It was already turning out to be one of those days.
At 8.30 in the morning!
Meltdowns should really come scheduled and never so early in the morning...or in a public space...or when one was headed out...or before bedtime...or ever, really!
The little boy stood his ground, engaging his mother in a staring match. He was a little bull. But she was his mother after all. He could have been a big, raging bull on a rampage, but that wouldn't change the fact that she was big mamma. Her bovinity trumped his bullishness any day!
The four-year-old mite had an opinion on everything and strong ones at that; be it clothes, food, toys and even TV shows, he had a strong set of likes and dislikes. Today, he wanted to take his other bag to school; the yellow one. It wasn't even his, literally speaking; it was a hand-me-down from his elder brother, that's why when he'd started school, Mamma wanted him to have a new one. But this morning, the little boy had decided that he'd been carrying Mon. Lightening McQueen for long enough, and it was now Master Mickey Mouse's turn. Plus, it was a bright, sunshiney, yellow -- his most favourite colour of all! Didn't his Mamma get that?
His Mamma lovingly pointed out that the chain was broken and needed to be fixed. If he took that, his water bottle, tiffin box and napkin would all fall out. Didn't her little boy get that?
When he continued to stand his ground, she tried a different track -- all his friends would laugh at him. Nope, that didn't seem to dint his innate sense of self-confidence either. "So what?" his eyes challenged her. "You're not taking it!", she glared back.
Sigh! Terrible Twos and Threes is what anybody ever talked or wrote about. They were absolutely no bloody match for the Furious Fours!!
By this time, the night ayah and the day ayah decided to join in Operation Logical Might. The morning didi showed him over and over again that the chain just wasn't working. He got that, but he didn't care. The night didi said she would take it home with her now, get it fixed and bring it back with her that very evening. But he wanted to take it to school NOW! He looked at these three women, perplexed and a little angry, didn't they understand anything??
Finally, Mamma's patience, having been stretched to it's very possible end, snapped and she gave him his marching orders. He was to put on his Lightening McQueen schoolbag, march down the steps, go give his Baba a kissie and leave for school; with a smile if possible, if not, well then just leave anyway.
He marched down the steps. Sobbing his little heart out. If there was one person in the whole world who would melt at his sobs and shivers, it was his darling dad; a man he had so tightly wound around his little finger that all he had to do was raise his wail to a C sharp and it would transform his father into a snarling, growling beast ready to mow down anyone who had dared do his precious cub wrong.
Papa Lion immediately roared for Mamma Lion and she came down, pinned Papa Lion with a glare and explained the situation, then she wearily sat down at the breakfast table and picked up a newspaper, hoping that the headlines would be less frustrating than the battle royale being played out on her domestic front.
The little boy waited for daddy darling to order someone to go and get the bag from upstairs, but this time, even daddy darling spoke the language of the three thick-headed women. That same old spiel about the chain not working. He wailed harder, but daddy didn't budge; instead, he grew more firm and fixed him with a I-know-better-than-you-so-stop-crying look.
By now, his grandmother, who was sitting and having breakfast and watching the entire drama unfold, finally went to pieces and gathered her cherished cherub to her breast and tried to calm him down. With soothing words and dulcet tones, she also tried to make him see reason. From the safe haven of his grandmother's arm, the little brat continued to give his mother the stink eye. Next, the chacha came out of his room, picked up the little boy and tried to distract him with hugs, cuddles and kisses.
The night ayah came downstairs to say 'bye' to the brat and she even showed him the plastic bag in which she was carrying the offending piece that had generated so much heat, tears and tantrums, with the promise that it was going to come back all fixed and in working condition. By now, the chachi had come out to take him to school, where she happened to teach. She gave him a big squeeze, dried his tears and proceeded to walk with him towards the door. They were followed by a chorus of "Bye! I love you's" and "Have a nice day's." Just one voice was missing.
She said it softly, under her breath. He turned at the door, looked straight into her eyes and...slowly lifted his little hand, curled up in a fist save the littlest finger of all -- katti, the accepted and acknowledged gesture for the silent treatment; to say as eloquently as possible, "I don't like you anymore" without actually saying it. In other words, the equivalent of giving someone the finger -- in a totally innocent and child-like manner, of course.
Mamma felt sick. Not because of all the high-voltage drama that had been packed into the space of just half-an-hour, but because she hadn't been sleeping well the last few nights. She felt a fever coming on. She drained her tea down to the dregs, excused herself and went to her bedroom. She called her yoga teacher and cancelled; told her husband that she was going to bed, put the phone on silent and tried to drift off to sleep.
Of course sleep did not come easy. She kept drifting between the hazy world of dreams and the harsh sunlight of reality and in both it seemed as if she was being haunted by a pair of big, brown, beautiful eyes, brim full with tears, sadness and accusations, "How come you couldn't understand me, Mamma?"
She remained in bed, flitting unhappily between both worlds, an unwanted visitor in either, when she heard the doorbell ring. She registered it as belonging to the corporeal world and realised that the day ayah, not wanting to disturb her, had gone to pick up the young one from school. She heard the door open. She braced herself to face those eyes again.
"Mamma??! Mamma!!?" she heard him call out. She heard the ayah tell him that his Mamma was in the room. She heard his footsteps approach her bedroom door. Through the haze of her fever, she saw the shape of a little boy standing there, bright, perky, happy.
And then she heard him say with every ounce of feeling that he possessed, "Mamma, I love you now again."