Hdg: Act, don't preach!
“Look at them...what noise they make,” Siya scowled staring into the room whose walls resounded with peals of laughter.
Peering over her shoulders were Siya's cousins – Chiu (Chitra), Mak (Makarand), Rutu, Neetu, Sachu (Sachin), Sanju (Sanjana) – flummoxed that the adults in the room, their parents and aunts and uncles could create cacophony.
Chiu, who was the youngest of the lot, pushed the others away and retreated into another corner. To think, to puzzle over. Her otherwise prim and proper mother, Geeta, couldn't control her laughter. And, nor could Golu mama (Niranjan) who was said to be the brains of the family. Golu mama's example was trotted out every time one of the kids didn't fare well during the exams.
Siya, who was meeting her cousins and uncles and aunts after a long gap, too was confused at what she had seen. Instead of pondering over it, she shrugged, went to her room, pulled out her earphones and listened to music. Her cousins too went their own way; Mak got busy with his car models, Sachu and Sanju sprawled before the TV, Neetu and Rutu started playing games on the mobile.
Only Chiu remained behind. Quiet and unobtrusive, she slipped into the room and listened to the talk and laughter floating around. Only, when some one mentioned dinner that she slipped out of the room.
Next day, when the youngsters met for breakfast, they started gossiping about their parents.
Siya was the first one to scowl and launch into her grievance, after Meeta her mother chided her for plugging earphones at the dining table.
“I like that! I bet she doesn't follow the rules that she makes for me. For us. Our parents, I mean.”
Others followed suit with their complaints.
Chiu, who was listening to their conversation, said quietly, “Bet, you can't do half the things they do.”
“What do you mean?” the cousins turned to her.
“Golu mama...” Chiu began before she was cut mid-way by Mak.
“Oh please! Don't talk about Baba. I have heard enough of his exploits. I am his son, alright” said Mak.
“What have you heard? Chiu asked.
Rolling their eyes, the other kids listed out on their fingers, 'Class IV, Class VII scholarship, SSC, HSC topper, Distinction in medical college and now he presents papers at the international fora.'
Chiu yawned and the kids stopped.
“That's stale, you know. Golu mama is an expert marble player; he sings well and was the only one who played pranks on Ajo.”
“Liar! How do you know? And, no one played pranks on Ajo. He was a terror,” remembering the stories they had hear about their strict grandfather.
“Okay then...how about this. No one could beat Meeta attya in climbing trees. She was also good with catapult, better than Aniruddha mama and Golu mama. And, yes, my mother outrode other cyclists. She and Golu mama beat others at cards. They make a good team,” said Chiu.
“How do you know?” Siya asked her again.
“You all should have stayed back in the room,” she replied.
“You mean to say, you eavesdropped on their conversation,” asked Siya horrified.
“Well, I stayed back in the room and listened. You don't call that eavesdropping. And, anyway, you could have also listened to it, if you had paid attention,” Chiu defended herself.
“Stay back tonight,” she added.
And, when the night came, they did stay back with their parents and aunts and uncles.
If their parents were surprised, then they didn't show it. As the night wore on amidst laughter, rib-tickling performances by their parents, the kids also learnt afresh a few lessons.
Listening to Meeta's stories of climbing trees and playing seven tiles in vacation, Siya realised why her mother couldn't understand the term 'boredom'.
Talk also veered towards Golu mama's stellar performance in school. What made it stellar and an example to be emulated, was the fact that Niranjan walked eight kilometres to school and back, in rain, in sunshine and in winter.
'How come I didn't know this?' Mak asked himself.
And, Geeta attya and Aniruddha mama remembered how easy it was to follow in Golu mama's footsteps. He had set a high example before his siblings, not just by excelling in studies, but by coaching weaker children of his village.
The night was an eye-opener for the kids. They did realise that their parents didn't preach many things they practised. Sometimes it's enough to just act than talk!