Like most nasty surprises go, this too was sprung upon me with no warning and absolutely no time for me to gather my thoughts about me in a composed manner . “Here’s the projeck guidelines sheet,” said the offspring and hefted a stapled bunch of sheets my way, much in the careless manner people go round lobbing grenades at unwary hapless onlookers in crowded places. But this was home. And I was alone, hapless, the sole target for this grenade bomb of instructions. I grabbed it with the trepidation of one handling live ammunition with the pin taken off and went through it with trembling hands and blinking eyes.
The list seemed never ending, pictures and information to be collated, charts and scrap books to be procured, border tapes, glue sticks and the assorted shebang that goes into the creation of these dreaded things. As someone who left her art and craft skills in the hallway of her high school when she gave her last exam for Class ten, project week for me is always a battle between the nerves and me, and very often the nerves win. It seemed doable though, in the way, Mt Everest seems doable when you google “How to climb a mountain.”
This had to be tackled on a war footing, and this involved immense making of lists and putting down deadlines against each project. I am nothing if not an inveterate list maker, and so it began, an excel sheet opened on the computer and details keyed in. Topic of the project, format to be submitted in, material to be gathered, presentation ideas to be generated, shots of vodka to be consumed…you get the gist. Seriously though, making out an excel sheet, and sticking it to my soft board at office and the offspring’s soft board at home enables us to completely blind spot it and consciously ignore it, until 10 pm on the eve of project week. When I die, they will have on my grave, here’s the one thing she didn’t put on her to-do list.
But then, as all good intentions go, this too, this determination to be organised and in charge went to the land of nod until one Sunday night, 10 pm Just as I had secured all the locks and latches of the home to ensure no burglar could make their way in, and was sleep walking my way into the bedroom, having done and dusted my tasks for the day, the offspring tottered out of his room, staring at me with the silent death stare which inevitably meant that I had failed reprehensibly in my duties as a mom and he was going to carry this moment into therapy when he grew up, and need 20 sessions of to talk through his issues with neglect and abandonment. “Mamma,” he says, in tone so sepulchral, I wondered whether the little girl from The Exorcist had been visiting. “Tomorrow is ProjekWeek.”
I sank to my knees. What fresh hell is this, I asked myself. Had I not just sat through ten pages of English Language homework and an entire chapter of Physics Homework done with as much reluctance as Basanti doing the fancy footwork on glass shards, with me playing the gun brandishing Gabbar? Yes I had had advance warning, but true to tradition, I’d filed it under the “We have enough time” box and the enough time had snuck up and bit me on the butt when I least expected it to.
By the end of the term, most moms, like me, have run out of steam and enthu when it comes to project week. The offspring was deposited at the computer, never mind the sleep forming cobwebs on his lashes and made to do quick googling of all he needed, in terms of priority. O Henry’s Life and Times. Check. Add to it a pretty picture of the author as an infant in a be-ribboned frock and we had enough chortling hyuck hyucks from the offspring to ensure that all sleep was dispensed with for everyone in the house. Information about the author and one interesting fact. “He was jailed fer robbing a bank.” Ermm, no child, that’s called embezzlement, and does not include the use of a gun and a getaway car. All the info related to O Henry—pictures, life facts, etc, were neatly printed out and labelled, an errant chart paper fished out of the depths of the drawer that held all material required for art and craft work, and some quick application of border tape and sticking of the pictures later, we had a skeletal chart that could ensure I wasn’t reported for dereliction of duty. History was equally fun, Shah Jahan’s monuments, and we had to trawl through reams of information available online about each of his constructions and zeroing in on the perfect shots of the Taj Mahal, was a pleasure in itself. It also did not help the ever extending bed time by my waxing eloquent on the beauty of the monument in its actuality to an offspring who could not comprehend why the Mughal emperor spent so much money and time “fer a died person.” But a wonderful shot of Shah Jahan’s magnum opus was selected, information extricated off the world wide web, pictures selected and printed out, and the scrap book primed and readied to received the lot.
And finally, when all the information, printouts, pictures etc, had been printed out, cut out and made ready for pasting, I sat back, looked at the clock and breathed deeply. The offspring got busy with his headings, and decorations of the covers and being artistically challenged, he had created alien life forms instead of borders and given credence to the beauty in the disorder as the wise poet had once said. I was compelled to take it upon myself to extricate my redundant artistic skills and try prod him into an organised cosmos from the tumultuous chaos his decorations had rendered the projects into.
It hadn’t taken too long, thanks to the internet and the printer, and a determined offspring. What had taken the longest though was the procrastination to get things started and that in fact was a lesson we both needed to learn. Well begun is half done, etc, and it doesn’t bear to waste time in procrastination given that we have the biggest ally of it all, the internet and technology right at our finger tips to get things done as instantly as possible.