When We were Young

My friend was horrified. He had just discovered a pornographic magazine in his 12-year-old son’s cupboard. His wife stood next to him, almost in tears. And I stood mum, not knowing what to say.

When We were Young

When We were Young [Illustration by Shinod AP]

Actually, he wanted to show me his son’s drawings. Rohan, his son, was very talented and had a way with colours.

For a shop floor engineer whose wife taught mathematics, their son’s interest in the arts was obviously something to be excited about. And my preoccupation with graphic design made them believe that I could help Rohan develop his abilities.

But that discussion was not destined to take place.

For almost 20 to 25 minutes, none of us spoke. I was at a loss too. I had no clue about what I should do.

Perhaps, I should tap his shoulder and say, ‘I understand’ – an idea that I chucked immediately because it was too ‘filmi’. I thought I should just say, ‘I am sorry’ and leave. But, that too, would not have been a very tactful act.

Finally, I decided.

I decided I did not want to ‘understand’. Neither did I want to discuss the socio-psychological reasons behind a child’s sexual inclination at this age. I wanted to tackle the situation in a way that would not embarrass my friend anymore.

“How old is Rohan,” I asked.

“12 years. His birthday was last month,” he replied.

“He is in class seventh, right?”

“Yes!”

“What class were we in, when we were 12.”

“Same, seventh,” he said.

“Yes, Sister Stella was our principal then. Right? When we went to class eight, Sister Catherine replaced her.”

“And you were so relieved. Remember, how Stella caned you during the morning assembly.”

“Yes I know. And that was no fault of mine. I did not get that condom to class.”

“At this age you should not lie, Navin. Everyone knows about it.”

“I swear it was not me. Gajji had put it in my bag and it came out when Vandana pulled out my Maths notebook.”

“See!” I exclaimed. “We were 12. Just 12 years. And we were talking about condoms and sex. We were trying to get ourselves girlfriends. Remember Gajji, he used to even talk about drugs. All at the age of 12.”

“Yeah! Those were funny days,” he smiled.

“Rohan is 12.” I said.

Silence engulfed the room. Our eyes met once and then we looked away.

Some five minutes later, our eyes met again. I smiled and he began laughing. We spent a nostalgic evening talking about old times.

It was 7 pm when I took permission to leave. My friend, who came out to see me off, stood at the car door, and said, “thanks”.

“For what,” I blinked.

He shrugged, shook hands and said, “Rohan has grown up. I will talk to him.”

I drove away.

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