Weekday nights, apart from startling Californian flora and fauna out of their wits with the chaos and noise in the home, also means that the old father is busy. A note about the pater’s emailing habits. He settles down with a serious look on his face, a glass of warm water by his side, and corresponds with his trader in the Indian Stock Exchange. From 10 p.m to well past midnight, he is the paragon of efficiency. He painstakingly types out instructions, his tongue peeking out with concentration, leaning forward in his chair, his browser tabs opened to Gmail & Economic Times. His mind composes the shortest possible sentence before he starts typing, since he has to spend some time finding the right alphabets on the keyboard. Once a teacher, always a teacher, and he insists on using the right punctuation: commas, spaces, periods and semi-colons. Sometimes, he hits tabs for the extra space, and that lands up sending the email instead of moving the cursor, and then he starts over. The wonderful lady on the other side turns an indulgent eye on the septuagenarian’s emails, and sends him trade notifications and acknowledgements to the correct email.
Friday nights are different. The Indian Stock Market is closed, schools and offices in the USA are closed on Saturday. So the couch is cluttered with cushions, throws and comforters from the bedrooms, and the old television settles down to air a movie or television show down to the audience. Friday nights at the home always contain a general air of excitement. One would think that through the week, the children work 16 hours a day, with sparse meals and little fun, the way they whoop at the Friday evening fun. Entertainment choices are always a bit tricky given the age groups the television has to cater to at once. The son and daughter want different things. Throw the grandparents into the mix and it becomes a telling lesson in democracy. Sometimes, the choices made by popular votes turn out to be so bad that the voting audience clamors for a change midway through and the process begins again.One does not need to follow #Brexit and #Bremain for democratic ulcers.
One night we settled on The Martian. The budding toddler astronomer in our family agreed that he liked to go to Mars one day as a Space Racer, and helpfully showed us a rocket lift-off. (Space Racers is an animated television series. The main characters—Eagle, Hawk, Robyn, Starling and Raven—are cadets at the Stardust Bay Space Academy. The cadets spend each episode traveling through outer space) The old pater shelved his urgent emailing needs and settled in to watch. The rocket made a spectacular landing on the grandfather-tummy-airfield, and the audience quietened down to watch the movie.
Every time I watch a movie, I am amazed how clipped and to the point people speak. No rambling on the way we do, no unnecessary smiles. Maybe if we edited our speech thus, we would be as impressive. Meaningful glances that seal the decision of landing, curt nods that signal victory, measured smiles that indicate tension. Waah Waah!
For those of you who have not watched The Martian, it involves an expedition to Mars going awry and people having to take off from Mars earlier than planned, thus clipping their mission short. One of the crew, Matt Damon, is left behind on Mars, and the story revolves around what he does on Mars instead of twiddling his thumbs and waiting for a slow, painful death.
Communication channels are broken, Mars looks unforgiving. Matt Damon is very sad, wondering what to do, when the pater piped up, “If I was there, I would send an email to NASA and go to bed. “
A few scenes on, Matt Damon is growing potatoes on Mars. I know.
“What do you think happened to those organic vegetables that we planted ma? “ asked the father showing off rare horticultural curiosity.
The garden looks ready for a visit by the gardener every few months. That sturdy son of the soil comes over, sets the place to rights in an hour, and leaves after a tooth-ful smile. Last time in preparation for the gardener, the father and husband had picked up from Costco, some oddly shaped packets that looked like seed bombs to be dropped into the ground. Lo and behold, we were told, we should soon be playing host to some luscious, organic vegetables.
Anyway, it had been a few weeks since the planting of the seeds, and though the summer flowers were thriving, there did not seem to be much happening on the vegetable front. I looked forlorn: We seem incapable of growing potatoes on Earth, imagine doing it on Mars?
The toddler piped up and said he knew how to grow vegetables on Mars, since he had seen a program in which the Space Racers grew them on Mars. If I am stranded on Mars with these two, one can grow food, and the other can email NASA. It was a comforting thought to head to bed with.