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 sadist 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.
And then, there was this other idea fed into my innocent mind (presumably to scare me) that if I ever broke a promise I’d end up being turned into an owl. This, of course, displays overconfidence as well as a serious lack of imagination on part of the elders. Did they really think I cared about being turned into an owl, or for that matter, any other bird or animal? Au contraire my friend, I find that to be a reason worthy enough to break a promise! Imagine what fun it would be to turn your head 360 degrees like a poltergeist and stare into the bewildered eyes of relatives.
No, that is definitely not the reason for my desisting from promises. Then what could it be, you ask?
Yes, guilt spelt in capital letters! I know it is an embarrassing trait, but I am prone to acute pangs of guilt. And I guess I have to live with it until I find a magic potion to stifle that feeling within me forever. Until then, call me an escapist if you must, but I choose not to make a promise at all.
But wait . . . hasn’t someone somewhere said ‘Never say Never’?
So one day, when I was at my vulnerable best, Amma* approached me with an idea and within minutes, she had extracted a promise from me! Now, let me give you a piece of advice. You want to make a promise? Go ahead . . . but hey, make sure you know to whom you’re making it out to.
Your friend? Cool.
Your girlfriend? Umm . . . fine; although that one’s best avoided.
Your best friend? Red Alert! You shouldn’t have done that mister. But then, one always learns
Your mother? NEVER!!
Never ever make a promise to your mother. That is something you can never break, no matter what and how many other things you end up breaking in the process.
To get back to the reality of that abject moment in my life - I made a promise, and I made it to my mother. I promised her that I would not watch TV for the next five days.
Can you imagine! What was I thinking?
Well, that’s precisely the point. I wasn’t thinking anything. 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. Here’s a transcript of what transpired that day:
“Shamit . . .”
“Mmmm . . .”
“Shamit . . . wake up dear, it’s .”
“Mmmmmmmm . . .”
“SHAMIT! Wake up!! Everyone’s already at the breakfast table. I hope you 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.”
“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. Just promise me that you’ll not watch TV for five days starting today. SHAMIT . . . can you hear me? Are you going to make that promise or do I drag you out of bed?” 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.
What do you think was more important at that moment for someone who’d watched TV until the previous night (or early morning if you please)? Sleep or a darned promise? So you know what I chose.
“Mmmm . . . okay Ma, I’ll do whatever you want; just leave me alone okay . . .GO . . . PLEEEEASE . . .”
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 absolutely at my wit’s end as to how I’d pass the plenitude of time that lay at my disposal. I got into everyone’s way as I aimlessly trudged up and down the stairs, 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 intention of helping her in her yawn-inducing hobby though. 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.
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. Only, I was no Snow White. I wouldn’t give in to my temptations and break the promise I’d made to Amma . . . or would I?
A brilliant idea sneaked into my head. What if I found a loophole? Or maybe I could just circumvent the promise without hurting Amma? Could I not run off to Nerdy Nattu’s house next door and shut myself in his room with the TV, which his parents had so lovingly installed for his last birthday?
Not a bad idea. But there were two possible negative outcomes: