It was nearly the ending, I was about to queen my pawn and my son was almost happy that the game was just about over. I was keen that he still defend and force a draw. He was playing black and if he made the right move, his rook and king could get into a position, wherein, I could neither win his rook nor checkmate him. He either wanted to win or lose. A draw, was merely a meek surrender to him. Besides it was four and he liked watching an episode of Game of Thrones before he was off to play soccer. What a mix-up he was! I, on the other hand lived in my books and my work. I often sat in a corner, lost for hours and barely noticed the day go by. Had it not been for his Aunt, who lived next door, my son would have grown up malnourished and full of hate.
There were characters in stories and relationships in chess. These were more real to me than those outside. These characters challenged me, kept me awake and often spoke to me. I did not speak out loud, nor was I crazy, my son and his aunt knew that. I earned enough with my books and people in the neighbourhood called my son a rich kid. I wrote my books under a pseudonym and never went to a book launch nor replied to any comments on the internet. I remembered the characters of my books, long after I had documented their accomplishments and misadventures. Though I did not like to dwell on them, I found myself quite often recollecting their times. Soon I would get rid of that habit. After all it was fiction and somehow other people’s fiction was certainly more real than mine.
When my son left to play that day, for the first time in years I thought about what would become of him after I left. Actually I should admit, after his aunt had eventually left. He knew how to make friends and find his way. He would probably do that when he started working. Perhaps he would meet someone and nurture a family.
What would he do after that? A man must find a way to occupy his time, much after all his early dreams are realised. In the years after your children no longer depend on you for their bedtime stories, time begins to stretch endlessly. My wife was in the habit of saying, that someday, when I would declare to my fictional characters, I was on a break and visit what she called the ‘real’ world, I would see that there was so much joy. I thought she must be right since she said it with such conviction. But I was quite happy then, and felt that meeting many people would change that. Then what was I to do? I would be left in the middle of two worlds with neither the love nor hatred of either.
My son missed his mum a lot. She was always looking after his day-to-day life, paying his school fees on time, meeting his teachers and chatting up his friends. I on the other hand, only taught him small details; perhaps he had got bored with them. I taught him how to tie different kinds of knots, how to tell if somebody was lying on television, how to decide when two choices confused you, how when you tossed a coin, even before it landed your choice was made; but mostly I taught him chess, all the openings, the relative strengths and weaknesses of all the people on the board. I taught him how to keep involving them in different moves, how to keep one of them patiently waiting for his turn and how to persuade some to offer themselves in sacrifice. At first, like most children, he was very curious and quick to learn. As he grew older, he loved the outdoors and the nervous excitement of his friends. His world was getting bigger and my place in that would soon be a small corner.
Despite his preoccupations I could tell that he loved me dearly. He often did small things that my wife used to do for me. If he had not done them, I would barely have noticed; but when he did, it just reminded me how I had forgotten to build these errands into my routine.
My son always seemed to have a packed day: a little bit of time for everything. Would his sense of balance help him live a more fulfilling life? Would all those little bits, mean a more refined personality that would help him make the best of the very moments that someone like me could never capitalise on? Or would a packed day like that make him conversant with many things but unable to truly grasp the very grain of a few important things? In chess, even if you had a Bishop and a King remaining and your opponent, only a King, it was still impossible for you to win. And the same goes if you only have a Horse keeping company to your King. Younger players always thought the Knight to be more powerful than the Bishop, though as they got better at the game, they would realise that in most cases a Bishop was worthier than a Knight and especially so as more and more characters left the board. As he grows, perhaps he will seek the grain of things, the theory of how everything worked and the essence of love. Had I found the true essence of love? At times, I wondered whether I had seen her as the Bishop and taken the Knight on my chess board to be more worthy of my time. One cannot go back, so one must never spend time in regret. What good is it to worry about all our accumulated worries?
My son often found his bed made, or some pancakes cooked for him when he did not expect it. It gave me a slight relief when I engaged in these lifeless things. It gave me some distance from all the characters that I constantly lived amidst and with whom I conversed. He was now watching the fourth season of Game of Thrones or GOT as he called it. When I half-curiously asked him about the plot, he told me that it involved several characters that were good and bad at the same time. That they had complex personalities, agreed with my understanding of people, that they kept dying also agreed with me. It felt like a game of Chess at first. Sometimes they came back, like the resurrection of a queen or a knight. The only thing that did not agree with me was that these characters started appearing in other movies. It confused me greatly because I could no longer understand ‘where they were coming from’. Their personalities seemed very mixed indeed. Were they as complex as they were in one of the sub tales of GOT or were they simple like they appeared in the movies? My son explained that they were only acting. I knew that. But I still did not find a way to reconcile with a character that had entirely two different personalities.
And so winter came for us, as it was prophesied in my son’s favourite TV show. I had now stopped my morning walks as well. I did get up early, but only to spend the extra hours in writing. My son’s aunt came home often to cook for him. I did mention that she need not, but she insisted that since he was studying hard that year, he needed good food. I understood what she implied, for it wasn’t a subtle point that she was making. She was right though. Her idea of good food was food with less oil, less spices and plenty of protein. My idea of good food was based on the trade-off I had to make in terms of time. Good food was that which took lesser time.
My son was now more to himself when at home and constantly talking to his friends on his phone. His aunt teased him about some girlfriend. I watched in amusement when he blushed. Soon he would come to me for help with mathematics. I had to free up some time, so I started writing furiously. In my novel, my characters were impatient to know their destinies.
They would not wait endlessly for winter to come.