“If you can guess what I have in my pocket, you can have it. But you must guess it before I reach home”, I heard my manager pamper her daughter with these promising words over the phone. It was her daughter’s tenth birthday and she had planned for a party in the evening. That meant a long day at work for me. My manager shared her work load with me and took off early for her more important chores. Obviously, I had to complete my set of tasks as well. After closing the urgent issues, I decided to call home to inform I will be late. It was evening seven when I finally called.
There was a lot happening at home. The clattering background sounded lively. I could hear the cereal grinder blitzing, the pressure cooker whistling, the washing machine droning and the television blaring. It must be one of the favourite cartoon shows that my son loved watching. My ears ached to hear my four year old son, but what came through was my mum yelling on the phone, “What is this, Meera? This entire week you haven’t been around for your little one. This is not how a family functions.” My numbed mind quickly retorted to myself, “…but this is how the corporate world functions!” I had mastered the art of searing my emotions when it came to office work. “…there is so much to do here, but, you only care for your office” rebuked mum. ‘Tomorrow is a big day for both of you. He’ll celebrate friendship day at his pre-school and it is your big day too. Hope you remember?” she continued. I smiled, content that someone remembered my birthday.
My mum was busier than me; yet at the end of the day she was happier. I earned almost ten times of what she made during her hey days and yet zilch of what she made of her personal life. She was always and still is around for me. How I wish I could switch hats with her. “If not for yourself, at least for your son balance your work and life. He has made something for you today. Now finish fast and head home soon”, said my mum sternly. That added some steam into my drained frame.
It was two in the morning when I finally sent the last email. My To Do list looked great with the Urgent and Important tasks all ticked off. I called for the cab before winding up my desk. I quickly messaged the status to my manager. Pat came her reply, ‘Cool! More work, let’s discuss tomorrow.’ I was too drained to think of work now. I just wanted to revel in the luxury of thinking about my son. Seated in the cab, I skimmed through the missed calls and messages. There were fifteen missed calls and one message from my mum. The message read, ‘Food’s in the fridge. Check his pocket before sleeping.’ I couldn’t hold back my smile. But what was it in his pocket? Could it be a friendship band, ring or posy? I wasn’t even able to guess. And how could I? I’ve never really paused or slowed my pace to be with him. Fear lurked that he will come to know me as some banking machine that is capable of only meeting his material needs. Ridden with guilt, I could not stop my tears.
On reaching home, I rushed to my son’s room. He was fast asleep. Sitting next to his tiny frame I gently ran my fingers through his silky hair. I gazed onto his innocent face and wondered what he thought of me. I wished to peer into his heart and his dreams. As I pulled the blanket over him, a folded piece of paper fell off his pocket. I picked it up and opened it to view one of the cutest drawings ever. It read, ‘Happy Birthday, Mumma!’ In the picture, he stood in the centre holding hands with my mum and myself on either side. While his grandma held a kite, there were balloons in mine. The colours had spread all over the paper, including my heart. There were no bands, rings or posies. Just a pocketful of pure joy and boundless too…my best birthday gift ever!
As I kissed my son’s forehead, I decided to celebrate a long birthday with my family! I messaged my manager about my plan to take the day off. I double checked to ensure switching off my phone before hitting bed.
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