The sun had set and there were the usual insects making their presence felt with their characteristic noise and jittery movements. The weed had grown after the rains in an unorganised, indisciplined manner. The gardener had gone into a slumber caused by the gloomy rainy season and the monotony of repetitive drill of cutting the grass or tending the plants. The insects and the grass were having a field day.
It was an unexciting evening. Warm September was feeling worse because of the stagnant air, and the quiet trees. Not a flutter of leaf anywhere to tell you the vibrancy of life anywhere. The park was quiet. The walkers had gone home to the more pleasurable setting of cooler breeze, cold drinks, lighter atmosphere with fun and laughter of the TV chatter.
The walker was alone. Not just physically. His thoughts were racing; as it happens when suddenly a cat enters into a mouse-filled cage. Or a weapon-wielding rogue enters brandishing a dangerous weapon into a perfectly quiet neighbourhood. The thoughts were disturbed, and they ran around, scattered. All kinds. So fast and of such variety, that it was impossible to distinguish one from the other.
The man walked with vigour, as if matching the speed of the thoughts inside him. As if their energies were forcing him to walk faster, so that they begin to slow down. The unstated strategy worked…and he was able to see what was going on inside.
Earlier during the day he was told by The State that his five-year-old child had flunked a test; his only child for whom he had worked hard for five long years. Worked hard to raise her, to groom her, to nurture her with the lifetime of his experiences and learning, to make her feel she has everything that could make him proud, to make her presentable to the world. For this he had worked hard, taken resources from The State so that he may give her everything she needs to grow up to be a wholesome being. He had nurtured her with all the passion and care, possible only for a parent to feel.
Today, he was devastated. Broken and lost. His child had flunked a test, for which he thought he had prepared her well. In fact, he was proud to present her to the world as someone whole and well nurtured. The people who eulogized her past successes, gave her lessons and protected her from harm, gave their love and care, all of them were feeling let down. And of course, some were questioning his ability to raise the child.
He had no defense. How could you defend yourself from things that have gone wrong in your child’s life? The very idea of defense is antithesis of parenting. Your child does well; you feel happy; you feel good you contributed to her success. Your child fails, you feel sad. You feel responsible. You don’t look for reasons elsewhere. It was your child and you should have taken care of it even if the tutor slipped; or the room was hot and sweaty and she was struggling to study; or the neighbourhood was too noisy and she could not concentrate! There is no defense. Cannot possibly be one. Not for a parent.
The State was not satisfied. It has made investment in the child’s education, and was unyielding in its view that the child had failed the test. It was not willing to look at the past successes of the child, or the joy the child had spread around for many years, adding hope and goodness to the environment. The State does not even remember the laurels and awards the child brought for being brilliant on many counts. Yes, The State was not willing even to look at the limitation of the test, this test. It was not willing to concede to the successes the child had achieved in the other tests. The State was furious, and ignored the fact that today’s failure in the test does not take away the other attributes and quality she has.
The State is powerful. It can demand. It was not willing to accept that this is only one test, of one subject. Perhaps it is being influenced by those who resented the attention the child got in past, and want to use this failure to settle a long awaited score.
“She is not worthy of being where she is. He is not worthy of being a parent.” Came voices from people, waiting for such an opportunity.
“Take ownership. Tell me what you would do” The State thundered, in its awe-striking voice.
He was devastated. Already. It didn’t need to be said that he felt responsible. The deep sense of feeling responsibility and pain of seeing the child had flunked was all over him, inside him. It needed no articulation.
‘What would you do?’ What a question to ask a father. It is his child. He can not sit back and pray for good weather to happen. He can not wait for favourable conditions to arrive. He is a father. He will do what it takes to get the child ready, to take this test; to take all tests.
“Punish him”, came another, clearer voice from behind the indistinguishable background.
Punish him? Punish a parent for his child failing a test. Can there be a greater punishment that this itself?
You have no idea about the parent child relationship, then. The child’s success matters more than his, failure worse than his own. That is what signifies a parent-child relationship. It is what makes this relationship most unique, most beautiful and most powerful.
“He should resign. He is not fit to be a father,” came another voice, from behind.
Resign from being a father! Do you ever resign from being yourself? Do you resign from breathing? Do you ever take such an easy way out for a core responsibility of being a father? There can be no bigger abdication of a responsibility than this. Not until you have resigned from life.
Your child is your responsibility. You grow it. You nurture it. You make mistakes, you learn and do better, and keep improving.
Being a father is not a job, assigned by The State. It is who you are and what you do by virtue of who you are, whom you have conceived and are responsible for.
In that you would not allow the god to interfere. The State is smaller entity.
The wind had begun to move, and there was a small moon on the horizon. The air felt cooler, touching the father with the energy he needed to begin walking. It was going to be a long path.