It was nine in the morning, his mother had just finished washing utensils after an early breakfast of poha. He came to the kitchen and stood close to his mother who was wiping her hands with a kitchen towel and said, “Maa, I need two thousand rupees. I want to go out with my friends”. She turned towards him looked at him and said in a sarcastic voice, “two thousand rupees!! Isn’t it too much for a 10th class student and that too for a random outing” and went to the drawing-room. He followed her and sat next to her in their 10-year-old sofa where she turned the pages of Danik Jagran. He said in a very humble but sobbing voice, “everyone is bringing this much only and I have to go this time don’t say no please”.
They belonged to a middle class family and he was the fifth child of the house. He had four elder sisters three were married and the youngest was pursuing her B.Com from DU. They lived in a rented house in Mayur Vihar, Delhi. A small two bedroom apartment cost them almost 15k a month. For a retired man, it was too much yet years of planning made it possible for his dad to stay in Delhi and give good quality education for his children.
Being an aggressive and strict man nothing came to him directly, it had to travel through mom. From decisions on how and where to spend money, going out, career related almost all of them, it was her job to convince him. So getting mom in confidence was the first thing to do.
She wasn’t listening or maybe she was but pretending not to. Noticing the arrogance and ignorance of mom he began to raise his voice and in not more than 10 mins the request became a list of complains on how students of his age are chilling out and having fun and how he is stuck in has never demanding anything etc.
After an hour long one-sided discussion, she said “We are not like others and you better stop complaining. You have been given the best of resources a 10 grade student should be given”. Her words were dripping with exasperation and firmness.
He stood up and left.
She took a long breath and went back into the newspaper thinking it was an end of the conversation although it was the beginning of a something very big.
He came back to the room with his phone which his sisters gifted him after his repeated request. He sat very peacefully and opened Facebook and then the said, “Maa, have a look” and turned the phone to her.
“These are check-ins of Ishaan. Look where all he has gone and you know maa his papa works at a very small company and doesn’t earn very well”.
He kept on showing pictures and check-ins of people and finally took the phone to open zomato and selected a very expensive restaurant in hauz khas village.
“This is the place I wanted to go in, and not just me all of us”, he said with glittering eyes.
She didn’t know what to say. She didn’t had an answer but still she tried explaining and said “look son, people often go to eat out but your parents are pretty old to enjoy such delicacies and then it is useless expenditure. We often go to eat out may be not at such high-profile places but we give you the best we can”.
His eyes start to water and he said “Mom, they think I am not as well off as they are and I don’t have anything to say when they comment on each other pictures and suggest places. Sometime I read from internet and just to show that I know places too I take names of good places but now they say show us or upload a picture”
“Who are they“, she said. She has never seen her son cry and it was all very new to her. She could not understand half of the things he said and even if she did, she failed to understand their significance in a 15 year old’s life.
“My friends, schoolmates”, he said with tears flowing through his eyes.
“We aren’t poor, look we are given you the best of education. We eat so well and healthy. We have all facilities at our place. You have successful sisters. Facebook and Instagram are not parameters of deciding anything”, she said very softly.
“I know mom but I don’t want people to see me so low. I will show you my instagram it has pictures of momos and homemade food and pizzas but no picture of a very nice restaurant. Mom I also want people to talk about me. I ask for nothing give me money this time please”, he said.
She thought for a long time and said, “I can’t give you 2000”.
She didn’t say a word extra but she wanted to say a lot. It might have been a regular incident for his son but not for her she realized that how much social media has impacted their lives. She could see that how definition of happiness has changed so much. She saw an irony between how social networking sites are meant to bring people closer but has divided them so much, she could see her son struggling to keep up with the virtual life and how that virtual life has become the matter of respect among his peers.
He yelled at her, “Why did you put me such good school when you can’t give me money. Had I been in a school of low standard I would have never made such a demand. When I can’t be one of those people at school they will never consider me a friend.”
There was complete silence in the room.
She got up, took out her wallet and gave him 1500 and said, “if you say all that to your dad he will be heartbroken so I am giving you this money on my own without his consent. Spend it wisely”.