Sometime during my 1st standard (has to be 1991).

I first noticed a slight pain on my incisors. My father called me and examined it. He confirmed that the tooth is shaking. He educated me that all milk teeth will be replaced by the secondary set soon. He also said that the child in us will gradually be clobbered to the subconscious by the monster in us. Though I didn’t understand what that meant at that time, I now understand what it means.

After a few days, the tooth was visibly shaking. I was afraid to pull it out, as it was paining a bit. I showed it to my father. He is a very patient and composed person. He told me a nice story, and as I got involved in the story, he pulled it out in one go. Out came the teeth, he gave it to me. I saw it, got so sad and started crying. I went and looked in the mirror, could see a big hole in the gate and was stuck by horror. I could visualize my friends poking fun at me the next day in school.

I was very rude at school when I made fun of a couple of my friends, one of them a bully, when they lost their teeth. I wasn’t smart enough to remember the repercussions of that otherwise harmless action. Now I started biting nails, had nightmares of the big bully turning pink and bursting into laughter.

Next morning:
Aim: I should not be a buffoon in front of my class mates.
Solution: Bunk the school till a secondary teeth replaces it.
Route: I have a stomach ache.

My mother, a scarecrow, got immediately scared. She told my father. He came to my bed, asked me where exactly I am feeling the pain. I said I am feeling it all over the stomach. Then he slowly tried to locate the pain, after some unsuccessful attempts from my side to pretend pain, he slowly realized the pain is somewhere else for me.

He asked: “Tell me the truth, do you have a stomach ache at all?”

I was in tears by this time again: “No!”

Father: “Then why did you lie?”

Me: “I don’t want to go to school”

Father: “Why?”

Me: “My friends would bully me”

The plot unfolds gradually. He sat beside me, and slowly said, “Son, what makes you think that a missing tooth looks ugly on you? It is something inevitable, and adds on to your beauty. In fact you have said that mutthassi (grand mother) looks good without the teeth. And what will happen if your friends bully you? It is just for a day or two, after which, all of you will forget them and become friends again. That is why children’s world is the most perfect one. “

Slowly, he took me on to his lap, patted me gently and waited till I get back to my smart mood again. He also promised me something special if I go to school and come back smartly.

I go to school with a bit of shyness, found things much better than what I actually thought. I could stand to the big bully (he was also toothless!) and came back running like Anil Kumble after guiding India to victory in a match with his batting prowess (hypothetical situation of course!)

I was half asleep by the time my father came back, and narrated the whole story. He was impressed by my performance and as he had promised, gifted me with a stamp album. I was so happy, I kissed him all over and went back to sleep happily.

16 years later:

My father is not there with me anymore. I am on my own, working in an automobile firm. I would not say I lie, but I am forced to say, many a times I tend not to reveal the full truth. They say all this is a part of work, where strategic relations are important. I get reminded of the Yudhistira- Dronacharya episode in Mahabharata battle.

It is all a part of the game.

“When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse,
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone.
I cannot put my finger on it now.
The child is grown, the dream is gone.
I have become comfortably numb”

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