It was 8:30 in the night, the smell of Maggi that was cooking in the kitchen had already found its way to our olfactory senses. Drooling over the plate in front of us, my brother and I shared silly glances. As I reached for a fork, I could sense something was bothering Amma.
Ever since we had entered the kitchen, she had been pretty quiet. It was a Saturday and our usual bedtime was pushed to 11pm which meant we could watch a movie! Saturday night is the time my brother and I look forward to for its delicate placement between Friday, a day when we are still tired from school and Sunday, when we have absolutely nothing to do. And with a plateful of Maggi, we realized that we had created our own heaven.
We sat in front of the TV. It is my brother who handles the remote since he likes being in control. I never cared much for it because it looked like a lot of responsibility for a 10-year-old. This week’s pick was a superhero movie. Although not a big fan of the action genre, I have always been fascinated with the concept of superheroes. The ability to fly, fight and help seemed enticing. As the movie started, the slurping sounds began. Believe me, it was a competition of who could be the loudest. Strangely, there was no response from Amma who is usually irritated by this stuff. So, I could safely conclude that something was definitely bothering her. My brother and I looked at each other but neither of us wanted to be the one to ask her and so we decided to wait for Appa.
As the movie progressed, we were pretty glued to the screen. Nothing seemed to bother us anymore. After some time, we heard the knock on the door. It was Appa. We said ‘hi’ from where we were sitting. He always has a big smile when he enters, but tonight his smile was missing. He was also quite late, but that happens sometimes so we were not concerned. He sat at the dining table without freshening up, while Amma served him idlis. He was not a fan of Maggi. Amma patted him on his shoulder, poured him a glass of water and sat next to him in silence. It was weird but the movie was so interesting that we got back to it. As Appa finished his dinner, he went to the bedroom where Amma followed him.
There was nothing that could have broken our attention at that particular moment as the superhero was trying to save the village, but one thing did – we could hear someone crying. It was Appa. We had no idea of what was happening. We could hear Amma saying ‘Don’t worry, you will find another job, I will take tuitions for a while, we will manage somehow.’ And my dad was saying something while weeping ‘But the kids, I don’t want to look like I failed’. My Amma consoled him. Somehow, the weeping turned into sniffling and soon the noises died down. We realized they were about to come out and instinctively turned our eyes towards the TV, pretending to watch the movie this whole time.
Amma went straight to the kitchen from the bedroom but Appa came and sat next to us. The movie had reached its climax. Although all the odds were against him, the superhero had saved the whole village and everyone cheered him. But we were not happy and our eyes were filled with tears. We couldn’t cry so we sat in silence with a lump in our throat that no amount of water could wash away.. We handed over the remote to Appa, as it was his TV time now and we started walking towards the bedroom to sleep. The plates were still lying in the hall. My Amma came to take them and went back to the kitchen. Suddenly, Appa asked all of us to sit next to him.
We sat beside him as he struggled to speak. But when he did speak, the words came out loud, the ones that were burning inside him, the ones that made him feel like he had failed us, the ones that shook our little world. He said ‘I was fired today’. The news as such wasn’t hard to consume but to look at our Appa, a man who embodied hope and endurance, breaking down was something our hearts couldn’t contain. We looked at him and found ourselves at a loss of words. Engrossed in fiction, we had missed out on appreciating the real hero in our lives. The one who fails, the one who is vulnerable, the one who cries like the fictional superheroes don’t. As we looked at our Appa, we realized that not all heroes wear capes, fly, save villages or do it all alone, because they don’t have to. Some wear a stained shirt, take a train, go to a 9-5 regular job, get upset, smile at silly things, love their kids and spouse more than life itself. They fall, fail, cry but never give up and they do it all with the support of their family. A smile brimmed across our faces as we moved closer to him, held his hands, kissed his forehead and whispered ‘Don’t worry Appa. Everything will be fine. You are our superhero’.
Kamalavinayagam G. considers herself to be an escapist. She believes that while all blahs may not be great ideas, all great ideas were once blahs. She falls in the former category, trying to navigate through the latter and that is what makes her a proud blahcksheep.