Dog tired I was, as I reached home. The day was pretty exhausting at school. Missed homework, surprise quizzes and a physical education teacher with an attitude and vengeance. Anyway, back to the refuge. Home, sweet home.
Uncle Kumar who let me in had thoughtfully set the ambience right. Just the right level of warmth and chill. He took my backpack as I slumped into the sofa. No energy even to reach my room.
“I am getting you some drinking chocolate and cookies,” he said.
Wanted to say something I needed something cold, but didn’t want to exert myself. Let him do what wanted. By the time he was back I was in a half dazed slumber. He gently tapped me and suggested, “Drink a bit of this and take a bite. You will feel better.”
I forced myself to do that. But he was right. I felt a bit energised.
“How was school today?” he enquired.
Oh, no, I thought. Not now. He seemed to read my thoughts. “Ok, you can tell me all about school later. Shall I carry you to the room?”
“No,” I shouted. “I am not a baby. I am 10 years old. Don’t ever say that again.”
“All right. All right.” He said in a soothing tone. I felt a bit bad screaming at him.
I could hear Ma puttering about in the kitchen. I guessed she could sense me too.
I heard her call out, “Don’t eat cookies now. I am rustling up some tasty corn & sprouts salad. Have it before you go out to play.”
“No, Ma,” I shouted back. “I don’t feel like going out today. I will relax a bit in my room.” Then I added hastily before she got annoyed, “Corn salad is welcome though.”
Uncle Kumar followed me to my room. Always efficient he was. The room was aired, all cleaned up of messy stuff, bed made up, books put away, gadgets all neatly set on the desk.
I changed into comfortable clothes and settled down in bed. Uncle was not sure whether I wanted him to stay and leave. He usually comes with me for some tennis practice in the evenings. But not today.
I told him, “Uncle, let us stay in today.”
“Any indoor games? You should not sleep now, you know. Take it lightly. We can play Chess or something. You should sleep properly in the night.”
That was killing me kindness.
But I was not in the mood for too much exertion. Mental or physical. But I gave in. “Let us play Trivia.”
Trivia was a not a game I could play against him. No way could I beat him. So he was asking all the questions. Ten minutes into the game, I was doing reasonably well. He usually adjusts his questions so that I could get most of them but never all.
Ma burst into the room. She was carrying my corn & sprout salad. Her scolding tone was a bit harsh. “I thought you would come and take your plate. It is not right to eat in the bedroom or make me run around.” Uncle kept a diplomatic silence.
I was apologetic and I said sorry. She always meant well though she had a bad habit of nagging all the time.
As I ate my salad, I remarked that it was tasty. I couldn’t help wonder why many of friends didn’t like such stuff. Perhaps my Ma is pretty good in the kitchen and they didn’t have anybody like that.
Uncle Kumar explained to me a bit about the need for balanced nutrition for growing boys. And adults. All about proteins, carbs, vitamins and minerals.
“What about cookies then?” I asked him. He was offering me those earlier.
“Well, cookies are not as nutritious as the snack Ma prepared. Just that they are easy to manage and the sugar in them makes them attractive to everyone. The trick is in moderation.”
He continued. “When we force someone, children or adults, to eat something and avoid something else, they show unreasonable behaviour. They unconsciously rebel. They like what is denied and dislike what is offered.”
He must have droned on for some more time because I nodded off. I don’t remember anything else.
I woke up with a start when the call came. The room was dark. The food was cleared. Uncle had gone. I was all alone. It must be late evening.
The call was from Dad. I became alert and answered. I was always happy to hear from my Dad who was mostly away on work.
I got up from the bed and was happily chatting with my dad as I wandered around the house. Ma must have settled in and Uncle was in the drawing room.
Then my dad asked for Uncle Kumar.
Uncle joined the conversation. “Good evening, Sir. Everything is fine here,” he said.
I could hear my dad say, “Kumar, I was running some remote diagnostics on you and MA9450. Both of you need firmware updates. Something wrong with autoupdate. And I couldn’t do it from here. So I have asked Raj Robotics to send someone tomorrow. I have also added a couple of extra modules. One to dial down MA’s nagging and another to dial up your firmness in conversation. Do take care of it.”
“Yes, sir,” replied Kumar.