Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Welcome the new leader of the house



Yesterday, in the morning, my ten-year old daughter was surprisingly engrossed in reading the front page of The Times of India. Surprising, because she normally reserves this kind of concentration for the front page of The Bombay Times. But before I could congratulate myself on her new found maturity and interest in current affairs, she got this look on her face that said Trouble. (When people say she has taken after her mother I only half-believe them. But when she gets this look I agree with them wholeheartedly.) Luckily, it was time for her to get to school so she couldn't translate the look into words.

Phew!

The sigh of relief lasted only until the evening. Once I was back from work the daughter sat me down:

“It’s time for a little chat,” she declared.

I sat down of course. As a much married man, I know it is futile to battle The Look. 

“When we go visiting our relatives who gets the maximum attention?” she asked.
“You,” I replied.
“And your friends?” she continued.
“They positively shower you with attention, affection, kisses and gifts,” I replied. As a much married etc. I have realized the power of flattery and am not miserly in its use.
“Even perfect strangers, you'll admit, have gone gaga over me since I was so small,” she said holding her tiny palm a few inches above the floor.
“Yes indeed,” I admitted. I remembered with a pang the hugs and kisses she has received from attractive young ladies who were strangers and perfect at that. If only…
“I have been around for over ten years now and I have spent all that time being an integral part of the family. In fact, you can say that I am the face of the family. If you turn up at a family function without me, the first thing they enquire about is me, right?”
“Right,” I said, and this time I wasn't even flattering her. 

(Yes, she did use the word, ‘integral’. She is a precocious young lady, my daughter. Not long ago I had told her exactly that: You are a precocius young lady. To which she had replied, “Is that what your generation calls a young girl who is cool?” I had slapped my forehead in response. She had commented that we should move out of the suburbs; there are too many mosquitoes here. Again, it had taken a lot to stop myself from slapping my forehead. And her.)

I wasn’t sure where this was going but I didn’t have a good feeling about it. (Read earlier references to The Look.) So I decided to conclude the conversation with some more flattery.


“Hey, you are the face of the family, the cool one and what's more, you are the future!” I said, sure that this would help me escape now. And she could go back to watching music videos unsuitable for her age. And mine.

“I am glad you brought the future up,” she said without blinking. “Now that you agree with all that and given that I have ten years' hands-on experience in the family, you should step down and make me the leader of the family.”

It took me a few minutes to respond and even then, all I could manage was, “Huh?”
In response she gave me sweet smile and said, “My eleventh birthday is a couple of months away. We could start the new arrangement from then!”
“Hey-hey-hey!” I exclaimed, “Whoa!” I was so taken aback that I was still incapable of coherent speech and all could manage was a string of exclamations. Finally I took a deep breath and let loose: 

“Do you know what it takes to run a family? Do you think you can get up every morning, battle peak hour traffic, get to work, fight office politics, handle deadline pressures, all kinds of stress so you can earn some money and then make it last for a month? Do you think you can handle MOM? Do you have ANY IDEA what it takes?”

“Chill dad, there is no need to scream,” she replied without batting an eyelid, “you are doing a great job earning the bread, paying my cell phone bills, mom's credit card bills and handling the stress. Mom’s awesome at handling the home stuff. You guys keep up the good work. All I am saying is leave the leadership thing to me. After all, we need a young attractive face to show the world that we are cool family!”

“And why the,” I swallowed an expletive here, “Why do you think that it's necessary? And what makes you think you are qualified?”
“Wait here,” she said with quiet authority and walked away. She returned after a few moments (moments I spent doing breathing exercises), with the newspaper. “Here,” she said pointing at a news item on the front page, “Read this.”

I read:

“I think it is time that Rahul can become the prime minister,” (Digvijay) Singh was quoted… adding, “Rahul is now 40 and he has been working for the party for the last seven to eight years.”

I finished and without bothering to look at her triumphant face, walked away and burnt the newspaper. No, I didn't do that. Instead I went and looked at the calendar: I have one month and twenty nine days before I hand over the charge to my daughter on her birthday. After all, she is better qualified.


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