My wife went straight from a Mumbai party to the expressway where, when the cab she was in ran out of fuel she was able, with some help from a passing highway patrol car, to board a truck that took her to Pune so she could spend a day with our son. If my wife seemed keen not to waste any time getting to Pune, my son appeared reluctant to play host. “What’s she coming for?” he asked me not so much happily as warily, “Does she have work here?”
She didn’t — not work, that is. “We can go shopping,” she promised him, “I’ll take you out for dinner, let’s party.” Before a partying mom embarrassed him in front of his friends, our son earned himself a reprieve by cadging an invitation to his aunt’s for the two of them where they would not only dine but also sleep over. “Phew!” he said to me over the phone, “that was close.”
I was a little perplexed: Did we crimp his style? We weren’t oddballs, at least we didn’t think so, so did he have a girlfriend he was hiding somewhere? Might there be things in his apartment he didn’t want his mother to nag him over? What was it that was causing him so much concern?
Finally it all came out: Other kids had parents who also visited, took them out for a meal, cooked in their apartments, cleaned up, bought them groceries, and went away in a trail of discreet hugs. “But mom…” he hesitated, “she’ll become everyone’s friend, and crack jokes with them, and want to go dancing, and ask about their girlfriends, or boyfriends, and then want to meet them, and sleep late, and want to go pubbing, and then laugh at silly things — and then,” he added gloomily, “she’ll probably miss her flight, so she’ll have to stay over. It,” he sighed, “isn’t nice to have a hippie for a mother.”
It’s true that my wife would have missed her flight back to Delhi if it hadn’t been delayed, and that she was more likely to be late than in time, but on all other counts I told my son he was exaggerating, she was just his mother and wanted to see whether he lived well or not, and he should learn to accept that his mother was an individual with a distinct personality, and if at times a little rambunctious, well, he should learn to deal with it, as I had. “Yeah, right,” said my son, unconvinced, but since she was en route anyway, he knew he’d have to make the best of it.
So he pinched the hotel freebies she’d carried from her Mumbai hotel, and she decided she liked some of his lotions and potions and packed them in her case, and they went store hopping. He wanted her to buy things for his Pune apartment, she wanted to shop for things to bring back to Delhi, they argued and they jostled and they elbowed and they fought and they shopped, and then she went to meet his landlady, and when he couldn’t keep them away, he introduced some of his friends to his mother (“no girlfriends,” she told me with a hint of satisfaction), and they had sizzlers and she split a beer or two or three with him, and of course she hadn’t packed, so he did it for her, and though the flight was delayed, she still almost didn’t make it.
Back in Delhi, you’d think coming home close to midnight, she’d want to go to bed, but instead she changed her clothes and decided to go partying, so when I spoke to my son, I said I agreed with him, that “it’s tough having a hippie for a wife”.