|By Tanya Pinto, Canada [ Published Date: May 9, 2004 ]|
I have not been in Toronto for a while now and now that I am back for a few weeks, there have been many dinner invitations from family friends. Things have been hectic lately with work and I welcome any opportunity to relax. Vera has invited us to dinner. Vera has been a close friend of my mothers for ages. I used to tutor her two sons in Math. Her eldest son, Vicky is in first year commerce and her second, Alvin, is a precocious seventeen year old about to enter university. They are a typical family, no different than the rest of us, with the usual myriad of expectations and complaints of their children.
It was a lovely dinner. Vera is a great cook and I thoroughly enjoyed her Goan fish curry, fragrant biryani and her newest fare, cassava cake, which was deliciously soft. The conversation around the dinner table was entertaining as always. Alvin made us laugh till we almost choked. He seems to have a gift for comedy. I was having a great time with no awkward moments until the moment when I was emptying my leftovers into the dustbin and Vera had asked to speak with me in private in hushed tones. The last time she had asked to speak with me in private, she tried to set me up with a guy she knew from work. But that did not work out. Perhaps this was another setup I thought as I went into her bedroom upstairs to speak with her.
We made some small talk about my work and my future plans. It seemed to me that we talked about such innocuous stuff for too long a time and just when I was thinking that there was no reason for this conversation to be held in private, she ended the suspense.
“I am worried about Alvin. Will you talk to him? He wants to be a comedian. He is going to make it his career. Do you believe that? It is not practical. Can you speak with him? Tell him how much you enjoy what you do and how much more secure that is. Perhaps you can get these crazy ideas out of his head. He will ruin his life with these ideas of his,” she blurted out without stopping to take a breath.
I must have blinked blankly for about five minutes after I heard this. So this is why she wanted to speak with me in private. She wanted me to speak to Alvin about his career plans. About the futility of his career plans and that he should do something more “practical” and I suppose for Vera that meant something along the lines of medicine, accounting, engineering etc. And I would have to use my own example to somehow persuade Al that he was making a mistake.
I really like Alvin. He was different from Vicky. Every time I talked with Vicky, he gave me the impression that he only cared about making money. There was no warmth or humour to Vicky. But Alvin was different. He was always the clown, forever joking, always compassionate and always wickedly witty. I remembered a conversation I had with Alvin three years ago when he was fourteen. I had asked him what career plans he had.
“I want to have my own sitcom, like Seinfeld,” he said proudly. I had laughed. I asked him how many brown comedians he knew right now with their own sitcoms on North American television and he dismissed my comment by saying that there is always a first for everything. And that was Alvin also. Always full of energy. Always full of dreams and life.
Was it really so far-fetched of him to consider giving his comedic talent a chance when he still had the drive and energy to make his dreams come true? Did his mother really need to feel so anxious about his future and be a constant source of angst instead of a source of support and encouragement? There are no guarantees in life. Certainly not in the kind of path he was considering in taking, but if he was successful, all the better for him. If he was not successful, he could pick up pieces and try again with another career or return to school. This was hardly going to be the end of him. At least if he pursued his dreams, he would not have any regrets or “what ifs”.
Talking to Vera further, I found out that Alvin was going to do an Arts degree in university. He was going to work on his stand up routine and he has already been making some rounds of comedy clubs at young talent nights with good reviews. Even Vera acknowledged that Alvin had talent but then she immediately followed that comment with “but what kind of money can he make doing this.” Alvin never struck me as the kind who cared about making money. He seemed to care more about the kind of work he did. He had apparently made it clear to his parents, much to his mother’s chagrin, that he was not interested in pursuing another career.
Vera once again requested me to speak to Alvin and “put some sense into that boy”.
My own feeling was that I should leave Alvin alone and I should speak with her instead. Tell her that Alvin seemed quite capable of making his own decisions. Perhaps he would fail as a comedian. Perhaps he would be a huge success. But this was his decision to make and ours to support. He has to live his life not ours. But I was not about to get into that conversation with her at this moment. Perhaps it would be better coming from my mother. I told her I would speak with Alvin and she should not worry. Alvin was not in any way “throwing his life away” by following his dreams. Things always have a way of working out. She was not convinced.
Only time would convince her.