As a kid, I would pick my favourite Hot Wheels car from the glass case. That glass case, brightened by varnish, was a luxury to have in those days. But it was ironic for a family with limited resources to have that luxury. The polished sides provided a contrast to my otherwise mundane life. I would take the car very delicately so as to make minimum sound, for I dreaded the wrath of my mother who feared any sound that could break her sleep. Hers was a tedious schedule; working 15 hours a day at a call-center so that the extra income she got for working at night could make up for the absence of my father, who had left us when I was born. With all my dexterity, I’d try to ease the car out of the case and close the case. Many a times, my attempts of surreptitiously getting the car would fail. At times like these, my brother acted as a saviour, saving me from Maa’s anger. He’d come between her and me with immaculate timing so that the buckle of the belt never reached my tender skin.
My brother was always curious regarding my obsession with this car but never tried to intrude in our privacy once it was with me. He’d just stand there, watching me do the deed.
I’d lie down on the floor sideways, with the support of my left elbow, just like Lord Vishnu, my favourite mythological character. Spreading my right arm wide, I’d then move the car along a semi-circular path, with the radius being the length of my arm. Like an oscillating pendulum, the car would move. To-and-fro. To-and-fro. To-and-fro. As the hypnosis would start taking over, my mind would begin to ramble in the surreal. Staring at the puny tyres of the car, I’d think about the very existence of every nut & bolt that held it together.
Hours would pass, but I’d never stop. Thinking about life and the hardships Lord Vishnu had endowed me with, I’d speed up the movement of the car. My mind would drift away into fiction.
Fiction here, meant my father; someone I hadn’t seen before.
I’d wonder what he looked like, but never bother Maa about it as Bhai had told me that he was a very big mistake of Maa’s life, and we shouldn’t talk about him.
‘But mistakes can be erased with an eraser, no?’ I’d ask myself.
Based on the little idea I had about my father’s personality, due to the endless talks Maa and Naani would have about him, I’d wonder what kind of person my father was. I didn’t know the meaning of those words, but since he was a mistake, I presumed those were the traits I shouldn’t have in me. So I decided that I’d never be an infidel, stoner, and wife-beater.
I’d picture my future, working as an engineer with a huge house and lots of money. I didn’t know who an engineer was, or what he did, but Maa had told me to become one. Well, since Maa had said so, it had to be right.
I’d think about Digimon, and if I could have one and hope that Tai got Sora at the end of the season. I’d wonder about all the minute details of the things around me.
As my hand’s energy would start to drain, I’d slow down a little bit, only to find myself slowly drifting into sleep.
‘Another world of dreams awaits,’ I’d tell myself.
So when my cousin, aware of my childhood habits, gifted me a similar Hot Wheels car on my 28th birthday, I went deep into nostalgia.
I never became an engineer. Instead, I found the path where my passion lay, studied philosophy, and got the job of a critical analyst in one of the top companies of the country.
Now I was well aware of those words that my father had been credited with, and I knew exactly what I didn’t want to be. I didn’t want to be the man I despised. I didn’t want to be my father.
Through the course of adolescence, I had made sure I never got into any bad habits. On an additional note, Tai never got Sora at the end of Digimon.
My thoughts faded away as I looked at my wife and son. My son was playing in the living room, fiddling with his Hot Wheels. Unlike me, he made a loud sound of a whizzing car pretending to drive it. My wife looked adoringly at me, giving me a sense of contentment. After all, I had been a good father and an ideal husband.
I put the car in the glass case, with deep prowess, still making minimum sound.
‘I hope I didn’t disturb you, Maa,’ I said, looking at her picture that now resided in the same glass case.
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