Reema did not think she was capable of hurting the one person she loved the most in the world but Kartik had just crossed the limit of propriety over the weekend. He had no right to insult Sameer that way. Life had been harsh for her, what with her husband going off with another woman, the divorce battle and the demon of loneliness that hounded a single mother.
Sameer had been her friend long before she was married. But now it was turning out to be more than that, she needed a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry and someone to love. Sameer was all of that and more but Kartik did not want any man to take his father’s place. It was an understandable emotion for a ten-year old to feel but that did not give him the right to say what he did at the dinner. Sameer… when Sameer was only trying to help him with some problems at school.
“Just because you are fucking my Mother does not give you the right to become my Father,” was what Kartik had said. Reema did not even remember when she had picked her hand up and slapped him across the face. She had never done that in her life. Kartik had burst into tears, flung his plate away and walked off to his room. Reema had burst into sobs herself, the pain that she had kept back for so many years was just all coming out.
Sameer just sat there holding her and he fought his tears as well, not because he felt any kind of insult but… but because he felt pain of ten-year old and his Mother. It was just sad when happiness became like parachute between two people and someone had to let it go.
And now, this message from school! He had stopped doing his homework, grown his hair and stolen from the stationary supplies. The school was threatening to have him rusticated. Reema knew he was acting the rebel but there was no way that she would get him admission in another school. What was she going to do?
“Let me handle this, please?” Sameer asked her. “Handle what? Kartik hates you and even if we do get a reprieve from school he is not going to change his ways. He is going to be the rebel till you walk away from us.” Reema wiped her tears and sat down on the chair by the kitchen table. “You speak to the school and I speak to Kartik? He and I should both get a chance after all.” Sameer smiled enigmatically. “You are going to talk to Kartik? Good luck with that!” Reema seemed resigned to her fate. “Can you convince the school to give him one more chance?” Sameer asked again. Reema nodded, she could perhaps. “Good, let me handle this then.” Sameer said.
Sameer was waiting for Kartik in the school parking lot. Kartik looked away when he saw him. Sameer could see the resentment in his eyes. No little boy should have to go through what Kartik was going through.
“I have come here to help you in what you are trying to do.” Sameer spoke in a gentle voice to Kartik. “What do you mean? What am I trying to do?” Kartik asked, his little eyes perplexed, his forehead creased. “You hate the world. And you want to burn it down. Don’t you?”
Kartik did not respond. “You and I can sit on the bench under the tree for ten minutes. If you agree with me you could take a ride with me in my car and if you don’t I will leave you alone. What do you think about this deal?” Sameer moved a little closer to Kartik, his smile trying to engage Kartik.
Kartik thought for a moment and then agreed. They walked to the bench and sat on it a little far from each other. Kartik looked at the ground, his feet playing with a stone. “Everything is a club Kartik. You understand clubs?” Sameer asked him. Kartik shook his head. “When I mean club I don’t mean a resto-bar or a gymkhana kind of place. I mean an association of people. When you are little that club of people is handed to you but when you grow older you can decide on the club. You are put into a play school, which is a club and then into a school and later into a college. You may not like to be a part of these clubs but they have knowledge to impart, something that you will need to run this business of your life.” Kartik was beginning to listen to Sameer though he did not understand fully. “As you grow older there will be other clubs. These are very dangerous and they will affect your mental health. Let me tell you how they work. They will start a club by inviting a few people into that club and then restrict the invitation, so that you yearn to be a part of that club. Take for instance an award given every year to people for their excellent work in a field of art for example. They will advertise the award, they will make you yearn for it, they will make the award a recognition that you need to have or else life will be meaningless. Then you will strive to be a part of that club. You see it is simple. Start a club and then restrict the entry. There will be a club of luxury car owners, there will be a club of designer wear owners, there will be a club of diamond jewellery owners, there will be a club of the high society parties, there will be the club of big corporate guest lists. Everywhere you go there will be a club. They will make you yearn for it. Its nonsense! You understand so far?” Kartik nodded and moved closer to Sameer. Sameer smiled and continued, “Don’t get fooled by these clubs and do not let them decide how successful or meaningful your life is, you decide how meaningful the club is for you. If a club like a school is important to you, play the rules of that club. If not, let it go. Remember Kartik no one can insult you without your permission. Sometimes it just smart to give a club that permission, not because it’s great but because you need something from it.”
“So I should play by the rules of the school cause I need something from the school?” Kartik suddenly looked like a lost innocent boy and Sameer just wanted to hold him tight.
“Exactly! You could walk away but you would be the loser.”
Kartik thought for a moment and then he smiled, “Would you drop me home?” he asked Sameer. “It would be my pleasure.” Sameer said. “It is smart to be the part of a club that owns a car,” Kartik said slyly. Sameer laughed out loud, “You got the drift my friend.” he said.
From the school window Reema saw Sameer drive off with Kartik in the car. The principal had agreed to give Kartik one more chance and life had agreed to give her one more chance.