“Hey Jude, don’t make it bad
Take a sad song and make it better
Remember to let her into your heart
Then you can start to make it better…”
– The Beatles, “Hey, Jude!”
Monday, 17th September
That morning started off just like any other ordinary one at our home; With me yelling like a drill sergeant, to get everyone ready and out of the door on time! Herding Agastya to the metro station, while he drags his little feet and yaps on about stars and universe all the way to his school, is a norm for me. That day was not any different, until on my way back from dropping him off I realized just how different a morning must be for other people.
In the metro, I had the ultimate pleasure of watching a duo, an older gentleman, singing gaily and dancing away while a younger woman, who I assumed was his daughter, stood aside and kept an eye on him. From his appearance and his mannerism I could gather that he was in the autism spectrum, maybe suffering from Asperger’s syndrome. The singing and dancing was helping him to calm his nerves because as the metro slowed to a stop, so did he. While he was doing this routine, I watched the girl, who was a frail looking creature. She stood by him, her stance protective. She did not try to quieten him or calm him down. It was clear that this was their normal. Me and many others in that metro car were fascinated by the whole process. So when the metro stopped and they alighted and left, with their heads held high, I named the girl Agnes and wrote her a story.
Ever since Agnes could remember, she was told that she was special. Her earliest memories are of her father doting on her, taking her on long walks, singing to her old Beatles songs while carrying her on his shoulders. She never felt anything was out of place at her home. She was always dressed in fresh clothes, was well fed, went to a school everyday and was adored by her parents. But as she grew older, she started feeling “the eyes”. Whenever she was out with her father and when he sang “Hey, Jude!” like he always did while in the metro or a bus or in other loud, crowded and closed areas, she felt other people watching them. She became aware of the whispers and the looks of sympathy she would receive when her father came to drop her at or pick her up from the school. By the time she was 10 she knew her father was unlike her friends’ daddies. He was the one who was special. After she realized that, she leapt from being a child to an adult overnight. Nobody knows how or when the role of primary caretaker was reversed in their household. While her friends and peers were wading through the awkward teenage years with angst and rebellion, she learnt how to cook, she’d wash and clean, do her homework, take her daddy on his evening walks, take him to his doctor’s appointments. She’d make a schedule for his drugs and tests and made sure he stuck to them. And as she turns 20 this year, she looks back at all that time she spent as her father’s keeper, with fondness and pride. She still cares for her father, the only difference is that now she has to do it all while juggling college and work.
A typical morning at their home is utter chaos. It all starts with her father yelling at her to get ready for school as she gets them both ready for their day and reminds him that she goes to a college now. He gives her a tough time about her “overcooked” scrambled eggs while licking the plate clean. He flails around like a toddler when she helps him change in to fresh clothes and kisses her on the forehead when she gets annoyed. 🙂 When they step outside in the morning sun he’d always walk faster than her, declaring that as her father he should be in charge, and she would let him take the lead. She takes him to the clinic in the metro, and he starts singing about Jude, and tells him “how to make a sad song better”. She had read somewhere that Sir Paul McCartney wrote this song as a lullaby for John Lennon’s son Julian. It was her favorite Beatles song for this reason, and also because her father had sung it to her, for her, since the time she could remember. She looks on at him adoringly, while he breaks into the chorus and starts dancing. She now knew that he sang in the metro because crowded, noisy and closed spaces agitated him, yet he sang with such unbridled joy and she soaked it all up eagerly. In that perfect moment, she feels so lucky and proud to be his daughter. Because he was someone who knew exactly how difficult his life was, yet gave her the best upbringing humanly possible. He chose to raise her with love and dignity. He gave her life, direction and purpose, which is so much more than what many people gave their children.
As they alight from the metro car and as her father gradually stops singing, she again feels “the eyes” on her, but she doesn’t look back, doesn’t let them slow her gait. She holds her head high and leaves behind a metro car full of mesmerized audience.
This is a purely fictional account of what I thought the lives of those two individuals must be. I don’t know how they are related to each other or if they were really going to the clinic or if that young lady was really pursuing her studies. I can only hope that their lives aren’t as tough, that they aren’t suffering in any way and that they do live in a colorful world full of music and prospects. I do believe that I saw genuine kindness and compassion in that young woman and that’s why I dedicate this story to her.