Looking wistfully out of the window at the floating clouds gathering in the blue sky, the Whatsapp ping brought me back gently to the room. Just as I cajoled my nine year old's wandering mind back to her Hindi matras and it's quirky grammar. The joke that was doing the rounds, was for all the mothers whose children were taking the exams for the year. Especially the ones, who were appearing for the first time.
The after effects of exams on a mother.
A woman goes into a restaurant and for the life of her cannot remember the word 'menu'.
So, she calls the waiter and tells him
"Please get me the syllabus of this place..."
I had decided earlier on that I would not lose my 'cool' mother status to the frets of an over zealous one. I thought it was made amply clear to both my school going girls that their studies was their responsibility and not mine. That I would not be the one to pounce on their notebooks the moment they arrived from school to check for incomplete and unchecked work. If they were stuck in their understanding of the concepts, they would be helped but not to complete their homework and other such things. That the number of hours they studied and when they studied, was their business. If they brought in less grades it was theirs to face and if they brought in good ones, they would take the credit.
Having drummed my Commandments into their heads on numerous occasions, I thought I was relatively free from the travails assailing other proxy- student - mothers. I had no intentions of waking up at ungodly hours so they could benefit from the 'freshness' of the divine hour. Nor was the the idea of revisiting the mensuration, algebraic expressions, the golgi bodies in a terrific combo with the Northern Plains, photosynthesis and four digit multiplication, a particularly alluring situation. That lasted till the exam schedule arrived. Curling up with a novel, my ears strained for the sounds of two reading voices. And if one of them stopped, the third one would pitch in shrilly
"What are you doing there? Are you finished with the lesson?"
"No, I went to the washroom."
"You seem to be doing that a lot more ever since that schedule arrived..."
"Arey! What can I do if it comes?"
Glare. Glares back. Glare again till she slinks back into the study hole.
Now I plonk myself in their room. With the novel whose protagonist is facing a dire situation compounded by a bleak past. The pages of which I am reading repeatedly. From the corner of my eye, I can see them escaping into their imaginary world, conversing and smiling at imaginary characters. I let them for a while. And then, they are brought back.
"Are you done? Can I take a test now?"
The exams are on. I catch myself looking out of the window more often now. There is a request to wake them up at 4.30 in the morning for a particular exam. So I set the alarm for 4.15 knowing that there would be pleas for 'two minutes more', 'five minutes more'... So dutifully I get up even before the alarm goes off and coax them out of their slumber. They refuse point blank.
"I thought you had to study!"
"No, I want to sleep now..." she slurred and went back to snoring.
And I walked around the silent house, wide awake, having lost the ability to sleep anytime anywhere with age. The next time the request came in, I gave her the alarm and a piece of my mind with a rejoinder
"Do not wake me up!"
Why is sleep such a precious commodity especially when the exams are on? I drifted back to my own days when I was caught napping having slid down from a sitting position with a book on my chest. Thank God for the book! My father peeped into the silent room.
"So, you are sleeping, eh?"
Without losing a second from my light sleep and with my eyes still closed, I replied to the distant voice,
"No, I am thinking..."
Taken in by the instant reply without turning a hair (that had even me flummoxed), I was spared from a dressing down. The next time he found me in the same position, he posed,
"So, you thinking again?"
"No. I am sleeping now..."
This was also around the time when I discovered that I had this ability to sleep with my eyes open. This was also the time when the tufts of clouds bewitched me with their tantalising ever changing shapes, freely floating in the blue sky.
How enigmatic and sweet that elusive sleep was! Especially during the winters when the warm quilt seduced with the promise of a snug siesta as the gentle afternoon sun streamed in through the window. And those bobbing leaves and the drifting clouds ( yes, those damn clouds again!) lulled one into drowsiness. I could almost write an ode to it!
"What's there to eat now, Ma? I am hungry."
And with that I come back to balancing the chemical equations wondering from where those extra molecules appeared on the other side.
"You just had breakfast an hour back!"
"So, I am hungry now. And don't give me those oats!"
From the equations, I go to the kitchen to rummage through the shelves trying to remember hard if I could rustle up something that would not take more than ten minutes. Lesser, if I could help it. That's another added hassle during exams. Dishing out something 'nice' to eat every one hour that would appeal to the two different sets of taste buds.
So, here we are. The three of us looking at the red circled 'last exam date' on the calender, striking off the ones we are done with, with a vengeance. Till then two pairs of eyes look out longingly through the window. And without their knowledge a third pair looks out over their heads, at those drifting clouds across the blue sky...