When my sixth grader went to Camp Uroli, the parents of his classmates checked into Camp Worry. ‘Fragile’ or ‘Handle with Care’ stickers aren’t normally pasted on humans. So, the alternative, the WhatsApp group, was instituted.
The two accompanying teachers who created the WhatsApp group opened not just Pandora’s box but her entire four BHK house + two car park. It was mayhem.
Tearful parents started punching in messages the moment the kids entered the airport.
‘Is my son along with the group?’
‘Send me a photo to confirm.’
‘Don’t send him to the toilet alone. Please accompany him.’
‘What?! You left him on the toilet seat alone? Couldn’t you have sat along with him?’
I was at home having palmed off my underage traveller to a neighbour. Most other parents were trying to sneak onto the tarmac to personally inspect the plane’s engines. The kids were taking a plane to Delhi, a bus to Kathgodam, and finally, a jeep ride to Uroli camp. One parent requested the teacher to sit next to the driver to keep him awake. Others wanted their kids to wear woollens, sit near the window, not sit near the window, drink water, not too much water, eat, chew properly, and so on.
They also requested for photos to confirm all of the above. The next day dawned. The kids had checked into Camp Uroli. The parents, into Camp Worry Phase II. Those who had finger-tips left after a night of nail-biting, continued sending messages.
Only, they are now no more frantic. They were now, melancholy.
Meena Kumars and Kumaris were ‘missing their babies’. The pining was pouring from phone screens more profusely than the promises of ‘achche din’.
Meanwhile, the kids were living it up: camping in tents, trekking, rapelling, jumaaring, and enjoying many other adventurous ‘ings’. When coaxed to pose for photos for their disconsolate parents, they ran away. It was like an Under-12 Baghbaan remake.
After five painful days, it was time for return. Of the kids and the fear. Fretful parents resumed where they’d left a few days back.
It was backseat driving at its best. There were pleas for photos. I was, in the meantime, watching KBC. Another parent notified me that my son was safe in Kathgodam and spotted eating dosa. ‘Hmmmm’, I mumbled. I must be some kind of parenting scum.
Once in the plane, the kids sent the airline stock tumbling with their mid-air mischief. One kid wanted a pen, and after tipping one airhostess over the edge of sanity with repeated requests, loftily offered to purchase it from the in-flight store. Another wanted to exchange his seat, thereby setting up a chain reaction worse than tumbling dominoes. So, it was no surprise when the pilot landed the plane half an hour early (not making this up).
The gleeful parents must have bequeathed him most of their wealth. There was just one small glitch — the father of my traveller was 20 km away from pick-up point. It was my turn to enter Camp Worry.
(Bestselling author Rachna Singh is a sit-down commedienne)