The Aching Joy

Shine & Shadows…

What is tougher — the first or the last step? The challenge with the first step is the fear of the “unknown”, the unchartered future that we are walking into. The last step is dreadful because of the fear of the “known”, when we know the best thing that lies ahead is memory.  It’s a close call. When our first-born flew the nest three years ago, it took a long time to acclimatize.  And now the thought of letting go of our last-born is leading to an unfathomable void. This blog is my attempt to come to terms with the ache.

Kindergarten. Aneesh arrived three years after Misha, missing the millennium generation by six months. He was the baby of the house. His crying was soft. As was his laughter.  He had a cuddle-me-face that made him everyone’s stress buster. His undemanding demeanor was endearing. He was content and peaceful — always at terms with self; except for his twin demands. One, he troubled a lot during mealtimes, so his mom always sat next to him, theatrically distracting and feeding him.  Two, every night, without fail, he and his sister insisted on an improvised story before the goodnight kiss. So each of us would pick a random animal, and I would ‘construct’ a story weaving in the chosen animals.

aneesh and ritu
Primary School.
Somewhere between their dad’s storytelling and their mom’s theatrics, the kids took an early fascination for arts. The junior choir at school picked Aneesh.  Occasionally his feminine voice resonated at the local fundraisers.  He grabbed lead roles with ease in school plays. He even starred in a couple of solo drum concerts. The stage lights didn’t dilute his innocence. Interestingly, he didn’t meet the same success when it came to his social skills.  He was a recluse. His reserved mannerism was often mistaken as timidity.  But he was not bothered. Being a social favorite was unimportant to him.

Secondary School. The boy in Aneesh took over, as his realm widened to the world of sports. With Messi being his icon, he fell in love with soccer.  He would practice alone for hours in the garden. Eventually he made it to the school team.  The next sport he attempted to excel in was Table Tennis. Then there were roller skates, monkey bars, and flash dances— our house felt like an abode of four boys.  He had overcome his socially awkward phase, and was popular amongst his classmates because of his easygoing temperament.  The only issue — most of his batch mates were a head taller!  But that didn’t hassle him.  Interestingly, his closest friend was the tallest boy in the class, but he had zero complexes for being uncharacteristically short.

High School. As Aneesh entered his teens, his interests turned cerebral.   He became a voracious reader.  He enrolled in his school’s robotics team that went on to compete at a national level.  He avidly took to debating, and won prestigious inter school competitions. Riding on an all-rounded personality, he threw his hat in the ring for Head Boy, and triumphed comfortably with support from students and teachers. Yet the badge on his uniform left him unfazed.  His height shot up suddenly and he was soon rubbing shoulders with his contemporaries. He doubled up on academics, and consistently ranked in the top four, but was never able to crack the top spot. But that didn’t unsettle him either.  In fact,his inner circle constituted of his closest rivals. He was happy to watch his buddies in the limelight from the sidelines,each annual day.

Junior College. As Aneesh moved school after his tenth grade, he was exposed to a world where freedom came in abundance.  There were temptations galore.  Drinking, smoking and weed were the norm.  And so were the populist statuses that came with branded shopping, luxury cars, and all the glamour money can buy.  But his interests resided elsewhere.  The first summer he spent interning with Teach for India, the second he spent with the Research Mentorship Program at UC Santa Barbara. His commitment paid off. He not only passed his junior college with flying colors, standing second in school, he handsomely cracked all the US entrance exams.  The moment of reckoning arrived. The day he opened his much-awaited email from UC Berkeley — his expressions, strangely, were devoid of excitement. There was no jumping around. There were no celebrations.

aneesh and me - waterfalls
THE WAIT. It has been a spectacular journey.  Over the years, we have watched our boy overcome his juvenile challenges in each phase of his life — be it social awkwardness, short stature, or academic misses.  And yes, he now relishes every imaginable cuisine, although his spot on the dining table next to his mother has remained the same.  Even the storytelling sides have reversed, as he fills me in on the complex twists and turns whenever we both bond over episodes of ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘Star Trek’.  The apple of our eye has ripened, he has grown into a wonderful young man.  Except for one thing that had been nagging me for many years, I had always wondered if Aneesh lacked a zest for life.  Eventually I asked him, “Why didn’t you show any excitement when you were accepted by your top college choice, UC Berkeley?” “Because, Dad, I would have been equally happy doing my undergrad from any college,” he stated as a matter of fact.

Aug 10, 2017. His recent answer dispelled a cloud for me, at personal as well as professional level. The reason Aneesh kept his calm through life’s small adversaries is exactly the same reason he maintained his composure during all the positive tidings.  He is able to accept success and failure in an equal stride. Hopefully he will exhibit the same grace when life brings him steeper ups and downs, starting with the brand-new world that awaits him tomorrow.  For tonight is his last childhood night in the nest.  It’s an end of an era.  Our last-born is ready.  We are not.  How we wish we could walk alongside for a little longer with our bundle of joy.  But the path has a fork.  And the sweetest piece of our heart is on the other side of the fork…

Acceptance, Original, Bumps, Style


  1. A beautiful concoction of various emotions, embodied in a subtle anecdote. Your articles holds true inspiration which is beyond success, failure, happiness, power, money, dominance or pride. It inspires me to unfold many complex aspects of life.

  2. Wow Arun! One of your best blogs ever … straight from the heart. I’m so grateful I’ve been a part of your family and got to love and enjoy your kids. Aneesh is truly special and he’s such a perfect combination of all things wonderful … all things ritu and you and then that special extra Aneesh magic! Going to miss him so so much! Xxx

  3. Chip of the old block , god bless.

  4. Anish was close but not close enough to know this much. So much I heard of Misha over the years but very little about Anish. Get to hear about their accolades from school environment. He has developed as a level headed man with great value system. I express lot of good wishes for Anish and the best, as well as sincere respect for the parents for creating an excellent value driven environment to grow up. All the best.

  5. Total Dil sey…. Its great to see him grow into this cool dude. Wish him the very best always.

  6. What a wonderful blog! Truly from the heart. It also answers the question that I had asked you, is it easier when your 2nd child leaves the nest or tougher? All the best wishes to Aneesh.

  7. Touching and so true, we all will go through this one day and no one can ever be prepared! One of the stresses of life we all have to deal with and your last few lines sum it all. While you are turning to the next chapter of the book, rest assured Arun that he will be fine here at Berkeley. Loved this blog !

  8. What a great expression of your thoughts of a parent and the expression of life’s journey with your children. May Anish be successful in his next phase of life and may his parents know that they have done a good job of setting him on a “good path” for success. All the best and God bless.

  9. Very beautifully expressed…best wishes for the next phase of Aneesh’s journey!

  10. A poignant piece, wonderfully written. As someone whose second-born (daughter) left for undergrad studies recently, the emotions resonate. Aneesh has grown up to be a charming, well-rounded young man – am confident he will continue to do his parents proud. My best wishes.

  11. This is so overwhelming, it actually got tears to my eyes.Wish Aneesh all the good luck in life. I am sure he is gonna make his parents proud.
    One of the best article indeed.

  12. Arun you wrote such a best & wonderful blog , about Aneesh , which we would have not know till now , It expresses your emotions emotions & you have a wonderful command . God blew you all, & best wishes to Aneesh

  13. Very poignant way of writing…could feel your journey and Aneesh’ s nature is palpable although I don’t know him, now I KNOW him. Wonderful. Keep writing.

  14. The last line said it all. Good one Arun

  15. Hey Arun
    You write exceptionally well..amazing blog…brought tears to my eyes…i know the feeling of letting your child go far away from you. But he will come back to make you both proud of him. Cheers!

  16. All the best to Aneesh.. With this nicely presented expressions, It took to be the future I will be getting into as my daughter grows..

  17. perfect…

  18. Each and every emotion feels real ! Can relate to the same, I have a growing boy myself. And the feeling of him leaving the nest makes my heart ache.

  19. Hello Sir,
    I feel the same, the first step is tougher because we don’t know how to start and the last step is toughest because it determines all the steps starting from one.

  20. Wonderfully written. Heart touching. Best wishes to Aneesh.

  21. beautifully expressed……Best wishes to Aneesh….

  22. Amazing how time flies and to see your family grow. Of course they are beautiful and bright.

  23. Beautiful Articulation ! It is sort of unique father son bonding which is most often hidden in most of the families.

    Best wishes to Aneesh …..

  24. A great article, emotions so wonderfully described. The title says it all.

    It’s good to hear all the achievements made by dear Aneesh during his childhood days.

    I remember him seeing as a school going boy at your house. Wow! the time flies so soon….

    All the best to Aneesh for his new phase of life, God Bless.

  25. Amazing article! I had goosebumps & tears in the end. It is both a sad & joyous moment, as you know your child is leaving for the better. Nevertheless, best wishes to Aneesh & Misha 🙂

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The Aching Joy - Arun Nathani Blog