As a parent, I ask myself, what is it I want for my children? Do I want them to be doctors, engineers, scientists, the Prime Minister perhaps? Do I want them to be happy, contended, pot-bellied, world-citizens? Do I want for them all the riches they can possibly ever desire, a large house with five bedrooms, all with attached bathrooms, all decorously made up in leather, and red brocade curtains, and maroon shit-pots with their own personally matched wash-basins? What is it I want, I ask myself.
Then I glance at my husband. He has donned a suit for the occasion. He looks preoccupied with trying to figure out how to work the lock on the suitcase. I glance at the youngest one on my lap. Its nose has a tendency to run. I wipe it with the end of my pallu. It leaves behind a yellow trail, creating a new pattern on my sari.
I close my eyes for a second. Imagine myself in Kashmir, the flower-laden garden of my dreams, the place I transport myself to, mentally smoothening out all the edges to curves, distilling all the emotions so I am left with nothing but happy memories and anticipations. I hear a thud, and the eyes open out. The husband has gotten frustrated with the lock and dropped it down. The child has started mewling a little. I am back in the present.
It is time now, time to go in to the children's room, gather them together, and head over to the airport for the flight. What is it I want for my children? The question is refusing to go away. I walk in to their room, the little one on my hips. The room is chaos. Toys, mostly cars, are everywhere. I see a pizza box, crumbs around it. The boys have a strong aversion to hygiene. My mother would have been appalled to see a room look like this. I am more open-minded. And less energetic. I catch the eldest by his ear and yell, "I want you in your clothes and out of the door in five minutes." They show a tendency to complain. I yell like a wild animal, but inside, I am calm, the question still in my head, my palms protecting the little one's unstable neck.
They obey, for a change. They are out of their room and running to don their sandals in no time at all. In fact, I am the one who is late, my last minute chores of shutting off the gas, the water taps, the windows, the cupboards, take longer than I anticipate. The husband has that look on his face. The boys are sniggering, as I come out of the last room. I glance at all of them. I look down at their legs. The answer comes to me in a flash. What I want most of all for my platoon of children is - PANTS! Their ankles are showing, they look really pathetic. So what if they have omitted to bathe, their finger nails have not been cut in ages, their toes have gunk between them? If I can only buy them shiny new pants...Jeans perhaps?