The week has been a blur. The son bounced into lunch the other day, and said, “Do you have a meeting at 12:30?”
Seeing us shake our heads, he said, “Yes! Finally I have a zoom meeting at 12:30! Gosh – it is so good to have something to do again, right? I mean, I was always the vetti one.” (vetti in this context means jobless one)
I love it when Tamil words and phrases creep into their conversations like this, and I said so. The children scoffed. “Oh stop already with this know-more-than-English thing. Indian people are so annoying!”
“Well, I know my Chinese friends speak Mandarin at home, and go to Mandarin classes. My friends and colleagues from Russia have their kids learn a smattering of Russian. So …” I said shrugging my shoulders.
The children exchanged glances that said “Parents will be parents! Let it go!”, and I smiled.
School has reopened in completely virtual mode, and the children have been thrilled. I feel bad that the usual back-to-school euphoria is muted with zoom calls, and not the raucous meeting of friends after a long summer ritual. The children felt it too.
“I would have liked to meet my friends and the classroom amma. I mean, now, it is like looking at our pictures instead of us – you know the people?”
I laughed at the description, for it was true. The e-world has managed to make two dimensional beings out of us. Entire personalities squashed into a grid on the screen.
On the second day of school, he spent the minutes prior to the zoom call getting things ready for the day: A Dr Seuss book, one of his comic book creations (with illustrations of superheroes fighting valiant battles with super magnetic force-fields against a turbulent tornado crusher etc), an Avengers action figure, his microscope and binoculars.
I looked amused at this collection of objects laid out by his computer. He saw me looking at these and said, “Oh! The teacher said she wants us to know each other better. So, I am looking for things that best describe what I like to do.”
I gave him a huge smile and thumbs up and awaited the news at lunch time. Say what you will about the Covid-situation, I am grateful to be home when school is done. It is a luxury I have seldom had, and the outpouring of chatter when they let out has been marvelous for me. My own batteries are not drained by a meaningless commute eating into my day, and I am more receptive to what they have to say.
“You know how we were supposed to get to know each other and bring stuff that represents us?! One fellow brings a football, because he likes football, and then he brings a basketball because he likes basketball, and then points to his shirt – a baseball shirt since he likes baseball. Really – you like Sports, we get it!” he said and looking at the smile on his face as he said it, I could see he already liked this fellow.
“I heard what you told your teacher! Really kid?! Sour patch candies and Pirates Booty?!” said the teenage older and supposedly-wiser daughter.
There was a train of giggles at this and the fellow gurgled on about how his teacher asked him if he knew more than 1 language and told him to practice speaking Tamil at home, so he doesn’t forget it. The words of wisdom coming from a teacher’s mouth meant that he took it to heart, and I could see him sprinkling in a couple of words here and there.
I spoke to my school teacher-parents later that day and told them how their teacher had tried different things to get to know them, and my father said, “Poor teachers and students ma! Most dedicated teachers come to the profession because of the joy of being surrounded by young people: their energy and personalities are truly a joy to be with. To have that replaced by a series of zoom meetings seems so sad! It will be okay soon. Don’t worry da kanna – you will get to see your school mates soon okay?” the grandfather’s voice boomed over the oceans like a foghorn of wisdom to his grandson, and he smiled and said, “Thanks Thaatha! So, when are you coming here?”
Well, in the words of Miss Read:
“Life went on. No matter what happened, life went on … But somehow, in this continuity, there were the seeds of comfort.”
― Miss Read, Emily Davis
While I sincerely hope the children’s social aspects are not unduly affected by social distancing, I am grateful for what interactions they do get. While I have my gripes about technology, I am also grateful for it.
Life is full of paradoxes and that is as it should be.