I’ve just put Ishaan to bed, softly walked out of the room, and switched on my laptop to check out Nigella Lawson’s new cookbook (I can’t cook to save my life, but I just adore cooking shows and cook books).
It’s 8pm. It’s quiet. The Pog & her father are out at the neighbourhood supermarket. That normally takes a while.
And so, I have some ‘Me’ time at last.
I’m soon lost in the world of marmite pastas, bitter orange cakes and fried mars bars (yum!), when I hear him. He’s crying of course. Sobbing loudly actually – loud enough for me to hear.
I trudge upstairs and walk into his dark room (the soft light from the staircase shines through his open door) and find him clutching onto the big, soft pillow, making loud gulping sounds.
‘Ishaan! Why are you crying?’
I’m instantly annoyed. It’s 8.30, we have to rise and shine at 6am tomorrow. I can feel my blood pressure rising.
Then, when I reach out to pat his head, something in me melts.
‘What’s the problem, Baba?’ I ask. ‘Why are you crying?’
‘I can’t tell you Mama.’
Then he tells me anyway.
‘Who will look after me if you die?’
I want to laugh. I don’t, of course.
‘Dada, Mummy (my mother-in-law), Grandma, your Khala’s (aunts). And anyway, nothing’s going to happen to me. God is going to keep me nice and safe so that I can look after you and see you grow up into a big boy.’
I feel a pang for my own mortality. I don’t want to die. Please God!
‘But how will I open the door if you die?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘If you die now, then how will I open the main door?’
‘Oh. Well, I won’t die now. And if I do, Amruta (my live-in) will open the door for you.’
‘But what if she also dies?’
‘Then you can make a call and someone will let you out.’
‘But I only know your number.’
‘She won’t die! And anyway, Dada’s at home as well,’ I lie, giving up.
He begins to feel better. We hug and kiss – and I send Amruta up to sit beside him for a few minutes.
I come down, feeling much better myself. He’s worried about getting himself out of the house, that’s all.No wicked stepmothers, no growing-up-without-mama fears.
I can deal with that. I think.