Yesterday was Utpal's PTM always a special day for more reasons than one. It is a day that always begins with excitement laced with dolefulness as one knows that time will fly and the day come to a close when we will have to bid him farewell.
It is almost three years that Utpal left for boarding school. I have been there for every single PTM ans each is etched in my mind with indelible lines. I still remember the heart breaking cries that rented the air when it was time to say good bye. Then as time went by the tried turned to murmured pleas and entreaties that wrenched my soul. But then as time went by the good byes were easier though seeing him walk away clutching his little bag of carefully selected goodies was never easy.
As we drove along my heart was once again heavy as I did not quite know how to tell little Utpal that this Diwali when he comes home his mom will not be there. Sadly she relapsed and has been checked in to rehab again where she will spend a few months. And to say that we were all so happy and truly convinced that things had finally settled, that in spite of a few bouts of depression J was well into recovery. How wrong we were. The alcohol was too big an adversary, J too fragile, society too eager to draw her back into a world where she could be manipulated, her own family too weak or too greedy. The writing was on the wall: we just did not see it. Women who drink are sadly never given the second chance they deserve.
Lost in my thoughts I had not realised that we had reached the school. After the checking in formalities we went off looking for little Utpal. He was in his classroom waiting with his Kamala ma'am and his bright pink report card. The marks were good and his teacher gave glowing reports though we were told that he was very naughty. Somehow I felt comforted by those words as that meant he was happy and content. Th teacher asked me to fill up a form and as I sat to do it, Utpal stood next tome dictating the answers. When we came to the mother's name column he promptly said 'Jhunnu'. My heart missed a beat and I was filled with a sense of overwhelming sadness. I wrote the six letters quietly and perhaps that is when I decided not to tell Utpal about his mom yet.
A quick trip to the hostel to meet his warden Dolly and seek her permission to give him the few toys we carried as we would be dropping back earlier than usual, then a few words with Anil Sir the PT instructor. We came to know that Utpal loved football, badminton and the Frisbee and had started skating. The music teacher revealed that he could now play happy birthday on the keyboard! All in all a successful PTM!
It was then time to take Utpal for his outing and the destination was the closest Pizza parlour. He was in a happy mood and regaled us with his antics: sipping his fizzy drink with his hands locked at he back, dancing to the rock music that blared as he ate his pizza, telling us funny stories. Time just flew and then the dreaded hour approached: it was time to take the road back. But before that we had to make a quick stop at the local store as he needed some toiletries. At the store he asked us to buy him some biscuits and carefully selected them. We were told that these were for his friends. We came to know later in the car that it was for his big friends. I guess this is what happens in all boarding schools: the gently bullying that signifies that you have been accepted.
When the time to say goodbye came there were no tears or murmured words. A very confident little boy clutched ll his packages and gave us a hug and then walked down the long corridor with a confident stride. I watched him walk away quietly wiping a tear that was threatening to spill over.