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October 2013, vol 9, no 3

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Johannes Manjrekar

A Good Boy

Had my father been a formal person, he would never have appeared in company in the shapeless blue shorts my mother so passionately hated. Even so, when his friends came over for tea, the conversation was more often than not formal and stilted. I don't know how I got into the habit of sitting through so many of these visits. Perhaps it started with the time a Nepali student was being discussed. "What's his background?" someone asked. "Mountains", I blurted out, and was hugely gratified by the adult laughter.

I was cured of this habit when an old colleague of my father came to visit us from Bombay. He proffered a chocolate bar as soon as the door was opened, as if this was something that needed to be gotten over with quickly. "For your son", he said to my mother, looking me over critically. "My, how tall he's become. And so quiet! Used to be such a little monkey, never still." He was seeing me after ten years.

I persisted in not swinging from the curtains, but at some point broke with quietness to venture an opinion on something. My father's friend began to talk about how westernised children had become these days, and how in his time no child would have dared to butt into adult conversations. "Well, times have changed", he concluded with a sigh.

I wanted my father to hit him, but all he did was reply "He's okay, you know".

moonless night –
the silence is deepest
around the cricket