Despite my incessant kvetching about my parents’ looniness, I had a relatively sane childhood. No, really. I was fed (rather well, for which I blame them to this day), clothed and not forced to break rocks in the burning sun for not doing my homework (an incident which occurred with distressing (for them, that is) frequency).
It was only during my adolescent years I realised, that all this endless parenting (have I mentioned that I’m the fourth of five?) was making the needle on their sane-o-meters oscillate dangerously. The following incident will illustrate how.
The parents had apparently, early in their lives, nursed in their hearts the desire that one of their children would grow up to be an engineer. Not just any engineer, mind you, an engineer from IIT. Their first three offspring being more inclined towards the life sciences and art, the mantle was passed on to me – their one child who showed no inclination towards anything in particular.
The father is an engineer. Now you may assume that this would qualify him to decide whether or not I had an aptitude for the profession, but you would be wrong. Apparently, when you become parents, things like logic, and the ability to see what is staring you in the face, take wing and fly out the nearest window. And so it was with my parents. It was decided one cold day in December, that I, their one child who showed less of a talent for mathematics than your average amoeba (actually amoebae are better off, they can multiply without help. Get it? Get it? Ha ha ha!), would become the next engineer in the family. And this despite the fact that I had, in all my years of primary education (save one - the year of my grade ten board exams), displayed a lack of left brain activity that could only be described as uncanny.
To be fair to them, I did, in the eleventh grade, confuse them a little. I signed up for that deceptively named subject – Engineering Drawing. “If that isn’t the sign of a future engineer, we don’t know what is!” thought my parents. What it was, was a simple case of selective vision; they saw Engineering’ and went “Aha!”, I saw ‘Drawing’ and went “Oo fun!” So while I drew three types of rivets and the occasional cross-section of a crankshaft (without knowing how any of them actually worked), my parents smiled at each other knowingly and dreamed.
As a result of this dream, after I completed the twelfth board exams (with abysmal grades in maths, mind you) I was signed up for those IIT entrance preparatory classes. “But I don’t want to be an engineer! I want to do an English honours course.” I said to my parents. “No,” they replied, firmly yet lovingly, “there are no jobs for English honours students. What will you do once you graduate?” Being, back then, of the species known as Teenageria Cluelessium, I had no answer to that and agreed to the classes with the warning that they were wasting their money. As expected, it fell on deaf ears.
Typically, at this point in the story, the girl’s left-brain awakens with all the force of an active volcano and dazzles all with its brilliance, proving to the world that all parents are always right and gosh! The world might just have its next Einstein! To which I will only say, “Right. And life is a Karan Johar movie.”
I realised after about a week of attending though, that these classes weren’t quite as hellish as I had thought they would be. I still didn't understand a word those teachers said, (except for that one jolly old Punjabi gentleman, who would upbraid his students with a cheery “Hiyou bilaady fooool!”), but I did understand that in a class of twenty-five odd (and some of them were very odd) boys, H and I were the only girls. H was already seeing someone, which left me with sole ogling rights to Jaspreet Randhawa.
Jas, in that entire class of twenty-five young men, was the only one who did not wear glasses, did not dress in clothes his mother might’ve bought for him, did not have his oiled hair in a neat side parting and did speak in grammatically perfect English with all his articles ready and present (ref: grammar, you pervs). It also helped that he stood six-feet-two inches tall, had the softest brown eyes I had ever seen and a smile bracketed by dimples you could drown in. Pretty as Michelangelo’s David, but alive and umm…more substantially clothed (which was sad, but you can’t have everything. Also, Delhi winters, ‘nuff said).
So Jas and I got to doing what awkward teenagers did back then, which was, avoiding each other like the plague. This continued for about two weeks until one morning, as I was walking from the bus stop to class, he stopped his bike and offered me a ride. From then on it was but a small step to chatting in all the breaks and drinking chai at the tapri around the corner.
It would be nice to say that we walked off into the sunset holding hands (no actually, it would be crap. And a bunch of lies) but soon I got into the College of Art and we fell out of touch.
So, although nothing ever came of it (the pretty boy and me, i.e.), my parents did learn that attempts to play puppet-master with my academic/professional life were more likely to backfire. Their subsequent tries at spreading the loony were limited to showing me resumes and photographs of eligible (by their standards) men who were all, by some bizarre coincidence, very religious, hirsute and balding.
Now? They just bug me to make babies. I’m not sure if that’s an improvement – the sane-o-meter self-imploded at grandkid number 3.
So, what was I saying again? Oh yeah, parents. Don't you just love 'em?