My son is reading porn

My friend was horrified. He had just discovered a pornographic magazine in his 14-year-old son’s almirah. “Shit! My son is reading porn”, he exclaimed. His wife stood next to him, almost in tears. And I stood mum, not knowing what to say.

We had met after a long gap. Past few years had been very hectic for both of us. While he had climbed almost to the top of the corporate ladder, I had left the city. I seldom travelled as my new commitments tied me down to the land. Settling down in a rural location had turned out to be much more complicated than what I had imagined.

I was back in town after many years, to execute an exhibition design assignment. Strangely, I was finding it tough to survive in a town where I had lived for almost one and a half decades. The smell in the air, the crowd, the speed, everything was bothering me. I desperately wanted a break so wrapped up my work early that day and went off meet this dear friend of mine. He was my school mate as well as a college mate. All through these years we remained best friends, barring some hiccups of the growing up years.

After basic chit chat about life in general, the conversation drifted towards the kids. While I shared information about what my kids were up to, he told me about things that excited Kabir, his son. He told me that Kabir had an intense interest in arts. For a software geek whose wife taught mathematics at the university, Kabir’s deep interest in the arts was obviously something to be excited about!

Whenever someone tells me about their children’s interest in arts and crafts, I am very curious to see their work. It is amazing to see how uniquely children express themselves. And it is almost heavenly to get glimpses of a soul peeping from behind those confident strokes and riot of colours.

So when my friend asked me if I wanted to see Kabir’s work, I was more than ready for it. His keenness was also driven by the fact that I am a designer by profession. He wanted me to provide feedback and guidance to Kabir so that he could develop his abilities further. He also wanted to know if it was a good idea that Kabir dumps JEE and NEET in favour of an art or design school.

Kabir had not returned from his tuitions yet so my friend walked me to Kabir’s room. The room interiors were pretty minimalistic. The walls were bare except for a handmade poster of a Robert Frost poem. The table had two unfinished watercolour paintings of Kabir. Everything else on the table was neatly laid out. My friend opened the almirah and started searching for the sketchbooks. He found five of them. But he still kept searching. He was keen to locate Kabir’s daily sketch journal which had impressed him a lot.

While he was trying to find the journal between the files and folders, a thin colourful magazine slipped from one of the folders and fell flat on the ground. A nude girl on the cover was giving us dirty looks. And we were not ready for it. “Shit, my son is reading porn”, he exclaimed. Then quickly picked up the magazine, pushed it between the folders, closed the almirah and led me back to the drawing room with five sketchbooks in his hand. His wife, almost in tears, did not accompany us to the drawing room.

As we sat down on the sofa, he handed me the sketchbooks and started reading some messages on his phone. I spent next 20-25 minutes browsing the sketchbooks. He kept himself busy with his phone. It was an awkward situation. There was zero exchange of words. And I had no clue about what I should do.

While I was trying to figure out Kabir through his creations, I was also wondering why did he chose magazines over easily available digital means. Why he would not prefer audio visuals, I wondered. And then it struck me that Kabir knew very well that his father was a cyber security expert. Maybe he was unsure about his abilities to hide his footprints from his father. And he cared a lot about what his father thought of him. Maybe… who knows!

I was almost finished going through Kabir’s work. He was on an interesting journey. What I had not figured out still was the ice breaker I needed to break the deafening silence. I had thought of many options but found most of them to be very filmy. I even considered leaving, after exchanging formal pleasantries. But somehow my heart did not vote for that idea. I knew that my friend was shell shocked. I also knew very well that leaving without a closure was something that will bother him more than the incident itself.

So finally I decided to break the ice without giving much thought to the modalities. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to avoid suggesting that ‘I understand’. I was also sure that I did not want to discuss the socio-psychological reasons behind a child’s sexual inclination at this age. I somehow wanted to have a conversation sans embarrassment for my friend.

“How old is Kabir?,” I asked suddenly. He was startled but the subsequent look on his face clearly conveyed his sense of relief. I think he too was finding the silence overbearing.

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

“So next year is the boards, right?”

“Yes! But he seems to be least bothered about it.”

“I think even we were least bothered about the boards when we were fourteen. I doubt if anyone of us really cared.”

“True. But those different were times I guess.” he said.

“I doubt if it is drastically different. The social landscape has definitely changes, the horizon of options has widened, but the distractions, the teenage arrogance and abundance, the desire to do nonsensical things… it’s almost the same – as it always was!”

“To some extent yes but I thinks today’s kids hardly listen. They appear to be making smart choices about life but I doubt it that’s a fact. Forget parents, we used to be so scared of almost all our school teachers. I guess corporal punishment had some role to play.” He smirked. And I knew why.

“That smirk seems to be in memory of Sister Stella!”

“Yes, I can still vividly recollect that scene when she canned you during the morning assembly in front of the whole school.”

“Even I cannot forget that embarrassment. And I still get pissed off because I was innocent and no one ever believed me. I did not get that freaking condom to the class.”

“Come on, you can at least accept the truth now. Everyone knows about it.”

“I swear it was not me. How many times do I have to tell you that. Joy had put it in my bag and it fell out when Vandana was pulling out her Maths workbook which I had borrowed the previous day.”

“Remember her shriek and how everyone collected around that condom, watching it with utter amazement as if it was dodo”, he giggled.

“Yes, I know. And every now and then someone just raised his or her head and looked straight into my eyes, almost exclaiming – what the hell was that Navin? Even at that time I had told everyone that it was Joy’s handiwork. Joy silently stood there, staring at the condom. He never refuted my accusation. And no one freaking took it as an acknowledgment.”

“Come on Navin! I still find it hard to buy your story. Joy was so shy. Had you blamed Himanshu for that, I could have still believed your version of the story.”

“Himanshu never needed someone like me as a vehicle. He was too bold operate in that mode. Remember that day when the biology teacher was absent and he walked up to the black board to draw sketches and talk about human body and copulation. He so openly talked about booze, and smoke, and drugs… variety of them! While we used to dream of girlfriends, he claimed to have many. He was too mature for a 14 year old.”

“Yes! Those were funny days,” he smiled, “And we did strange things. Many of them almost sound unbelievable.”

“True! Kabir is also fourteen!” I said.

A sudden silence engulfed the room. Our eyes met once again and then we looked away. Some five minutes later, our eyes met again. I smiled and he smiled back. And soon we were laughing. The ice stood broken. We spent the rest of the evening talking about weird incidents of our school and college days, many of them very embarrassing.

Soon it was time for me to leave. I had to attend a dinner with my client’s team to discuss our plan for next two days. My friend walked me out to the cab. We shook hands. He kept holding my hand for a while and then said, “Thanks!”

“Thanks for what?”

He weirdly distorted his face and said, “Kabir is pretty grown up now. I should talk to him.”

“You should!”

“Yes, I should. Before the normalization brigade finds out about the incident and starts hounding me”, he laughed.

“And how will they find out?”

“Pretty much the way you found out about Joy!”

“You are such an @#$%!”

He responded with a hug, followed by a warm handshake and a goodbye promise to meet again pretty soon.

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13 Responses

  1. Absolutely wonderfully written. Kudos!

  2. Prashant says:

    Nice one… 🙂

  3. RAJESHWAR SINGH says:

    Wonderful reading bhai

  4. Chetan says:

    Lovely story. Very wise of you to avoid the “I understand” path.

  5. Manoj says:

    Pankti bhai thanks for reminding- us overgrown boys that life has turned a full circle. Think should start dusting my boy’s almirah and mobile and revise the birds and bees story. Keep writing!

  6. Madhu KS says:

    Hi Pangti, is Joy and Himanshu, the same guys from your VC class? Or you just used those names?
    Good article, good point, eye opener.

  7. Rituraj Kulshrestha says:

    Very vivid and totally relevant … thanks for sharing Pangti

  8. krishnan says:

    Wow, you write really, really well! Can’t believe this is fictional — the part about ‘going to town’ and not feeling too good definitely isn’t!

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