The Goalie. (A Short Story)

Fahad placed the flag between his science and maths text books and sat on it. If it remained folded it would tear soon, and they had just a few of these left. He smiled at the thought of how annoyed his science teacher would be to see his book being used as a butt-rest.


Fadi, his 6-year-old brother, sat down beside him. “Will you let me play tomorrow at least,” he whined.


“Yes, yes. You are on guard now. That’s how you train to be a goalie.”


Fadi was not convinced, but repeated the colours aloud. He can’t afford to make a mistake. He almost did this morning. “Black and Red. Green and Black. Black and Red. Green and Black.”


They heard a distant thud, and ducked under the bed.


“Switch off the lights and go to sleep,” mami called from the kitchen.


Next morning, the brothers hurried through a breakfast of dry bread and red tea, and ran out of home. They kept close to the compound walls, as they walked to the open ground near the school, where they were to meet their friends.


Twelve boys and one girl–Yousuf’s little sister, Amna.


The older boys huddle around Fadi and Amna. Fahad and two other boys remove pieces of paper tucked into their belts, under theirs shirts.


The oldest of the group, 12-year-old Ahmed whispers. “You remember? Don’t mix it up. And smile.”

Everyone deferred to Ahmed, he was the owner of the ball.


“If I guard well, tomorrow I will play with them,” Fadi boasted to Amna. She couldn’t care less. She just wanted to get out of home, and escape her grandmother’s wailing.


The two are lost in a game of stones and sticks they’ve deviced. They hear a rumble and a shadow falls over them. Amna, quicker of the two, pulls out the black and red flag and waves it at the men. She is not afraid of them. She is not afraid of much, except boredom.


The boys pause play, and wait for the men to move out of the ground.


As soon as the men were out of sight, they start kicking again. Today was a fairly peaceful day. Yesterday, there were so many interruptions, and Fadi almost messed up.


After nearly an hour, a different set of men patrol the area.


“I know which one, let me do it please,” Fadi begged.


With a sigh, Amna stepped aside. Fadi carefully took out the green and black one and waved it. He got it right, and tomorrow he will be with the boys, and Amna can play with her silly sticks, he thought to himself.


The distant thuds were drawing closer… it was time to run back home. As they secreted the flags and ran in different directions, to different hoods. Ahmed shouted out after the scattered group, “Same time tomorrow.”


Fadi ran behind Fahad and grabbed his hand. “Can I play with you then?”



PS: Story seed courtesy, RGM (the mudhir).


Talking sex with a 10-year-old

A few weeks ago, O my 10-year-old firstborn and I spoke about sex. She was reading Mayil Will Not Be Quiet, a fantastic book co-authored by this writer.

Though she enjoyed the book, she stopped midway and said she didn’t think it was ‘right for her age’. She said it spoke about periods (which she is already aware of) and ‘other things’. Because I enjoy GB’s blog a lot, I assumed that there would not be anything amiss, and asked O to continue reading the book. After which I read it, cover to cover, in one go.

Later I asked O what bothered her about the book and she said the kids talk about ‘bad stuff’ like ‘sex’ (which was whispered).

Apparently, her classmates talk about ‘sex’, and little miss in a self-righteous fashion told her friends it was ‘wrong’ and that she would not talk to them.

Now there were so many issues to tackle here. First, her concept that sex was a bad thing. Then, that those who spoke of it were bad. R and I are not judgmental, and fight very hard not to have ‘labeling’ conversations at home in front of the kids, which includes moral and immoral points of view, race, religion etc.

Yet, she would ask me if it was ‘wrong’ to wear a strapless dress, because she likes it and wants one.

R would prefer it if she were in a spacesuit, but doesn’t push it too much. I on the other hand am the opposite extreme and don’t want her to feel she cannot wear certain clothes or dress in a certain manner because ‘it’s wrong’.

So for the strapless issue, I told her she was too young to actually manage it, as it might be an uncomfortable dress to run and jump and fool around in with her friends, and suggested that we put a tiny strap on. When she feels she is going to spend a whole evening walking around daintily, we’ll get her a nice strapless dress.

I grew up with father who kept telling us what was acceptable clothing for a woman and what wasn’t (no-no to sleeveless and short clothes), not that we took his dos and don’ts seriously. There is another story to that, but that’s for later.

I digress. Back to O and Mayil and Sex. I told her sex wasn’t a bad thing, but it shouldn’t be her concern at this age. That she should always weigh what’s important and what’s not, what she should focus on at a point of time in life, and what she shouldn’t. That sex means a lot of responsibility too, which she is too young now for me to explain in detail. (I already told you I’m a gawky parent).

Am not sure if I could have used a different script effectively.

Anyways, more importantly, I had to tell her that just because someone talks about something she is not comfortable listening to, or she feels is not right, doesn’t make that person ‘bad’ and she shouldn’t be quick to judge. Unless of course it’s someone who is being abusive or violent. Then raise hell and damn the person.

Though she did tell me I was as cool a mum as Mayil’s, and gave me a patient hearing, I don’t think she is convinced. Just as she is not convinced it’s ok for men to marry men and women to marry women, even if her mum says so.

You see, at the moment what her friends and teachers think seem more important to her than what I have to say. I can only hope that in due time my words will have some clout in that young impressionable heart and mind of hers.

Here is why I feel we shouldn’t at any stage tell our kids sex is bad. Because regardless of our opinion on the subject, they will have sex, and trends show, at a much earlier age than their parents.

If it’s in their head that it’s bad thing to do (who came up with that nonsense I wonder), they will not speak about it, and do it ‘in shame’ (gotta be Indian to understand this). Which means they will not be empowered enough to protect themselves physically or emotionally, and in all likelihood are going to confuse sexual gratification with actual relationships. Which means they might pile up regrets.

No, I am not spitting out ‘modern mum’ gyan. I am speaking from my experiences and that of my closest friends.

The more tyrannically strict the parent was, the more dangerous the child’s habits.

I am glad that this book gave me an opportunity to start this conversation with O.

I highly recommend this book for both adults and children.

Here is another reason why:

Mayil’s mum tells her that not everyone is beautiful, some people are really ugly. But each one decides how beautiful they want to be.

I absolutely loved that thought. Be beautiful people.