"I hate running, I hate it!”, it was eight-thirty in the evening, he stormed into the house, dumped his backpack at the centre of the living room, and came running into my study.
“Ma, did you make something to eat? I am famished!”. His face was almost the colour of his favourite jersey. I knew it was bad, he was really angry with someone. Amit hated being told what to do. Be it me, his step mom; be it Raghu, his Dad, or worse, people he couldn't scream back at, like his football coach.
"What did he do today?”, I probed gently while serving him mashed potatoes. Had to be clinical here, one wrong word and he would visualise his coach, and then reward me with an earful. “He made me run, like a mad man! No, dog. Mad dog!”
“Aren’t you supposed to be running? I thought you played football”, Raghu walked in with his laptop and teased his only son. He loved messing with Amit. Both of us always wondered where he got his temper from. We were peaceful, gentle souls who never even said a curt word. Amit would go bonkers at the drop of a lid. He didn’t pick it up from somewhere— he was an angry baby, an angry kid and now he was growing into an angry young man, our own Amitabh Bachchan.
“Yeah whatever! If only he would let us play. I ran like ten rounds today”, he said, gobbling down a spoon.
“Ten rounds is…”, Raghu started, but I stared through his words, and he tapered off.
“He's very tired, Raghu do you need something to eat?”, I asked— get what you need and leave, if you want to live in peace, that is. I wanted some time alone with my son.
“Why is dad so annoying? He talks like this high school kid”
“Looks as handsome too doesn't he?” I teased.
“Mom you are hopeless!”
I had a good hearty laugh.
“The worst part is we have been doing the same thing over and over, every day. There is no difference, no change!”
“Life is all about change beta! It's bound to come your way. Don’t worry”
“I don't know about that, I just wish I didn't have to run like a dog”. He stood up and walked out, seething in anger.
I stood shaking in a quite, tube-lit corridor outside an orthopaedic ward, nine months away from this conversation. I was waiting for the specialist to come out. I knew what was coming my way, but I couldn’t lose my hope.
A white coat walked outside. His steps exasperated and his movements long. He came over and muttered the inevitable to me in a low grave voice. I found it anti-climatic. Amit wouldn't walk normally any more. A drunk bastard behind the wheels had made sure that my son would be a cripple for the rest of his life. The fact that he died in the process, was no consolation.
I walked inside; annoyed, angry and consumed by my own helplessness. He was staring out the window, awkwardly reminding me of an O Henry novel, except that there were no trees, he was staring into the lifeless cement blocks.
“I won't be able to run again”, he announced. There was no pain, just acceptance.
“You don't have to…”, there was a steely reserve in my voice, but there was no conviction.
“Things change Ma, I don't have to. But I want to.”
I walked out wiping my tears. Things had changed, but maybe not for the better.