I haf too!

Nisha Khot

“I haf too!” – I was four, GD was almost eight. He could eat the entire boiled egg in one mouthful; I couldn’t. I always choked.

“I haf too!” – I was five, GD was almost nine. He could skate faster than anyone in the building; I couldn’t. I always scratched the parked cars.

“I haf too!” – I was six, GD was almost ten. He could solve the Rubik’s cube; I couldn’t. I simply couldn’t.

But one day, I did. I solved the Rubik’s Cube. It took an entire night of careful calculations, and an entire morning of staying carefully hidden out of view, behind the sofa. But I did it. And I was still “not-yet-seven”.

My parents were ecstatic. “She did it!” they called up my mama-mami, GD’s parents.

Allow me to introduce you to GD, my cousin. A child prodigy of sorts, who excelled at everything he did, and did just about everything. His room was lined with trophies, his elbows and knees with scratches, his shelves with books, his face with dimples – the perfect little human, actually. A good role model, of course, but a tough one to live up to. To his credit, he never rubbed it in and was always willing to help me out. But I had to compete.

Why? Not because my parents asked me to, oh no. Not even because I was adventurous, nope. It was because when you’re a kid, it’s not age but size that matters. And I was a good six inches taller than GD. Which, in my head, made me the “bigger” one – the one who had to automatically be better. Anyway, back to the Rubik’s Cube.

“But she’s only six – has she really solved the Cube?” asked my mama incredulously, over the weekend lunch. “I did!” I interrupted indignantly, “And I can do it again. I haf too!” All eyes were on me. Including GD’s. There was no backing out now.

“But she’s only six – has she really solved the Cube?” asked my mama incredulously, over the weekend lunch. 

“I’ll do it while you all sleep, quietly,” I mumbled. Dubious looks all around, and soon enough I was left alone. An hour later, I emerged, victorious. Clapping was done, pride was flashed, ice cream was bought – I was all smiles! I’d done it! I’d solved the Rubik’s Cube!

I kept solving it over and over all week, always in solitude, always hidden behind the sofa. Till the next weekend. (Prepare for trauma…)

4pm, post family weekend lunch: I’m huddled behind the sofa, engrossed in “solving” the Cube. My fingers ache, my eyes hurt, my throat is parched, but there’s no going back now. This is what I’m going to have to do forever and ever, I’m thinking. Please God, don’t let them make me do this on TV, in front of everyone. Will I haf too keep doing this till I’m almost-ten? How many more days is that? 1000 days? I’m still only 5-and-half…

This is what I’m going to have to do forever and ever, I’m thinking. Please God, don’t let them make me do this on TV, in front of everyone. 

4:30pm: GD yells out, “Are you done yet? I’m done with mine!” Goddddd, I don’t want to do this. How many more squares left??

4:40pm:  Suddenly GD is peeping at me from over the edge of the couch, with a huge smile on his face. THE END. Thank God.

No, I hadn’t finished solving the Cube – I still had four white and three red squares to match. I always did the whites and reds last. So, these four whites. Stuck to my knee. And the three reds, stuck to my wrist. It’d have taken my tiny five-and-a-half-year-old scraped fingertips and bleeding nails, at least five more minutes to stick them in place.

I expected silence, disappointment, a spot of yelling, even. There was silence, actually. For a good ten minutes, maybe. And then my dad came over, scooped me up, and laughed a huge belly laugh. As did my mom, and everyone around. “If that’s not intelligence, I don’t know what is,” laughed my mama. And then it happened all over again: Clapping was done, pride was flashed, ice cream was bought – I was all smiles!

Haven’t figured how to solve a Rubik’s Cube yet, but yes, I’ve never ever had to “haf too” ever since.

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