It's been half a year since I moved to New York City. My company sent me here on an on-site opportunity and I get to live in this amazing city for an entire year. I arrived during the Summer and saw the seasons change. It's snowing now and I can't believe that just 6 months ago, I was walking around in nothing but a T-shirt and jeans. Everything is different here. Mesmerising of course, but different. Being an Indian, I'd immediately look away the minute I'd spot a couple kissing on a bench because I've been hard-wired to look away from even my TV screen when a man and a woman so much as hugged salaciously on-screen. You can call it a culture-shock but at the same time, it's too late for us Indians to be feeling this way in this day and age.
Yesterday, I decided to take a walk through Central Park although it was snowing outside. A decision I soon came to regret but since I was already out and about, I decided to go ahead and take the bloody walk. As expected, the whole place was deserted and I was the only idiot taking one step at a time while my hood kept flying off of my head. When the wind got bearable, I began to notice the beauty surrounding me and thanked the heavens above for making me feel like getting out of the house. Everything was just so pretty! So I took out my camera and clicked a picture of the snow-covered landscape in front of me. What made the picture more beautiful however, was the silhouette of a young man sitting on a bench right across from where I was standing, with his back towards me and his eyes fixed to the icy ground beneath him. Something about my only strange companion in this snowy wilderness attracted me towards him. The closer I got, the more I realised that he was nothing but a very tall kid. Fifteen years old perhaps, judging by the patches of facial hair that seemed to be taking it's own sweet time to blossom on his face.
Since I was close enough to study his face and since he noticed me standing next to him, I decided to sit down and casually chat with my young friend. He was surprisingly open to conversation and didn't look at me like I was a creep, thankfully. I've always felt that these American kids are a bit too paranoid especially when it comes to us brown folks. I don't blame them though. They're just told scary stories at home. But this boy was friendly enough. Either that or he simply did not care.
"What are you doing here all alone? Aren't you cold?"
"Nah, I'm fine. I just had to get out of my house."
"What went wrong at your place?"
"Nothing. I just felt suffocated. I needed some fresh air."
"Fresh air?", he laughed. "In New York City?"
"It's not that bad at all here."
"So what went wrong at your house then?"
"Well, for starters, my mother slapped me in front of our guests."
"Yeah. Bitch-slapped. Right across my face."
"Doesn't matter. Have you ever heard of something this outrageous though?"
"I'm from India. Parents slap their kids as punishment sometimes. Mine didn't, thankfully. But I've also been punished before an audience when I was little."
"Right. But here, I could get that woman in a lot of shit, y'know? I just took the higher road is all."
"That's nice. There's no point in involving others in our personal matters. I'm glad you tried to fix it internally. What did you do?"
"Oh, I just slapped her right back."
"You did WHAT?"
"I gave her one right back. It was pretty cool."
"Oh My God! But she's your mother, kid!"
"And I'm her son, dude! All she wanted to do was humiliate me in front of our guests as a way for her to win the argument and settle the issue. I just showed her that she couldn't always have everything her way."
"But you really shouldn't have done that."
"And who are you to judge, by the way? What do you know about me or where I come from? Do you even know my name?"
"I'm Hari", I said, extending my hand. He didn't take it.
"All I'm saying is, because she's your mom, you should probably go home and apologise. I know it's none of my business but..."
"Exactly. It's none of your business. But since you brought it up, no. I won't apologise. She started it. She hit me first. I just reciprocated the kindness. The one who should be apologising is her. Respect is never a one way street. You don't respect people for their age but for their actions. Tell me something. Would you respect a 70 year old man if you found out that he was a child-molester, simply because he was much older than you? And would your feelings towards this 70 year old child-molester change simply because he happened to be your grandfather?"
I didn't know what to say. Immediately after that, he got up and left. And I sat on that bench thinking about how much sense that kid made. How everything he just told me was perfectly understandable. Reasonable and logical. But not at all justifiable. But that was my problem, not his.