I had gone to pick my younger daughter from school, after lunch with a few friends. It was one of those ‘girls’ day out’ fun afternoons.
How we became friends is because we all have a kid studying in the same class. But our kids are not friends’ with each other. We’ve chosen to be friends, independent of the children. I’m making a point to say this so you understand that this little fan who happens to be my friend’s son is unaware of how close his mother and I are.
Well, on this particular day that I was in school I did look presentable and was not in the pair of jeans and T-shirt that I otherwise sport (fortunately for the lunch or else I would have created a rather poor first impression on the little boy).
So this is what happened at school.
My friend is standing beside me and we are waiting for our respective kids. Her boys come out first – the older one in my daughter’s class and the younger one, a fourth grader with cheeks red after playing in the sun and a head full of straight, black, hair that stopped just over his eyes. You got the idea – he’s cute. He walks up to his mom and sees me standing there – a hint of recognition on his face; he’s seen me on the back cover of the book his mom’s been reading, remember? She’s told me how excited he was, to find out that his mother actually had a friend who’d written a book or was it that the author of the book his mom was reading was his mom’s friend. It’s one of the two – whichever you think sounds more exciting to a kid of 9 or 10.
Anyway now that he’s there, and I’m there too, his mother formally introduces him to me.
He says, “Hello.” (I don’t see the excitement that I expected to see on seeing me. It’s his mother’s word that I have to go by. He’s masked his feelings really well).
So I respond with a ‘Hi Ajit.’
“My mother has your book,” he says, matter-of-factly, very unlike how I would have been at that age, if I admired somebody. There’s a confidence and calm composure in his manner. But then this kid belongs to Gen Z and I belong to Gen X. There’s bound to be some difference. I see a lot of it.
‘Oh…that’s nice’ I respond, like I have heard of it for the first time.
“You’re an author...”
I wasn’t sure if it was a question asked or a statement. ‘Yes I am,’ I say with a smile, allowing him to take the lead in the conversation.
“I’m an archer,” he says, believing that, that qualification was far greater than being a student is. (A student I suppose is akin to being a home-maker – do all the work but there’s nothing to brag about because it’s a duty than must be fulfilled).
‘So, I’ve heard. You’ve won a few medals too. Is that right?’
“Two or three,” he says brushing it off lightly
That’s when my daughter comes in and its time to say goodbye. I give him a quick hug (something I made it a point to check with his mom before meeting him). I couldn’t embarrass my ‘ youngest and only admirer’ with a hug if he belonged to the category of boys who detest being hugged. His mom had confirmed he wasn’t averse to hugs unlike my own teenage daughter who stood watching the exchange with little feeling. It was only later that she confided that the kid was indeed cute.
The Author and the Archer
After we left that day, my friend messaged to say that her son had asked her, if she had taken my autograph on the book. When she said she hadn’t, he had asked her how she could forget and in response, she made it up to him by asking him if he’d like a picture with me. He was ecstatic. He said he’d flaunt it in class and show all his friends the picture of the ‘author and the archer.’ It sounded good even to our ears.
Two weeks later, this friend of mine decided to invite us home for brunch. The table was set with sushi, tarts, coffee, cake and in the center of it all lay my book, ‘Roads – A Journey with Verses,’ thanks to the little hero who reminded his mom to take my signature before I left and placed it on the table before leaving to school. Talk about determination!
If this were not special enough, I got to know that this little boy has a book with Ruskin Bond’s signature (because ‘Rusty’ and his grand-dad were friends once upon a time). But he doesn’t care too much for it because he’s never met Rusty. And to him my signature is far more valuable than the legend’s and even if its in pure innocence or ignorance, knowing this made my day. So this here is a tribute to a little boy who made me feel proud of having written a book.
While I do not have a picture of ‘ The Author and the Archer,’ as the little archer was away at school, I do have a picture of the archer alone holding up ‘Roads – A Journey with Verses.’ Well, I hope one day he does rule the world of archery and then it will be my turn to show-off his picture as my ‘littlest’ fan.
For those who wish to pick up the book, please find the below links :
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