare.
“Oh, so it wasn’t a dream . . . okay. No problem . . . umm . . . I was just joking Ma. A promise is a promise. I’ll stand by it . . . okay?”
But Amma’s eyes refused to leave mine. And with that, I stared at the prospect of five TV-less days ahead of me. That the said five days had settled comfortably in the lap of the summer vacations only made matters worse.
What does one do on a hot summer afternoon if not chill on the couch with a plate of succulent mangoes and TV? But thanks to my promise, all I did the first day of my TV-less ordeal was to wander like a zombie around the house. I was at my wit’s end as to how I’d pass the excessive time that lay at my disposal. I got into everyone’s way as I aimlessly trudged up and down the stairs of our bungalow, inviting innumerable scowls and angry glares.
When Amma decided to tend to her plants, I chugged along behind her, much to her surprise. I had no intension of helping her in her yawn-inducing hobby though, especially after my experience with vermiculture. I simply moved around pulling out sharp blades of grass and plucking leaves off her well-manicured plants. The result was a couple of ferocious looks from her that prodded me to slink away. Clearly, she was still mad at me.
As I moved back towards the comfort of my room, the TV – perched like royalty on the stucco-finished white wall – lured me mockingly, like the witch who lured Snow White with her juicy red apples.