It is an emotion to run from, that guilt mixed anger; it comeswelling up at the parent’s mention of worry. “Oh baby, where are you? The weather is packing up. Hope you are warm and cozy at home! Please don’t be wandering around at this unholy hour. Did you remember to charge your phone before leaving for the airport? Have you got a copy of your ticket? Where have you been, your phone was switched off, I was dying here with worry!” The media fed fear in the air had made dithering blubbers of Gurjeet and Ajrawar. They were driving their young daughter up the wall with their ever present and bilious concern. “I am alive here Mum, can’t you see? And I am keeping you informed, what is the panic about? Why is everyone forever rehearsing tragedy?” she was furiously impatient with their stalking and tracking on occasions.
Having raised their darling girl in the so called “Rape Capital” of India, the couple was on edge as a matter of course. Any call from an unfamiliar number on their mobiles was enough to set them off like a pack of firecrackers, “Has something happened? Is this a bystander calling them with some devastating news?” Primed for emergency responses and dreading the worst, their busy adrenaline had given them permanent goose bumps they were forever rubbing their hands down, over and over.
The family had survived many a battle royal on tense nights when Pia would be out flouting her curfew hour. It would begin with, “I am starting back in fifteen minutes,” and eventually dissolve into a countdown ending with, “I am crashing here for the night. Don’t wait up for me.” If only she had seen how the air went out of her parent’s rigid frames before they collapsed with fatigue into their cold beds. It was harrowing for them to stare at the front door for hours on end only to pretend nonchalance at her footsteps outside.
Perhaps it was only to stem the overzealous parental concern but Pia had gamely tucked a Pepper Spray can into her bag and dutifully carried a nunchuk below her driving seat in the car. “Never look into the eyes of other drivers on the road. Keep your windows rolled up at traffic junctions during the wee hours. Keep our numbers on speed dial. Text while setting out, will you? Avoid deserted roads and highways. Ask a male colleague to tag along after unusually long hours,” Pia had pretty much heard it all. “Mum, you think a guy’s mother is any less worried about her son!”
This parent child tug of war assumed new heights when Pia tookoff for the Big Apple to pursue her undergraduate studies. Her parents now exported their imagination to the digital maze. There was the social media, the digital banking and Whatsapp for remote assurance as to her wellbeing. But of course they did their weekly FaceTime, the disparate time zones notwithstanding. Imagine the rock in these happy waters one day when Ajrawar got an SMS alert on his Android phone. Pia had apparently swiped her TCDC card at a chemist’s for 4 USD. Chemist?! Oh good dear God!! He called up Gurjeet at work, “Could it be her eye that is bothering her? She had mentioned her wisdom tooth beginning to throb a bit! With the harsh winters coming on, one never knew with the central heating, her landlord was not accessible enough at times.”
Not one to wait for the other part of the world to wake up, Gurjeet typed out a message, “Pia darling, is all well?” Back came the cryptic response, “Why do you ask Mum?”
“Well, Papa got a bank alert for 4 $, shall I ask the Aunts to contact you for any medical follow up? Papa knows the Defence Attaché posted there?”
“What are you rambling about Mum?” there was the faintest growl.
“You swiped the card at the Chemist’s, right?” Gurjeet raised it a notch.
A nano pause and then a delighted cackle ballooned at Gurjeet from across the international ether, “Mum! Your default setting needs rebooting. It was at Medici, the café round the corner! I had a croissant on your dime parents. The week’s dose!”