Aayush was deep in thought, unusually contemplative for a Sunday morning. He had been this way since he came back from school the previous afternoon. He seemed surrounded by an air of seriousness, the world’s weight on his young shoulders, saddened by the lack of knowledge about what he wanted to be when he grew up.
Sheetal looked at her 11-year-old, after she had eased the car into a parking space outside her mother’s home. “We’re here,” she announced.
She smiled as Aayush got out of the car without saying a word. She wasn’t worried about her son, she knew him well. He reveled in his mood swings, being thoughtful gave him a feeling of maturity, and he loved it. Aayush was at his cutest when he pretended to be brooding, acting unconcerned about the world around him, feigning annoyance at being asked about his problems, but secretly seeking the attention.
“Aaaayuuushh, my sweet, little boy…come here, give grandma a hug,” Shanti had been eagerly waiting for them. She loved it when her daughter and grandson spent Sundays with her; she wished they’d do it more often.
“I’m not little anymore, grandma,” Aayush said, allowing his granny to squeeze some love into him.
“No, of course, you’re not, you’re a big boy now,” she said. Shanti took her daughter’s hand in hers and led them to the living room of her house. Aayush parked himself into his favourite corner of the sofa and opened his backpack. A bundle of comic books and novellas were unearthed from it, and laid down in neat piles on the coffee table by the sofa. There were a couple of Hardy Boy books, and some Nancy Drew novellas amongst a few Chacha Chaudhary comics.
Shanti looked at her daughter, and raised her eyebrows towards her grandson. Sheetal smiled, and said, “It’s a school assignment; he’s supposed to tell his class what he wants to be when he grows up. But he’s not sure, yet.”
“You don’t know what you want to be, Aayush?” Shanti asked him.
“No, I’ve to think really hard about this,” he replied, “I can’t decide just like that.”
“Yes, that’s true. It’s a big decision,” Shanti smiled. “How about…a cricketer? Someone like Sachin Tendulkar?”
“I bowl better than I bat,” Aayush informed them.
“Well, okay, you could be any type of cricketer…or you know, a doctor?”
“Doctors are boring, grandma.”
“Your father’s a doctor,” Sheetal chipped in. “Do you think he’s boring?”
“No, I guess not…but I don’t feel like being a doctor,” Aayush tried to reason.
“How about you become a scientist?” Shanti suggested. “Scientists have a lot of fun.”
“You’ve to study really hard to become a scientist,” Aayush sulked.
Shanti and Sheetal enjoyed a hearty laugh when they heard this. “Well, don’t worry,” Shanti said, getting up and ruffling her grandson’s hair, “you’ll know what you want to be when the time comes.”
But Aayush wasn’t convinced. When will that time come? He wondered. And what if it didn’t come before he had to tell his class what he wanted to be? He hated not knowing, all of his friends knew what they wanted to be. Why am I the only one who doesn’t have a clue?
Miffed at himself, he decided he needed to take a break from all the thinking. Aayush turned towards the coffee table, and picked up a Nancy Drew book. A speck of something off-white caught his eye; something seemed to be stuck on the table. He scratched it off the table and looked at it closely. It was a small piece of candle wax.
Grandma had probably lit a candle, but not cleaned the table properly afterwards, Aayush decided. But why would she need to light a candle?
“Grandma, did the lights go off here recently?” he called out.
“Yes, yesterday, in the evening,” she replied back, “there was no electricity for almost an hour. Why do you ask?”
“Umm, nothing, just like that,” Aayush said. He smiled, he was proud of himself. He had managed to figure out something from a small clue, much like the detectives he loved reading about in mystery stories.
And then he beamed. He suddenly knew what he wanted to do when he grew up. His correct assumption about why his granny had lit a candle had made him realise what he would be – a detective.
Sheetal noticed the smile on her son’s face. “What’re you smiling about, Aayush?” she asked.
He didn’t reply, he just grinned at her.
“Detective Aayush, mum,” he said, “I’m now Detective Aayush.”