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I was busy putting the final touches to the dinner one day a few years back when in walked the junior son all of 11 and casually dropped a bomb. I had to make him the ‘heart’ I had promised for his Biology class project. He had to take it to school the very next day. You cannot blame me if I flipped the lid.

Whaaaat??” I yelled.

Visions of crawling into my comfortable bed were being replaced by sleepily helping with the project work. Did I say help?!  More like doing all the work with said son helpfully looking on.

I was hopping mad, madder than the hen that my friend Vivek says he and his sister the accomplice dunked in a bucket of water, with the sole aim of finding out if said hen would shrink in size. Strangely enough, keeping aside for the moment the results of the great experiment the brother-sister duo were conducting and answering my query, he admitted that it was not the hen that got madder but their father who taking strong exception to hens being used as guinea pigs had put an end to the duo’s search for answers thus quashing their pioneering spirit. This piece of information reveals the true meaning of the usage in the English language about someone being ‘madder than a wet hen.’ The hen may get mad at getting wet, but there is always someone madder than that wet hen.

Ooops. I got diverted from the main topic of hearts and biology projects!

Okay, there I was yelling, “Whaaaat?!!” with visions of a well earned night’s rest vanishing from in front of my drooping eyes to be replaced by a scary ones of a sleepy moi doing some hard work under the supervision of the junior son.

That vision made me give him a piece of my mind.

What did he mean he had to submit the project tomorrow? Why did he wait till the last day? Why hadn’t he told me earlier, soon after returning from school at least? How did he think I was going to make the dough for making the ‘heart’? Didn’t it have to dry? How could it be painted without being dried first?

It is my hobby to fashion things out of dough prepared with ceramic powder and PoP using fevicol as binding agent. Here are some of my creations (not the pots, but the thingamabobs stuck on them).



Now with the same dough I have used for making the above things, I can indeed very easily fashion a ‘heart.’ But it was a time-consuming and hard work, not meant for a late night when one just wants to curl up and  go to sleep after a tiring day. Making the dough in itself is an icky job. Then it had to be properly beaten till it was soft and malleable. I could not imagine how I was going to do all that when my inclination was to gobble some dinner and crawl into bed (oh alright brushing my teeth too) with a passport to dreamland. Moreover, the finished product had to dry well before it could be painted. And the son had to leave for school at seven in the morning. How was I going to manage it?!

He stood there silent, listening to my rapid fire questions. Well I can hear someone say I ask a lot of questions! But those who have the answers should not be worried about questions, right? The son did not have any answers though. Anyway, he had to get his work done at all costs. The boy stood silent, wise enough to know it was better not to inflame Amma any further. Any further?? Any further?? Hmmm…..

I had made it clear to both my children much earlier that they were not to come to me with last minute requests of this sort. The Lord and Master had already left on posting to Bishnupur. When he had been around, many is the time that he had taken his mobike out to go look for things that the children decided at the eleventh hour that they absolutely needed for school the next day. I was not going to do anything of the sort, I had stated categorically. I reminded the junior son of this conversation. I declared that he better admit to his teacher of his lapse and accept whatever punishment she meted out to him. My answer right then to him, was a big ‘NO’!! Was that understood??

He went on his way quietly and I returned to my work still seething.

After a while I could here muffled voices coming from the senior son’s room which was next to the kitchen. The junior one seemed to have approached him for help. Some discussions were afoot, about making a heart from cardboard. Nothing seemed to be working as I could hear more deliberations. By then I was sorry for the little chap. But what could I do? I continued rolling out the chapattis.

That’s when the idea hit me.

I called out to the junior son and told him I could make a heart for him using dough made with wheat flour and fevicol (binder/gum). That would be done in no time. It would be easier to shape too. And we’d try and paint it when it was half dry. He was pleased.  I quickly finished with the chapatis, gave the children their dinner and set about kneading more dough, this time with fevicol as an ingredient.

Soon the son joined me with a picture of the human heart for me to use as a model. Looking at it I could easily enough shape the dough into the required shape, with the aorta and ventricle and what not. It came out pretty well, even though I say so myself. After putting it under the fan and letting the surface dry a bit, we (chief painter moi) started coloring it with blues and pinks. By now sleep and tiredness had vanished and I was totally immersed in the project. A cardboard piece was found, a colored paper stuck on it and the heart was gently stuck on its surface.

It looked perfect. I was pleased as punch.

My heart glowed with pride at my own handiwork.

At the lower right hand corner my son wrote his name. Sigh… I almost felt like asking him to add my name as well!

The next day he went to school carefully balancing the ‘heart’ helped by his brother. When school was over, in walked the son, with a beaming smile, still balancing the heart.

Amma, the teacher said my ‘heart’ was excellent, the best!!”

I beamed with pride.

“She wants to keep it in the lab!”

I beamed some more.

The teacher it seems had asked him to cover it with cling film after giving the background a coat of black color and take it back to school to display it in the Science Lab. I left it on the dining table before retiring for the night, reminding myself about getting the cling film the next day. I looked at the ‘heart’ again, before I went to bed. Yeah it sure looked good! (Now now, nothing about the pitfalls of pride and ego folks!! Don’t be so high-browed. Learn to take a little innocent pride and humor in your stride!)

Next morning, walking into the dining room, my heart broke.

The ‘heart’ on the table was broken as well. I mean it was cracked. The dough had risen overnight and the heart had grown in size cracking the hardened top most surface. The ants having got a leeway had lined up and were going at it, feasting with gusto.

I took the board in my hand and dusted the ants off. I decided to keep it in the sun for some time. I would somehow do some damage control later on. I left it in the verandah in the sun and went about my morning duties.

When my son woke up for school, I told him broken-heartedly about the broken heart. He rushed to check ….and what do we find?

A good chunk of the broken/cracked heart was missing.

Goofy the dog, who was tied (of course out of reach) in the verandah had stretched and stretched and managed to get hold of one end of the cardboard. Pulling it closer, she had bitten off quite a chunk of the dough and eaten it paint and all. Let me mention here that she is a crazy dog, crazy about uncooked dough, dosa batter and stuff like that.

Now seeing the bitten off heart, my heart broke even more.

I must say the son took it better than me. But then isn’t it the creator who feels more heartbroken when the creation is destroyed?! Sniff sniff…

I told him to go tell the teacher what had happened and promised him to make a new one, this time with ceramic powder and PoP (there, now what will you do, I mentally stuck my tongue out at the ants). He nodded his head, happy with that.

I was eagerly waiting for him and as soon as he landed asked what his teacher had said. He informed me casually that the teacher had said it was ok, that he needn’t put his Mom through all that trouble yet again.

Oh but it would have been no trouble!! I could see in my mind’s eye my master-piece adorning the Science Laboratory at school. But the son had lost interest by then. His teacher had said there was no need he repeated and ran away to play. Sigh… Teachers always have the last word when it comes to children.

Thus did Project Heart end in a broken heart, mine. Hence the name Project Broken-Heart.

More on my Martians:

A sketch

My Yul Brynner

How many what….??

The Pink Towel

Half a day at KIMS