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Sometimes, it is the seemingly very ordinary activity or incident in life that makes you realize the passage of time, reversal of roles and inheritance of familial traits. 

 I am not very good at crossing streets. I blame my lack of experience for my incompetence. When my mother and I decided to join the Quran classes at a nearby masjid, we loved the opportunity of also benefiting from the early morning walks, as a result. But on that 10 minutes journey was our everyday hurdle that needed crossing – literally – double-lane, two way busy streets. Everyday we would squabble over when exactly it was ‘right’ to cross.

“Now! Come on.”

“No, wait! That car is too fast.”

“Oh, we could have managed. It would’ve slowed-down for us.”

“Well, we can’t take such chances.”

Such were our routine roadside disputes.

 Then, one day I took the reins of control and her hand in mine and moved forward. When we reached the road-divider, I shifted sides and hands to face the oncoming traffic. It was at that odd moment in time, standing sandwiched between two busy roads, did a realization dawn on me and left me with questions. Wasn’t it yesterday that Ihad closed my eyes and relied on my mother’s judgement to take me forward? Today I was leading her forward and she was trusting my decision. When did the follower and leader exchange places? And how was that transition so smooth and silent that we didn’t even realize we had eased into our new roles and accepted the others’?

 Changes happen with time but we hardly realize its passage. As I walked rest of the way, I envisioned leading my children across some street one day. And surely with the blink of the eye, they would one day hold my hand and escort me. I would, once again be led. Once more, I would experience a role reversal.    

 ***

It is said that the mother’s sister is the next closest relative of a woman. Perhaps because we inherit characteristics from our aunts too – in more ways than we realize! My eldest aunt has had road-crossing incidents to fill a book. She once stood with her family to cross a busy street. When there was an opening, though a tight one, they promptly crossed over. My aunt remained frozen in her spot unable to gather the courage to go. The family waited on the other side, signalling her to move but she did not thaw. Finally, she hailed a rickshaw and asked to be dropped on the other side. Over the years, we have teased her over that episode.

***

 Little did I know that history will repeat itself and teach me a lesson along the way. I had to visit a friend after my class so I hitched a ride with a colleague. She dropped me in front of my friend’s house, but across the street.

‘No problem. I’ll cross,’ I told her, without realizing the obstacle that awaited me. Three lanes, heavy traffic and no pedestrian-crossing – there was just no way to cross safely. For fifteen minutes I made desperate futile attempts. Then, with resignation and embarrassment I telephoned my friend to describe the scenario outside her house. She came over and picked me up in her car.

 I didn’t tell my family about it. But next time my aunt is teased about her road-crossing experience; she’ll have a sympathetic niece to defend her.     

 

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