My parents weren't exceptional in parenting. There, I said it. And I don't think it is a crime to say it aloud. They didn't have too much parental experience in my early years, so I suppose it was justified. I can remember a variety of events in my childhood where I think they could have done a better job. Despite all of that, here I am.. a model daughter and citizen, hmmph!
In hindsight, I especially found their modes of rewarding my good behaviour very funny. When I scored 95% in the 7th board (!!) exams, my parents decided it was a big enough occasion to take my cousin, my sister and me to watch Titanic at Urvashi theatre. And for some reason, we got to watch the full blown adult version. Watching Kate Winslet lie naked for a portrait before they made steamy, hand-printy love in a car wasn't by itself a bad experience. But watching that sitting between my parents in a dark movie hall was torturous for the 11-year old in me. My dad's head was down, trying to dig out the best looking popcorn, while my mom was just staring at the screen, shaking her head in disapproval. I shrunk in my seat, cringing, hoping that we wouldn't talk about this after the movie.
And we didn't. But the ensuing discussion on the ride back home was so artificial and pointless, it was worse. It was more than evident to us kids that the grown-ups were making every effort to ignore the elephant in the back seat. It ended with all of us agreeing that English movies were bad in general and definitely not worth watching at a cinema hall. Why don't we just wait for Star Movies next Christmas? Aargh! I made up my mind never to inform my folks of any academic achievements henceforth.
I did however tell them about a certain literary award I got when I was 12 or 13. This was when Pizza Corner and Pizza Hut were taking over sub-metros like Bangalore and I so wanted to have a pizza! While it seemed that my friends and their families had long accepted this culinary delight as a thing of their own, my family were slightly less enthused. I insisted that my creative writing skills deserved a pizza dinner for the family and they grudgingly agreed. Off we went - my parents, my sister, an aunt and an uncle with me of course - to get some pizza. On the way to Pizza Corner (which was more popular than Pizza Hut then) we passed by a few famous South Indian restaurants and my parents tempted me, but I remained resolute. I wanted Pizza.
The six of us were seated at a fairly large table at the centre of the place and given menus. I couldn't decide what I wanted, there was so much choice even for veggies! My aunt and uncle were the first to put their menus down. As strict vegetarians they wouldn't dare eat at a place that also served pork. My 18-year old sister gave up next and declared that there was nothing non-fatty available. And my parents gave up soon after, claiming that they couldn't find anything appetizing, but I should feel free to go ahead and order what I wanted. It was my treat after all! I could sense disgust, indifference and sympathy from the others on the table. But I wanted my pizza.
I still remember the confusion on the waiter's face when the six of us asked for 6 glasses of water and one small pizza. "What else? Anything else?", he asked. "Are you sure?", he confirmed. I had sunk below the table by then. And then it arrived, my first pizza ever! I ate in silence, regretting ever wanting it, as I felt every other diner looking at my table. I despised the rich kids, their cool parents and their pizza eating habits. And I wanted some coke, but I was too embarrassed to ask for it. This charade went on till I gulped the last piece of onion and washed it down with tepid water. We paid our bill and left. Quite a parade it was.
We crossed the road to the South Indian place everyone else wanted to go to originally. We got the table with a window view on the first floor. I refused to talk to any of them, but just sulked at the window looking down at the pizza place. I don't know what my parents had against pizza, maybe they thought it was too expensive. But still, that was no way of rewarding me, I thought. At the core of it all, I realised I had wanted a family dinner, having something new that I had discovered, while being at the centre of attention. Instead, I had my backs turned while the rest of them were eating the usual idli-vada-dosa cheerfully.
I didn't have pizza for a while after that, not by choice. I remember my next time was with friends, when I had earned my own money. And that, felt good.
I wonder what sort of mistake I will make when I am in that position. But that stage of my life is years away.