The Old Photo Album

Vikas saw his son sifting through his wardrobe hastily for his white tennis shorts. Vikas knew that there is a good 45 minutes before his tennis coaching sessions start. But he hesitated to bother him with a question and get back a churlish reply. Swarna, Vikas’ wife shouted from the kitchen, “Vinny beta, don’t make our wardrobe messy! Can’t you search things with a bit of patience without scattering around your clothes like this?”

Vikas couldn’t stop himself from commenting. “Your tennis classes aren’t starting anytime before 6 00. You can catch your breath and do something else fruitful”

“I got to go early”, Vinny muttered without looking at his father.

“You promised that you would start to prepare for your FIITJEE entrance exams from this month”

“I know”, he replied in a noncommittal manner.

“Why don’t you sit and prepare for a while. You can start to your tennis classes by 5 50 or something. It’s quite near and barely takes 5 minutes to reach from here”

“I can get an extra game now. The courts will be free”

“Why can’t you put more time on your studies? Look at your neighbour, Hemant! He stopped going for tennis sessions after he reached 10th grade”

The tennis shorts were found at this inopportune moment. Vinny rushed to the bathroom to change to his shorts and thus effectively dodging his father’s rhetoric.

Swarna called out to Vinny, “your drink is ready, drink it before you go”. Vinny came back from the bathroom almost ready for his tennis session; except for his shoes and socks. He rushed to the shoe rack as though he didn’t hear his mother. Vikas was still contemplating what to say to his son next. Vinny put on his shoes and socks in no time and threw his tennis racket bag over his shoulders. “I am going” he said laconically as if to give no time for his parents to stop him and rushed out of the door. Swarna came running out of the kitchen shouting almost at the top of her voice, “Your milk, Vinny!” But Vinny had descended two floors by then.

“This boy drives me crazy” Swarna remarked in a desolate manner.

“He needs focus. How else would he get into a good institute?” Vikas said half-mindedly still reeling from the enormity of what happened in Vinny’s room.

“Teenagers are like this everywhere”, Swarna added helpingly.

“We need to put some sense into him. Look at his friends! One boy, what’s his name, that Wipro General Manager’s son? He is already into FIITJEE with a scholarship. He badly needs some sense”

Swarna left for the kitchen without knowing what to reply, while Vikas sat on the reading hall couch with his laptop. Though he was reading his office mails, his mind was still stuck with the little chat in Vinny’s room. After clawing fruitlessly into his mailbox for almost an hour, Vikas decided it was time for a little change. He got up and decided to re-order his property document files a little, as the tax season was nearing. The file was somewhere in the top rack of the shelves in his bedroom, probably tucked underneath rarely used documents, albums and other stuff. After sieving through the old debris for a while, he found the appropriate file. When he pulled out the file carelessly, a chunk of papers, notebooks kept on top of it fell down, bringing down with it a veil of grey smoky dust. Cursing himself, Vikas dusted them. While he was about to put the chunk back, an old photo album caught his eye. Hearing the noise Swarna had also come to the bedroom by then. Vikas turned towards her and said “Vinny’s childhood album. Long time, we almost forgot where we had kept it.” They sat on the bed, opened the album and slowly flipped the nibbled and mildewed pages.