I like watching strangers as they go about their daily lives. I have a very selfish motive for doing so – watching normal people do normal things, as they sometimes make the same mistakes I do, makes me feel a little more normal. Sometimes I catch the awkward hands-halfway-in-pockets walk, sometimes it’s the earphones-fell-out-of-my-ears routine, and sometimes it’s check-cellphone-repeatedly bit. Whenever I spot someone do mundane things I’m happy knowing that I’m not the only one who does those mundane things.

I was in the local computer store the other day, buying a pair of earphones to replace the ones that had recently died. I picked the ones I wanted off the shelf, and took my place in the line at the counter. At the next counter was someone a little younger than me, with who I presume was his father. The son was explaining to the salesman what he was planning to use his new computer for, and the salesman was doing his job by pushing as many software titles as he could. The son looked fairly self-assured as they chatted amiably about different versions of Microsoft Office, and it became clear that this was probably the first computer he was going to call his own.

I hadn’t really noticed the father until he did one of those mundane things I just mentioned – he put his hands in his back pockets, while shuffling his feet and looking at the floor. In that moment his entire body language seemed to tell me that he was waiting for this whole thing to be over. The salesman cracked a joke that the son seemed to find funny, and the father responded with insincere laughter. I think we’ve all been in that father’s shoes at some point of time, or at least I know I have – when I’m not really sure what’s going on, I’d rather be somewhere else, and I’m fairly certain my presence or absence is irrelevant to the goings-on.

For whatever reason, I’m not as easily moved by sad stories. Still, I sometimes surprise myself when apparently mundane sights cause me to stop and (discreetly) stare. I’m not sure why, but this scene playing out in front of me was one of those sights. The father was around fifty, dressed in clothes that didn’t look like they came off any fashion line. His son was probably his biggest investment, and he must have worked very hard to make sure his son could go to a good university. And here, while his son was buying a new computer that would surely cost the father a fair sum, he might as well have been on a different planet.

I’m not sure why this scene struck me so. I think I might have seen the same look on my parents’ face when I bought my first laptop. It was expensive by any standards, and I remember my parents asking me if I was happy with the configuration, etc. I remember detecting a hint of Do you really need this? in their question, and I remember almost insisting I wanted it – now I cringe a little at the memory. It was strange to see that same situation from an objective viewpoint – the father perhaps wanting but uncomfortably unable to be of use, and the son decidedly comfortable in the situation. I doubt this was the only situation where the son, in his short 20 years, was more at home than the father would ever be.

As much the father would have shared with his son, for me this transaction seemed to mark the boundary between their respective worlds. This whole world belongs more to the son each passing day than it does to the father. I wondered if that was all we had to look forward to, if our most notable deed was handing over the world to the next generation. I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about that.

I paid for my earphones and stepped out into the sunlight. Bono was crooning Beautiful Day, some kids were having frozen yogurt and someone was reading a Kindle under a tree. For now at least, this world was mine.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. phoenix
    April 4, 2011 at 12:34 am

    You’re normal. A special kind of normal, but normal.

  2. phoenix
    April 4, 2011 at 12:34 am

    Whatever that means.

  3. Ishani Ahuja
    April 5, 2011 at 4:17 am

    u r growing old and the world is running out of your hands! haha!!! šŸ˜›

  4. June 27, 2011 at 5:00 am

    Special kind of normal šŸ™‚

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