Recently, I had a writing competition at my company where I had to write about an incident when my mom had shared her experience or advised about something and later, in my life, it turned out to be something significant. I wrote my piece and now that the results are out (and I didn’t win), I’m sharing it here with everyone.
Dedicated to my loving and caring mom ❤
28th September, 2012
I’m sitting in my room, alone, thinking for the last four hours. The room seems unusually silent today. Everything is quiet except for the fan rotating above my head acting as a coolant to an enormously powerful processor oscillating its crystal several billion times a second to complete a complex mathematical calculation. A probabilistic calculation, to be more precise.
My processor (brain) is busy figuring out why, this morning, has my mom asked me to see her. The look on her face was serious, her words even more so.
“Son, you’re growing up and it’s time we talk about it.”
Parents are quite smart these days, smart enough to outsmart their children and the technology, among various other factors, is to be blamed.
The words are out about the remote-controlled cameras in the market that fits secretly in any corner of the house, rotate to any degree desired and used to monitor the house when you’re not home.
A whole legion of parents has quickly adopted this technology to conspire against their sweet and innocent children.
I look around the room in the scepticism of my room being bugged with such a camera but they’re designed to be invisible. My questions remain unanswered. Am I caught with something? Am I caught doing something? The “grown-up” part of her statement is troublesome and the questions in my head are too many. The coolant rotating above my calmly humming processor has certainly failed to do its job.
I’m too nervous to walk to my parent’s room but to keep them waiting doesn’t really seem like a good idea. I drift into the room ten minutes later on flaccid legs, as if I have left my skeleton behind in my room. I barely make it to my designated seat and sink into it.
I keep my head bowed down and started gazing up to the right. Neatly laced, shiny black Oxford shoes, blueish grey pant with a darker grey belt at the top, half-sleeved light-blue shirt.
Above the right pocket is a bright, steal-platted bilingual name tag. And to the left, as I start to raise my eyes, I see a black-green-stripped ribbon for a 9-year-long service, red-purple-blue ribbon for 20-year-long service outdone by 5-stripped-ribbon honoured for “long-service-and-good-conduct”. And, to the top are two identical medals for serving high-altitude-battle-stations twice. The collars are decorated with air-controller badges and the stripes over the broad shoulders are overlaid with the rank insignia of an Indian Air Force Sergeant.
I keep looking up at the neck, the moustache, the nose…
I’ve never dared look my dad in the eyes…NEVER! Not even on the victorious day when I won the frog-jumping race as a 2nd grader. So, I avert my gaze and bow my head down again.
In an authoritative and an equally sharp voice he asks, “Son, it’s your last year at the school. Have you given a thought about your career?”
Career? No camera? No getting caught doing things-that-I’m-supposed-to-do-but-not-supposed-to-get-caught-doing?
I want to enjoy the huge relief but I feel obligated to answer my dad first.
“Dad, I like computer programming”, I mumbled and stopped. A brief moment of silence followed.
“Tell it, son. What is it?”
I look in the direction of soft, expectant voice. My mom is standing at an arm’s distance. Green Sari with blouse and bangles to match the same. Neatly combed hair pulled together and clipped to make a pony-tailed lush that run down to her shoulders. The grim expression of concern suffused over her face, her hands clenched together to her heart. She’s projecting a solemn aura of care and compassion. Her short stature is helping her do so. Her deep, now almost watery, eyes searching for answers in her son’s.
“I want to be a programmer.”
“Have you ever thought of joining defence, like your father? About being an air officer someday?”
The idea does strike as a good plan at first. I picture myself in a pilot G-suit, getting down from the cockpit of my F-14A Tomcat fighter jet and walking up to a beautiful girl. Those dense, blonde and curly hair, green eyes like magical orbs and the scarlet red lips flaunting the smile of an angel. She’s dressed in American Navy formals, black jacket over a contrasting white inner and a dark, short skirt that flows down to her knees. She’s leaning against a black convertible Chevrolet. Basically, I just pictured myself as Tom Cruise flirting with Kelly McGillis in the movie Topgun.
I resist the urge to smile at this thought but the images have been processed through my processor, state of my registers and cache has been altered and somehow my mom has mastered the art of hacking into my operating system and reading all the data inside the, supposedly protected, kernel space. It’s precisely like exploiting the 2017-discovered Specter and Meltdown vulnerabilities on Intel processors.
My mom knows what’s going inside my head but she doesn’t mention it. She doesn’t want to embarrass me.
“Mom! I have a passion to follow and a dream to live. I’m an adventurer. I want to explore the untraveled road, see the world of computers.”
“Even at the cost of a certain victory?”, she asked.
The door hits the wall as hard as the reality hits me. I turn to the sound and see my roommate standing at the door. My processor (brain, again) quickly calls the image_recognition() function, runs Ratcliff/Opershelp, N-Gram, Levenshtein’s and many other pattern-matching algorithms through its neural network. Sentiments are analyzed and it doesn’t take it too long to register that my roommate is not in a good mood. Assumptions are made. More than 80% probability of a bad day at work.
He stares at me and the look of disgust on his face tells me that he’s wondering what someone has to be like in order to qualify as nerdy and tedious to this skinny joker who calls himself a programmer.
He throws his bag on his bed, slams the door shut and off he goes.
A moment ago, I was reminiscing the day, around six years ago, when my mom warned me to not to pursue Engineering as my career. And this moment, I’m sitting in front of the glaring screen of my laptop with a white rectangular cursor, blinking periodically as to mock me, and writing my story down.
Six years, and every aspect of my life has changed. Except for two. The first is the voice of my mother echoing in my hollow heart and the second is the coolant rotating above my head, failing to do its job as always.
Had I joined the defence academy, I might be flying high with the shining stars of an officer strapped to my shoulders. But, here I am with a burden drowning me down, to make my parents proud of my decision, on those very shoulders.
I feel… Yeah… “Mom was right”.
– By Prashant Gupta (nom de plume Rex)