The nonchalance, the seething coldness in Nina’s father’s demeanor could perhaps be attributed to the ingrained societal norms of Indian men not freely interacting with women. Though I did buy this probability to some extent, I have not been able to let go of the thought that it is pretty weird and perhaps rude in the given circumstances.
My interest in finding out, what was behind this behavior was further roused by the casual warmth with which he had interacted with me on Nina’s birthday. I could see him speak to me in a carefree way, talk about anything he could think of, fetching food for me if needed and more. Guided by my hunch, I have been keenly watching whatever happens in the few minutes of my interaction with him at the bus stop. On the day of the school fete in Pari’s school, came the answer I had been seeking.
My father and I happened to meet Nina’s father and grandfather at the school entrance. I promptly greeted them both and so did my father. Though Nina’s grandfather responded warmly, it took an obvious 10 seconds time-lapse for Nina’s father to decide if he wanted to greet us.
It is just a customary social courtesy to greet people whom we are acquainted to, but, it is a person’s call to follow it or not. Despite the nonchalance, Nina’s father chose to go ahead and greet my father (not me) as they moved on. That’s when it struck me. He is in general not into greeting or warming up to acquaintances and prefers to stay aloof as long as he can.
Realization of this fact changed the dynamics of what goes through my mind at the bus stop. I no longer take it as a grudge he holds against me. It doesn’t feel ‘weird’ anymore because now I am aware that it has nothing to do with me or Pari.
As days moved on, there have been occasions when we have had brief interactions but their number is slowly shifting gears to daily basis. There are a couple of general stores exactly opposite to the bus stop, that have lots of candies and chocolates kept on display to lure the kids. Pari is one of those few kids who have no inclination towards these sugary treats, but not Nina.
Earlier, occasionally, Nina would buy a handful of candies from the shop to share with her friends, when Pari used to get one, she’d happily pass it on to any of her friends in class. On some days, I give sweets to Pari to share with her friends too. Though Pari doesn’t eat any herself, but she loves sharing with her friends.
However, in the past one month, it has become a daily ritual for Nina to buy a handful of candies from the shops at the bust stop and before putting them in her bag, her father offers Pari to have some. Being tempted by candies comes naturally to kids, even to those who don’t like them.
On these brief interactions, Nina’s father never replies to my greetings (though I find it awkward not to greet him when he approaches us) and speaks only to Pari. Once in a while accepting such favors is fine. But daily favors are too much for me to swallow. I might sound crazy, but in my head, such unwarranted treats are unacceptable.
I have had two choices in this matter. One, to match Nina’s pace and let my daughter gift away sweets on a daily basis. Two, gently decline the candy crush heading our way.
I deliberately avoided going by option one, because I do not want to encourage my child to binge on sugary treats all day long. I am not a dental-decay-freak parent, but, I do have my rules as far what is acceptable on a daily basis for a four-year old.
While attempting option two, I was cautious, gentle yet firm. But, I was amazed by Nina’s father’s determination to let the kids enjoy candies because that’s what young kids should be doing. I am not sure why, but I did not fight back. I tried to make him see my logic but found it vain to try to drum it in his head.
Though Pari and I have had a talk on how it is not acceptable to accept untoward favors but I have not been able to dissuade her (enough) to say NO to the toffee offered to her (almost) every morning. The reason being Nina and Pari are now thick pals, Nina calls her, her sister every time they’re playing together and Pari loves sharing her snack box, chocolates and more that I pack in her bag with Nina and hr other friends from the bus.
Every morning, Pari gets a candy or two which she cheerfully accepts, says thank you and puts it in her bag. I can’t help but feel awkward in my heart, smile and leave it at that. No matter how much I try to reason it out, I cannot bring myself to splurge on buying 20 to 30 candies everyday and neither can I happily encourage my child to eat so many sugary candies all day.
Just in case you’re wondering that I shouldn’t be worrying about Pari binge on too many sweets cause she doesn’t like them, there’s a twist in the tale. The month gone by that gave her access to toffees unlimited, seeing all her friends in the bus eating them happily, Pari is influenced enough to begin liking them. Albeit a little, but nevertheless slowly and surely she’s picking up the craze.
Finally, we have a candy lover child in my household. But, that hasn’t solved the issue of the pangs of awkwardness I feel in letting my child accept these favors.
Read the next part here.
The song on my mind: Bodyguard Title song (Mujhpar ek ehsaan karna, ki mujhpar koi ehsaan na karna)