Stories of a Shillong boy Part 2: The Boy and the Giant Slide

April 6, 2023 by MT Bureau

It’s a strange feeling being a mother of a young child in these chaotic times. COVID and the lockdown changed the narrative of what being a parent means. As a mother of an only child, I still allowed him a lot of freedom, but I was monitoring him like a tigress. Anyone or anything that meant him harm was going to have to go through me. Ray—more important than anyone else just because he is my son and it’s not
just viruses and pedophiles I have to protect him from. There are bullies, bigots fanatics, stereotypes, peer pressure, and an outdated education system… this can take up the whole broadsheet. But you get what I mean. I am (or was rather) the tigress teaching her cub how to survive. This is a story of how Ray showed me that I have nothing to worry about.

2022 — 2023 proved to be a big year for us. We finally decided to travel. Nothing was going to stop us. Our first trip was to Mumbai during the monsoon which opened up his world. He saw the sea for the first time and it shook him. His face changed. No geography lesson came close to the real thing. Our second trip was to Goa. This was a family thing and he befriended the sea this time—tasting its water, challenging the waves, and contemplating swimming across to Dubai (on the condition that I (accompanied him). The sea was kind this time and Ray appreciated her generosity.

One day though we decided to take him to a waterpark. He was very excited. The moment we got there, he jumped into the paddling pool and tried the little slides. He tried to swim in one of the deeper pools and was partially successful. I was perfectly happy. I hate public poolsand the place seemed safe enough to not need me to be in the water with him. So I let go of the tigress and allowed him to run around and
have fun with little supervision. Just when I was getting comfortable, I suddenly saw him running to the giant slides. There were three giant slides in this particular park. I ran after him. When we got to the top, he looked down all three of them and chose the one he wanted to slide down. I grilled the attendant there about its safety and he was able to assure me that the worst thing that could happen was that Ray
would get stuck.

ALSO READ: Stories of a Shillong boy Part 1: Hill Boy and the Desert

It took about 10 minutes before Ray mustered up the courage to slide down one of them. He has always been the type to take risks, but calculated ones. When he finally went down one sitting on an inflated tube, he came running back immediately to do it again. Then he eyed the second slide and after carefully listening to instructions, finally decided to take the plunge and got stuck. Watching him drag

himself down to the end of the slide was probably one of the most annoying things the slippy slide attendant had to witness. I was laughing and took out my phone to take a video (For my own entertainment only. Am not sharing it with anyone).

Then he came back up for the last time—his time for the third slide. For this particular one, the attendant told him that he had to be on his tummy and slide down head first. Ray got on the sliding mat and was listening intently to the instructions and then he just said, “No.” My heart broke a little. I really wanted him to try doing something that scared him—something outside his comfort zone.

The attendant (who spoke only Hindi to Ray BTW) kept selling the third slide to him. I was also pushing him to give it a go. He got on the mat again and looked down the giant slide and again got on his feet and said, “No. I don’t want to do this.” I kept quiet. I did not want to force him, but at the same time, I really wanted him to face his fear. So I remained silent waiting for him to decide. The attendant, however, was not silent at all. He said, “Agar yeh nahi kar paoge to bohut kuch nahi kar paoge zindagi mein (if you cannot do this then you will not be
able to do a lot of things in life).”

Ray looked at him—this 40-year-old or so male attendant of the giant slide in a water park in Goa and said, “Main sirf dus saal hoon. (I’m just ten years old).”

He got off the slide and walked down to join the rest of the group. The tigress in me smiled and retreated. I just looked at the attendant apologetically and walked away quite proud that Ray took a stand and voiced it so eloquently.

(This piece has been written by Dalariti Nongpiur with illustrations by Hazel Kharkongor)