Adult ⇔ Child

Sreelakshmi married Gopikannan. A very god-fearing and an active couple, they were. Lo and behold, they gave birth to a bonny child after 13 and three-fourth score days after they tied the sacred knot. They decided to call her Saraswati. After all, Lakshmi was already in the house, they reasoned. Saraswati grew up to a perfect daughter any god-fearing South Indian parent could ever hope. After nearly 1100 days, another bonny child came into the house. She answered to the name Gayathri. Gayathri made the parents happy in ways that Saraswati could not. A happy household, if ever there was one until Saraswati reached an age that could no longer be specified using single digits under the decimal scheme. I had mentioned that the couple was very happy with two lovely daughters.

However, there were days when they looked into each other’s eyes and felt a vacuum that was growing. Like any Indian family, they were aching for a male child. Therefore, trips to the lord of the seven hills increased. The Lord heard them, and why not how can he ignore the couple so god-fearing? Soon the house was alive with noise and celebration and the local census taker had the burden of adding a new member in his ledger. A male child was born. He was name Venkata in deference to Lord. However, everyone called him Vengutu. Vengutu was six years old. Little did he realize that this was a day he and for that matter, everyone in his family would not forget. Sreelakshmi wanted to stitch a lovely shirt for Vengutu. The daughters were away at school and Gopikannan was poring over the account ledger at his office. Sreelakshmi wanted Vengutu to hold the cloth taut to facilitate her to cut them with scissors. Vengutu, despite told not to do so, held the cloth near his eye, mesmerized to see the steel scissors run through the cloth.

Sreelakshmi in her eagerness to complete the shirt did not notice until the scissors were buried an inch deep in the right eye of Vengutu. Vengutu lost most of his vitreous humor in his right eye. After a long period of mayhem, life was back to normal. Vengutu lost his sense of humor, which now could only be termed vitriolic. Sreelakshmi was so shocked that she could hardly hold a conversation with Vengutu. Gopikannan was the messenger between Vengutu and her. Years passed. Saraswati and Gayathri were married and went on about their lives. Vengutu’s father Gopikannan too passed away. Vengutu who was nursing a deep hatred for his mother was now more open about the same. He did let his hatred come in between the care for his mother. All possible comforts were given to her.

However, she could not interact with his only child. She was barred from talking anyone in the family unnecessarily. Vengutu banned all scissors in the house. One or two that were necessary were locked away in the draw, much like the spindles in Sleeping Beauty. His mother wanted to talk to her son. They wanted to unleash her emotions and tell him that a big mistake was made by her. The adult in her did not allow her. After all, she had warned Vengutu. Vengutu, always been taught to tell anyone whom he had hurt that he was sorry, hated her even more. The child in him was looking to hear that from his mother. Vengutu’s son married and soon Vengutu became a grandfather. His mother was bedridden. He went to see his mother tell her the good news. Sreelakshmi wanted to see the great-grandchild. Vengutu did not want her to do so.

Sreelakshmi was breathing her last. She caught hold of Vengutu’s hand and said, “I am sorry Vengutu. It was my mistake.” Vengutu, with a tear in his eye, said, “Here is you great-grandchild!” The brightness in the house increased, the adult became a child and the child became an adult.

By Prof. Eswaran Narasimhan