My daughter these days says, “What should I do with my life, Dad?” after three years of being driven to college in silence because she didn’t want me to bug her about her post-grad choices, or career. Five years and an expensive education later, my son, too, is back home for interviews that will happen “when they happen, just chill, Dad”. Meanwhile, the house is full of youngsters who high-five us and pass off their time cadging free food and drinks however and wherever they can manage it. We’re never quite sure how many people “crash in the pad” or how many wake up, but I do know that several of them are out-of-towners because of the baggage we keep tripping over. My wife, who loves doing the laundry, has taken to protesting about having to wash clothes that, she says, could not possibly belong to members of our household. My grocery bill from the kirana shop that home-delivers is now so astronomical, I’ve taken to running a tab.
Not everyone is in the market for interviews, or a job, several of them having become, over the years, entrepreneurs. These are the ones who’re never off the phone and just a little bit condescending about those opting for professional careers. You can’t talk much with them since all the space in their brain seems taken with profits and credit extensions and bottomlines, and you should never make the mistake of saying you’re unhappy with your fridge-microwave-washing machine-toaster unless you’re looking for a replacement faster than you can write a cheque. They want you to switch cars-airlines-hotels-insurance-pension schemes because they’re about to show you the world with your blinkers off, only it’ll cost you a lot more than you were used to paying thus far.
One of them who lives, I’m told on good authority, in Chennai – so how come he’s always underfoot in New Delhi? – is a bulk supplier of T-shirts to firms of outstanding reputation in Australia, or America, I’m not quite sure, for which according to some complicated story he must get the yarn dyed in Ludhiana, that proving the reason for his confusion over whether to order idlis or bhaturas for breakfast. Whether of his doing, or because the unemployed freebooters have spotted an opportunity, what appears to be a container-load of Ts has been dumped in my apartment for the boys to earn themselves some pocket money — they’re supposed to retail at Rs 400 apiece, but I’m willing to do a deal for a quarter of that price provided you remove the bundles from the house right away to make way for, I’ve overheard, a truckload of duvets that’s even now on its way.
When our friends come visiting, I’m never quite sure which children to introduce as permanent members of the household — while mine seem to spend considerable time out partying or (oh, how I hope!) at some other parents’ home, there are several others who seem to have turned our apartment into a communal settlement with squatting rights. At one stage, I wouldn’t use a towel someone might have carelessly touched, now I simply don’t care. An infestation of kids on the cusp of adulthood has claimed my car keys, mobile phone and laptop — I’m writing this at a cyber-café, having come here by cycle-rickshaw. And last evening when I got back home and rang the bell – I remember having my own keys to the front door once – an unpleasant-looking kid opened the door, looked me up and down, and had the temerity to utter, “Yes?”