A story that stays with me as a cautionary tale on missed perspectives.
Sujatha is a girl’s name, a guy chose it as his alias for writing. Why? It was his wife’s first name.
His writing life brought him experiences so varied from his day life as an engineer.
The following extract came my way as it is attributed to him ( but no one is sure) has stood the test of time and chiseled something I feel hard to shake off — is the son liberated or ungrateful? Was perspectives missed by the parents who dangle the future in front of the kids? Or was the son plain disrespectful?
The story starts likes this….
Sujatha got an email from an aging dad.
“My second son likes to read a lot of your books. He buys them when he visits India. If you could write an email to him, explaining our state, he might understand us”.
The elderly parents family context — one son is living in America, and the another one living in Australia. The aging parents live in their native city, Trichy, South India. Dad’s problem is severe depression from loneliness. Mom is suffering from arthritis, and he has Asthma and they can’t settle in colder countries with their sons. Their sons rarely visit them. Even if they do, 5 is the maximum number — 5 days, and hardly 5 hours with them.
Sujatha reached out to the “fan” son on the dad’s consistent urging. This was the “fan” son’s response after a week.
“I lived in Trichy for 22 whole years. But I don’t have any bonding with my native town. For 22 years, I have been with my parents. But I don’t have any sweet memories of them. My father has always planned to make me an engineer — way before I was born.
Every day, he would sit along and teach lessons. After that my mother would. Studying in the school, than studying at home- only memories of my childhood that I carry around. Even during holidays in summer, it is English Grammar and Math Algebra. Even for festivals like Deepavali, there’s nothing for me to celebrate, just studying.
Sometimes, I would lie down and think. If I have anything to remember from my childhood — nothing. It’s just plain studying, studying, studying.
My school was worse than that. It’s a private school. It is ranked best for squeezing my childhood into marks. People would stand in queues even to get admission. There were teachers to assist us the moment we enter the school and would stay with us till we leave the campus. There’s no way they would let me laugh or play. It’s just study, study and study.
Even in that study, I have nothing to amuse myself. I didn’t learn anything out of the box from that education. None introduced me to novels or art. Only thing they taught me is to photocopy the whole text with my memory and write on the exam papers.
After finishing my graduation in the same way, and getting employed in America, I just figured out on my own, how happy life can be. Traveling, meeting friends, reading novels, hearing music makes me very happy.
Our mind, just remembers the place, where it is very happy. Now Trichy is like a strange city to me. I can’t stay for more than a day in it.
I have respect for my parents. I am grateful to them. I understand them. But I can’t talk for more than half an hour with them. For 22 years, they hid this world and made me study. Nothing more I can think about them. If I am to love them, I have to understand them. I just see them as strangers.
For the 22 years, I have been with them, we never had any general discussions. They only frighten me with their fears, studies, and my future. Even if I force myself to speak with them, I have nothing to talk. Even now, they frighten me with questions like how much I earn and what are my savings plan. They ask me not to travel, and not to buy books. They are asking me to live their life.
Now tell me, how do you expect me to talk with them when we don’t even have common interests to discuss even for 1/2 hour. Even if I try artificially, I can’t. How do you expect me to stay in a city that has long become strange for me. I can force myself for 5 days, for the gratitude and respect. What can I do after that.”
Sujatha forwarded that mail to the dad. Dad could not relate- he felt his son was disrespectful. After a month, Dad mailed asking Sujatha — could you call him to visit during Deepavali.
Sujatha response — “ Deepavali is a celebration for children. Children like it a lot. When we grow up, we celebrate less and just carry the happy memories of the childhood celebrations. Your son says, he doesn’t have any such memories. You have taken away all his enjoyment and colorfulness from his life.”
Dad never wrote back.
Sujatha’s closing words
“Life is not a struggle for securing the future. It is to make every minute memorable with colors. It is for that same reason, we have festivals and celebrations. It is what our ancestors framed for us.
Tomorrow is important. But today is more important.”