“No school today Daddy! It is Sunday,” she would reply promptly. “It was Sunday yesterday dear, today is Monday,” I would say and point to the calendar we have hung up in front of her bed just in order to remind her of the day of the week every morning. She would then look at me beseechingly and give me that lovely smile of hers and say, “Just five more minutes Daddy! Please !” Her smile would melt my heart and I would reluctantly allow her to sleep for some more time.
My wife would then call me from the kitchen, “Come and get your coffee dear.” I would then pick up my cup of coffee from the kitchen and make my way to the dining table. In between sips, I would rapidly scan through the Hindu. Usually, there would be some item or the other in the paper to shock me to the core. This habit of newspapers to stuff their pages with everything horrendous that is happening around us for increasing their readership and omitting everything that is decent and good has made me fall into the habit of collecting cuttings of any rare articles or news stories they print which are heartwarming. I would put a tick mark on all the items that are of this nature so that I can cut them out in the evening to add to my collection. Of course, nowadays you can find all news, good or bad on the internet. But I belong to the old school and I still can’t kick the habit of collecting newspaper cuttings.
In the meanwhile, my wife who is not so easily moved by my daughter’s sweet smiles would have managed to get her out of bed. I would then wait for her to take bath, wear her uniform and have her breakfast. When she was a very young child in pigtails I used to bathe her, dress her up and get her ready for school. Those mornings used to be really hectic. During those days there were times when I used to wish that she would grow up fast and learn to do all these things by herself. Now that she has grown up into a self-sufficient twelve-year-old, I find myself missing those mornings when I had to get her ready for school.
My daughter would finally finish her breakfast and be ready for school by 7.30 AM. My apartment building overlooks a highway and every morning I am faced with the horrendous task of crossing this highway with my daughter to reach the bus stop where my daughter’s school bus picks her up. It takes a full five minutes to cross the highway and finally after seeing my daughter off on the school bus I would make my way back to my eighth-floor apartment.
I would then wait till 8.15 AM, take a bath and follow it up with a light breakfast of oats and barley pudding. We call it kanji in Tamil. In the last few years, I have been having some health issues and have had to follow a rather strict regime in the diet. For quite some time in my career, I was working a very tight and long schedule. But at one point I found I was totally losing my perspective on life and switched over to light work. I am happy to say that I have a strict eight-hour work schedule. Fortunately, I do not have too many commitments in life and am in a position to take up light work at fifty-two. I know those of you who are IT professionals and are reading this would probably go green with envy and exclaim, “Wow! What a lucky guy! Calls himself an IT professional and says he works nine to five.”
To all such people, I have only this to say. I assure you I have also spent the major part of my career slogging for twelve to fourteen hours a day. But I am fifty-two now and a twelve-hour work schedule is definitely not up my street. My wife will not allow me to drive a car. So I travel to the office which is just four kilometers away by auto rickshaw. Well, actually I can easily walk and in winter months I do. But in the scorching summer months, I usually take an auto. Well, what should I say about the office? Ours is an Australian multi-national and my work also does not involve anything that is high pressure.
Of course, there is some nominal work pressure. There are deadlines to be met and things have to go according to schedule. But fortunately my company believes in allowing the employees to maintain a good work-life balance and we are a very happy lot. Lunchtime is 1 PM and my wife usually packs me a solid and sumptuous lunch of vegetables and rotis. I strictly avoid rice in the afternoon as a heavy meal of rice for lunch on a weekday usually induces sleepiness. So it is roti and sabji for me in the afternoon.
Well, I return from office usually by 5.45 PM and in the evenings I walk back home. The sun would have set or would just be setting and it is a pleasure walking in the cool breeze. After reaching home I would have a cup of coffee and some light snacks. I would then spend some time playing the keyboard which I am learning now. I am a keen music buff and have always wanted to learn musical instruments but somehow it never happened when I was young. My daughter would practice the violin which she has been learning since her first grade. She is a very competent little violinist by now. She can play the movie Titanic’s theme song, songs from some of the musical dramas like the sound of music and several other songs. If it is a Thursday the music teacher who teaches me the keyboard and my daughter violin would be waiting for me and I would spend a pleasant hour learning new lessons on the keyboard.
By seven it would be time to sit with my daughter to look into her homework and the lessons she had been taught that day. As far as teaching my daughter is concerned, my wife and I have split her school subjects into two groups. My wife takes care of Mathematics, Hindi, and French while I attend to English, Social Sciences and General Science. Of course, we don’t put too much pressure on our daughter and insist that she work on all the subjects on all days. Generally, we teach her our respective subjects depending on the requirements of her school timetable for the next day. This ensures that on days when it is my turn to teach I spend a very pleasant one and a half hours teaching my daughter English and Science which are the subjects she likes the most. She dislikes Mathematics intensely. I am hoping she would pick up some love for Mathematics as she goes to higher grades.
We have dinner sharp at 8.30 PM. And since I avoid eating rice in the afternoon and am so fond of it, my wife usually makes sure that I get to eat some rice at dinner time. My wife also makes sure that there is a plate of cut fruits on the table at dinner time. After dinner, I watch the television for some time and then at 9.30 PM I put my daughter to sleep. Of course, I don’t read to her or anything as she has grown out of that habit long time back. But I sit by her bedside and discuss what she had been doing in school that day and several other things for ten minutes. Once I tried to get out of this duty. I pointed out to her that she has to grow out of this habit of me putting her to sleep every night as she was growing too old for it and anyway I can’t be doing this forever. When I said this she smiled and replied to me, “Daddy, even if you are a doddering old man walking with the aid of a walking stick I will not allow you to sleep till you have put me to sleep!” Well, what to say of kids. They say the cutest things sometimes.
Then by around 10 PM, I pick up the newspaper and carefully snip out the heartwarming news items I had marked in the morning. After that, I usually sit and do some writing on my blog, take my medicines and slip into bed. This is my usual schedule on a weekday but Saturdays and Sundays are a different story altogether. That is when I get to spend some real quality time with my family but that is a topic for another post.
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