Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Triumphant

“Who is your favourite Aunt?” A seemingly innocent question is posed but the air crackles with dramatic tension as these leaden words fall in place to complete the sentence. Even the voice initiating the probe is sweet, almost sickly sweet. The Aunts from among whom you have to crown a favourite are perched around you on a getting smaller by the second bed. Watching you keenly eagle eyed. They are smiling but you notice a glint behind the smile and can suddenly appreciate how the mouse feels just before it gets caught in the eagle’s talon.

You pause. Take a breath. Then another. But are mindful that too much time shouldn’t elapse or your answer would appear to be pre-prepared. To stall for time you’d like to ask for the question to be repeated but that would invite ridicule so you launch into your answer. One by one you name the Aunts in descending order according to their age and extol their virtue or rather what you think they admire the most about themselves. And so flatter their vanity. The eldest is a fabulous cook, the one younger to her has a fabulous brain, the one younger to her is a fabulous artist and the youngest Aunt is a fabulous storyteller. And they all are great fun to be with.

There your answer has now been recorded for posterity in the family history book. And judging from their gentle ribbing and laughter you are confident that you performed exceedingly well. Suddenly you appreciate how the mouse feels after he has made a daring escape just in the nick of time leaving nothing but a wisp of thin air within the eagle’s deadly talon. In this family drama quite appropriately after the culmination of unbearable dramatic tension now is the time for a light comedy interlude before the cast gets busy devouring the hapless mangoes cooling in a bucket of water.

However your triumph and elation are recorded only in your memory. For even you don’t fully appreciate the significance of this moment, just as yet. But little boy one day in the near future when people will pose questions only to hear what they already know, this memory will once again guide you to safety. For at the age of five and a half years you’ve learnt the skill to navigate the minefield where senseless questions are spread only for the purpose of flattering self-deluded egos. Where questions and answers are mind-numbingly endless echoes of nothingness. And therein lies your real triumph.

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