By Shevlin Sebastian
Photo: Characters in the story. Photo by Mithun Vinod.
A few days ago, while I was walking with my 12-year-old son, Subin, he told me, “Baba, from the back, your head looks like the top of a cashew nut with bits of hair on the sides.”
“Should I wear a wig,” I said.
“No, it's fine,” he said.
This talented boy always has an interesting take on the world. And a big heart. One of my unforgettable memories of Subin was when his mother was unwell and was lying in bed. And she wanted to eat something.
Subin, who was in Class 4, went to the kitchen, broke an egg, pored the yolk into a bowl, added salt, and stirred it. Then he pulled up a chair, lit the gas stove, placed a pan, and made an omelette, which he gave to his mother.
And so, sometime ago, when his First Holy Communion ceremony was going to take place, I wracked my brain on what unique gift to give to him.
And then the idea struck me: why not write an article about my son. After all, as a journalist, I write about all sorts of interesting people, from Edmund Hilary at a hotel in Darjeeling to a beggar outside St Mahim's church, Mumbai, who, astonishingly, turned out to be a Malayali.
So here is the gift of thoughts and reflections:
“When Subin was small he would look at the sweets placed in a glass bottle on our dining room table [at Kochi],” says Rani Vadakel, Subin's grand aunt. “He would never take it without getting permission. To get it, Subin would knock on the table, and get our attention. When we give it, he would take not only for himself but for [his sister] Sneha also.”
Classmate Aaron Joseph Pramod says that Subin is a good boy. “He reads a lot,” says Pramod. “Among our friends, Subin is the smallest. Sony, who is taller than Subin, carries him around. Subin does not like it much and says, ‘Put me down’. When the class teacher is there, he is very quiet. But when we have a free period, he talks a lot.”
Says Molly Isaac, maternal grandmother: “Sometimes, Subin will ask me whether I miss my husband [who died in 2003]. Compared to other children, he has the ability to understand people far better than most. This is a gift from God. If I tell him I am going to the shop, he will immediately say, 'Grandma, don't go alone. I will come’.”
To cousin Aneesha Jose, Subin is an extremely fun-loving and jovial person who knows how to tickle the funny bone of even the most serious person. “He has the greatest dance moves and can remember the lyrics of a hundred songs,” says Aneesha. “He can lighten the mood in any situation. Everyone loves being around him. Even though his size may be small, he has the biggest heart.”
As for Subin’s mother, Sini, she remembers getting a letter one day from Subin.
On the cover, it was written, 'A Sorry and a Thank You note'.
Inside, Subin wrote:
1) For ironing our clothes
2) For washing the dishes
3) For praying for us
4) For sweeping the house
5) Loving and taking care of us
Not helping you
Not doing things on time
This exercise was an eye-opener. At the end of it, I realised that, like all parents, I hardly knew my son, even though he is living right next to me. So, what is the possibility that I will know anything when Subin grows up and moves away?
And this also proved, once again, that the immortal words of Kahlil Gibran in 'The Prophet' are absolutely true:
‘Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.’
(Published as a middle in The New Indian Express, South India editions)