09 May, 1996.
Heavens! It's been five years since I wrote in my journal. It's unbelievable how time flies. And how quickly my son is growing right in front of my eyes. My job and family life kept me more busy than I ever imagined. But it's the most amazing feeling in the world to take a break once in a while, relax and come back to doing something you genuinely enjoy. And hence, this journal entry.
"I wanted them to say that they couldn't afford it so that I could generously offer to pay for them myself."
We're in a houseboat now, the whole family. And by whole family, I mean Latha's family. Summer holidays for the kids so we thought, why not rent a houseboat for a day and night, catch some fresh fish from the backwaters of Allepey and relax. And guess who's paying for everybody? I am. Oh, the sense of satisfaction I feel right now! My father may not have been the greatest there is, but he always used to say, "What goes around, comes around.". And that is so true in my case. All those people who mocked me and laughed behind my back, insulted me and made me doubt myself, are now right here on this very boat, enjoying a trip that I paid for. And that's only because I knew that they couldn't afford it. I wanted them to say that they couldn't afford it so that I could generously offer to pay for them myself. It's not out of love or anything else that I paid for this entire trip. I wanted to relax with my family, yes. But my family only comprises of Latha and our son. I tolerate having them around only because I wanted to rub it in for them. And I really cant believe how satisfying it is. A lot has changed over the past four years. The very people who thought that they'd have to generously clean up after all the mistakes I made are here treating me like a king and giving me the kind of respect that I never thought they were capable of showing. This is by far the best holiday I have had, thanks to them.
"It's unfortunate to be born to less accomplished parents."
Kannettan's (Latha's brother) business was not a success. That's something I always predicted because he may have been a saving grace for their family soon after their father passed away, assuming the role of guardian cum savior by taking over the family business etc, but the man lacks the patience and the discipline required to run a business successfully. In fact, he lacks the discipline to succeed in life. Mark my words, ten or twenty years down the lane, he'll still be where he is right now, working and struggling day and night to make ends meet. Whereas, look at me now. I already have a retirement fund. I already have savings and a plan and the caliber to make that plan a reality. Our future is secure. My son gets a good education. He has good guidance and many opportunities ahead of him. And I will make sure to secure his future in the best possible way. He's just five years old but look at his childhood. He has had the best of everything. School supplies, art and crafts supplies, exposure to extra curricular activities, guidance to get good grades, food, entertainment, you name it. Compare him to that Vishnu, Kannettan's son. Vishnu is around a year younger than Nikhil but he's so painfully average. But what else can be expected of a kid like him. His parents don't even remotely have what it takes to guide and nourish him the way Latha and I care for our son. The other day, Latha was going through Nikhil's grade card in which he'd scored a 100 in almost every single subject. It's not a big thing at this age because they're kids and could easily do well in school. I know that what matters is how they perform with consistency as they grow. But the funny part (for me) was when Kannettan's wife saw this grade card and couldn't hide her disbelief. Apparently, Vishnu has never scored like this even in play school. Not that it matters but I was genuinely happy that these people got to see how my son is different from theirs. All kids are born talented. You need to treat them like rocks that can be slowly but steadily polished into diamonds. The success of each kid is in the hands of the parents. It's unfortunate to be born to less accomplished parents. Just imagine! Vishnu could have been Nikhil, had he been born to us.
Latha is an amazing mother. She's a hands-on mother, always involved with our child. She has the perfect time-table for him. She handles his studies, homework, recreation, socializing, playtime, diet, everything. From the day she learnt that she was pregnant, she read numerous books on a healthy pregnancy, about nurturing a healthy baby, about child care, about every topic there is. We didn't have much help in the initial years because of how negative our families were being to us. But our son was perfectly looked after, thanks to his capable mother. Soon after Nikhil's first birthday, I had to leave for Jubail, and I had to leave alone. The plan was for Latha and Nikhil to join me within six months. Well, that got extended to close to a year but it wasn't too bad since he didn't have to start going to school or anything while we were separated. I found a small apartment which would be perfect for the three of us and saved up enough to book the most comfortable flights for my wife and son to join me. It would be her first time flying, and flying with a baby all alone was terrifying for her. Every time we spoke on the phone, she would ask me if I could somehow come down to Kerala and accompany them. I wish I could but that seemed impossible with renting out the new apartment and everything. I couldn't afford to pay for two extra tickets so it had to be this way. Long story short, things weren't as bad as they could have been. The only trauma my wife truly faced was at the hands of her own family that, truth be told, weren't too impressed with the idea of us taking one step closer to doing well in life.
"Our biggest weapon started to become our generosity."
During the ten months that she had to spend at her brother's house while I was trying to figure things out in a foreign country were pretty depressing for the both of us. Latha got a first hand experience of step-motherly treatment at the hands of her own mother who went to the extent of treating her son's son Vishnu like a prince and completely ignoring our baby boy. Since she could never elaborate during our weekly phone calls, she'd write long letters to me and each of them consistently broke my heart. In that house, it was always Vishnu this and Vishnu that. Vishnu was considered to be cuter than our baby. It was always news when Vishnu began to walk or cry or smile or laugh. There were always new clothes and feeding bottles and diapers and bibs for Vishnu. Latha had to make do with hand-me-downs and sympathy purchases. After six months of staying with them, her brother and his wife never let go of a single jab at how she was overstaying her welcome. There were also jabs about how not everyone makes it big in the Gulf, of course. She was desperate to come to me. And the minute I had it all ready, I booked their tickets. Her escape from her home was a lot like my escape from mine, five years ago. We decided to leave everyone behind and never look back. For two whole years, there were occasional phone calls but we never went back. We finally visited them after two years and by then, their attitudes were beginning to change. Our biggest weapon started to become our generosity. We would always bring them presents and gifts. Things they could never afford. Things they'd never laid eyes on before. Soon, we began to conjure up tales about this mystic land that we lived in, with it's endless comforts and luxury. A lot of it is exaggerated, of course, because to be honest, Jubail is not all bliss. We do feel slightly suffocated with all the rules and everything. It's surely a much better place for Muslims but our social life is restricted to our Malayali community and we can't catch an occasional movie or anything anymore. But the luxury of the life we lead right now is something we couldn't have even imagined to have if we were still in Kerala. Slowly but surely, we gained respect and everybody wanted to be friends with us. My parents, of course, fed me tales about their difficulties but I was generous with them. I always gave them money whenever they asked. But I made sure they actually asked and not just implied it.
I try to be a friend to my son. I want him to grow up knowing that I'm always there for him and that I'm not just the person who grants his every material wish and tutors him in science and math. So I make sure to spend some quality time with him as often as I can. But Latha has a slightly more different approach. It's surely because she's an amazing mother but in some ways, she terrifies the kid. I wholeheartedly appreciate the discipline in his life. The way there's a time-table and routine for everything. But she could have tried to avoid going by the rules of the book every single day of his life. She read in the book that children need a room of their own at an early age and must be made to sleep alone. Hence, Nikhil was made to sleep alone in his room at the age of two. But it breaks my heart when he tries to climb into our bed sometimes and she makes him go away. Even when it comes to his lessons at school, she's a little too strict. She makes sure that he completes his homework every single day and she teaches him his lessons systematically. He is forced to nap every afternoon after school and there's no two ways about it. Sometimes the child is restless and doesn't want to take a nap. That should be fine but Latha wouldn't hear of it. Sometimes, he's in a playful mood and doesn't want to study at his allotted time. But that usually ends with him crying after getting a beating from his mother. I don't intervene only because I know that it's all for his own good. I may be the less terrifying of the two but he needs that kind of balance in his life. And I'm sure this is the best approach anyway. One strict parent and one fun parent. But both doting parents. Latha does play with him and watch the television with him. He can't last a day without his mother. And I know how much she loves that boy. I see great things in store for him. We wouldn't have it otherwise. And that's the kind of nurture that Vishnu lacks.
This past year has been excessively busy and tiring for me. And that began to take a toll on our family life. The balance as you'd call it was being affected. My job is hectic and after my promotion this year, I have had to work longer hours. Which meant that I'd leave home earlier than usual and return late. Outings and family meals together became fewer by the day and most of all, I began to miss out on two of my most favorite things to do. I couldn't spend a lot of father-son time with Nikhil anymore and I also couldn't stay up way into the night just talking to my wife. The lack of communication caused problems in our marriage. Not having me around and constantly being with his mother and her strict rules started to make things difficult for Nikhil. And the stress from work put me in a constant bad mood. I would sometimes walk into the house in a strange mood that would put Latha in a bad mood and it was always like a chain reaction. That's why we planned this extensive holiday this year. I decided to take them all back to Kerala, have a relaxing time with good food and just spend a lot of time appreciating nature. It was also particularly exciting for us because we stumbled upon an opportunity to own an apartment in Cochin. This would mean that we wouldn't have to stay with either of our families while we came down to Kerala during the holidays.
Towards the last week of our holiday, we'll be testing the waters and having a look at a few options for our holiday home in Kerala. And if all goes well, we could actually save up enough and seal the deal within a year. Cheers to new beginnings, growth and prosperity!
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You might also be interested in Part 1 of this collection.