‘I see the colour, colour, colour through their eyes…. Joys of little little little things in life,’ Rita loudly sang the lyrics of Joy of Little Things. The song was playing on her Airpods while she hung out the clothes to dry on the balcony.
Rita was an energetic, lively woman who loved her mornings. Every day, she would have her morning cuppa and watch the sunrise. Her son, Sujeet, on the other hand, was the exact opposite. He loved his morning slumber. If he had his way, he would be like an owl, awake till the wee hours of the morning. Unfortunately, Sujeet was a schoolboy studying in the eleventh grade. He was generally pressured by his teachers to improve his performance. His mother, too, expected more of him. She only meant well and just wanted him to do well in life.
This morning, Sujeet had left for school. Rita’s laundry was done. The music was blasting on her AirPods as she croaked. She was still to take a shower and get ready for her day at work.
Just then, her new neighbor stepped out on the balcony with a load of laundry that needed to be done. Their balconies were adjoined, with only a railing separating the two. Rita continued hanging the clothes and kept singing at the top of her lungs until she felt someone’s eyes watching her every move. She looked over her shoulder and felt her ears go red.
‘Oh my God! This is so embarrassing,’ she mumbled to herself, squeezing her eyes tightly shut. She immediately paused the music and slowly turned around.
The neighbor gave her a sweet smile and tried to control his giggles. ‘Good morning,’ he said. ‘I thought I heard someone singing.’
‘Morning,’ she replied slowly. ‘Sorry about that. I didn’t realize I was so loud and that you were standing there.’
He laughed and said, ‘No … no. It was quite entertaining. I’m Rohit, by the way. We just moved in a week ago.’
‘Yes, I noticed the truck was being unloaded and then the new washing machine on your balcony.’ Rita blabbered.
‘I’m Rohit,’ he repeated.
‘Oh… Umm… I’m Rita.’
Rohit smiled and began separating the white and coloured clothes. The bedsheets and towels. He seemed to know all about the little hacks of doing laundry.
Rita noticed a gold wedding band on Rohit’s ring finger and was impressed with his style of working.
Rohit and Rita exchanged looks. He wondered what his neighbor was looking at. He gave her a courteous smile, trying to move past that awkward moment.
‘I’m sorry, it’s clearly none of my business. But you have a red sock hidden in your pile of white clothes,’ Rita ventured.
‘Uh oh! Shelly wouldn’t be too pleased if our whites turned pink,’ he chuckled. ‘Shelly is my wife. We have two children, Samay and Sneha. They both are studying in college. One is in Pune, and the other is fast asleep inside, wasting his time.’
Rita giggled, ‘I have a son. Sujeet. He is such a disgruntled teenager.’
‘Oh! The teenage phase. Don’t get me started,’ Rohit rolled his eyes. ‘So, the laundry department is my responsibility while Shelly manages the cooking. We both are working parents.’
‘That’s nice. I like the way you guys have divided your chores,’ Rita said. ‘Anyway, I better get ready for work. I’ll see you around.’
As time passed, Rita and Rohit became good friends. They met every morning, chatted over a cup of tea, and hung the clothes out to dry. Somehow their timings matched. Rohit had introduced Rita to his wife and son. Now and then, Rita used to drop by with Sujeet and join them for dinner.
One morning, Rita wasn’t her chirpy self. She felt lonely, helpless, and hurt. Sujeet always found fault in his mother’s parenting methods. He just wanted to be left entirely alone in his own space. He thought his mother nagged him too much and burdened him with too many household responsibilities.
Rita was a widow. She had lost her darling husband in a horrendous car accident when Sujeet was just eight years old. Ever since she had single-handedly brought up their only son. She dedicated her entire existence to Sujeet. He was her world.
‘You don’t seem like yourself today… you’re not singing. Something is definitely wrong,’ Rohit asked.
‘I feel horrible,’ Rita admitted. ‘Sujeet and I got into a huge fight last night. And I said some things… he retaliated. It didn’t end well.’
‘That’s okay… fights happen,’ Rohit said. ‘Sometimes Samay and I fight, and things tend to get pretty ugly.’
Ritu let out a long sigh, ‘Why is motherhood so hard at times?’
‘There’s something else troubling you isn’t there,’ Rohit said.
‘I’m so tired of his mood swings. Sometimes he can be so aggressive, and he will say really mean things. He doesn’t want to study. He just wants to go out with his friends. He doesn’t want to help me around the house. He can't get enough of his screen time. It just feel like things are getting out of hand. I know I can’t always be in charge, and he is going through this teenage phase, but I just don’t know how to handle it.’
‘Maybe you just need to talk to him and…’ Rohit suggested.
‘I HAVE TRIED!’
‘Maybe you need to talk to him like he’s a friend. Not like he is your son. Try to treat him like an adult. Give him space. And share your feelings with him. I’m sure he will come around. Sujeet is a great boy. I just feel he’s a bit lost and just needs some direction.’
‘Go on. I’m listening,’ Rita said.
‘Why don’t you take him out for dinner tonight? Just you and him. Clear the air. And just appreciate the little moment in life together.’
The following morning Rohit found Rita on her balcony, singing at the top of her voice, listening to music on her AirPods, and drying out her clothes.
She turned around and smiled at her neighbor.
‘How was dinner?’ he asked.
‘Well, we ordered takeout. And I took your advice, and I guess we are much, much better. Thank you, Rohit. I really appreciated the pep talk. You really help me to see my son with a different lens.’
‘I think sometimes we all just need someone to talk to.’
‘You know? I think you are absolutely right! Thank you so much again, Rohit, for being my balcony sounding board.’ Rita winked, and they both giggled a little and went back to hanging out their family's laundry.