Written by Nandini Sethi
“I just have a gut feel about it, I think it’s a great idea!” I argued, slightly exasperated by the lack of importance my parents were giving me.
“Do you really believe that son? An online milk delivery service?” Dad said, shaking his head the way I did when I came home with a bad grade.
“It makes complete sense! We are a small town, everyone needs milk, and no one has to run to the store so many miles away!” It seemed like my argument was a lost cause, so I slowly decided to let it go.
Mom and dad moved on from the conversation as fast as they rejected the idea. We went back to our regular dinner-table discussions of family gossip, neighbouring antics, and the delicious food mom had cooked for us.
The next day, I suggested the idea to Ron, my best friend at school, and he shrugged it off, insisting there was a more important thing we had to deal with – the party that night. It was the final party before everyone was off to to their respective universities all over the country. Ron and I, thankfully, were going to the same college, a 5-hour drive from home, and we decided to room together too.
Just like attending this party, we did everything together – take our first steps, first words, first F on a test, and even first girlfriend. And when we attended our first college party together, we knew we were in for a ride.
College became like our safe space. We could do anything we wanted, without any interruption from our parents, for the first time in our lives!
We ate breakfast at lunch, lunch at dinner, dinner at midnight. We partied, rolled around in grass, ate sugar after 10:00 PM, and watched TV at the maximum volume.
College was a space where I could voice my opinions and thoughts, without being rejected or made to feel inferior. So, I spoke to my professors about my business ideas, and they agreed to help me financially once I graduated. I was over the moon.
Two years passed this way, and I never made it back home. I spoke to mom and dad almost every other day, but I didn’t want to leave my safe space. Burst my little bubble.
It was on the Christmas of my second year at college that mom forced me to come back for a little while. I didn’t necessarily mind it, since it had been so long, in fact, I was rather excited. I had forgotten all my friends back home, all the homecooked food I’d been missing out on, and the comfort of having a bed that didn’t creak with every slight movement. On the phone to mom that night, I gave her a warning, “mom, I can’t wait to see you and all that, but please refrain from making any remarks on my business ideas.” I expected her to laugh and tell me to continue being a little boy, but she did nothing. She ignored my statement completely and told me to just hurry back home.
For some reason, both Ron and I were nervous to go back home. I knew Ron was anxious too, the way his knee was bouncing up and down. I met his eye and smiled, before we devoured our supermarket sandwiches.
Walking to my doorstep felt weird and familiar all at once. The grass looked greener, but the air smelled the same as before. I knocked on the red door, the same way I did every day when I got home from school. Embracing my parents in a group hug, we laughed and even cried a little, staying glued together for longer than any of us would like to admit.
At dinner, the conversation flowed like before: family gossip, antics from the neighbourhood, and an upgrade was current affairs. In between spoonfuls of porridge, I spoke, “guys, you don’t have to worry about my milk business idea anymore! I got my professors to agree to help and they even want to fund it for our town!”
I expected a reaction. A happy, or even sad one. But all they did was stare at each other; mouths downturned in what I assumed was shame. After two whole minutes of silence, I spoke up, “what’s going on?”
When two more minutes of silence ensued, I asked louder this time, “guys! What’s going on!” They looked at me with pity in their eyes, as if trying to tell me what they were saying without actually saying it. Just then, the house-bell went off. Slowly, I got up, still glaring at them, and opened the door.
On opening, I found Emma, from the neighbouring building at our door, smiling, “Oh my god, look at you! You’re so different now!” I gave her a tight-lipped smile, still reeling from the tension I was undergoing just a moment ago, “it’s nice to see you Emma, how have you been?”
She giggled, “that’s actually why I’m here! You know I’m lactose intolerant, so I came to speak to your parents about expanding their business and start delivering almond milk too! What do you think? Isn’t it a great idea?” She smiled.
I turned around to find my parents looking at me with sorrow. “Expand? Business?” I didn’t understand. Until I did.
“You stole my business?!”