“We’re sending you away to another place.” Ever had to say these words to a child or maybe heard it from your parents? One child speaks of how it changed him.
“Why?”, I asked my mother flashing her the best puppy-eyed look I could muster “Why, me?”
Sitting across from me, my mother averted her glance just as the waiter walked up to the table with our drinks – a strong filter coffee for my mother, and a bottle of juice for me. She said nothing in reply to my question, as she took a sip of the drink.
Even though I was only fifteen years old, I knew the reason for her silence. I had just completed my 10th CBSE board exams, which I had passed with flying colours. Yes, the results had surprised me too. But nevertheless, I was riding high on the success. And then my father had dropped a bombshell.
Walking into the living room one day, while I was inconspicuously trying to watch an episode of FRIENDS, he had nonchalantly announced, “Sidharth, you’re going to a new school.” Now, my father is often known for his good sense of humour, so I just dismissed it as a prank that he was trying to pull off. I barely looked up and just let out a guffaw. But then he came over and sat down on the opposite sofa and placed his hand on my shoulder. “You’re going to a prestigious residential school in Kerala. There will be many kids similar to you, ones who have been born and brought up abroad in the UAE and elsewhere. So you won’t feel out-of-place either.”
Of course, the news hit me quite hard. I am an only child. So as expected, my parents have always gone out of their way to make sure that I’ve had every level of comfort that they could afford to give me. That is not to say that I was spoiled for choice. No, they offered me a rein, long enough for me to be able to make my small choices, while looking out for me. So perhaps, the last thing I had thought I would ever hear was the fact that I was being ‘banished’ to the depths of a windowless, soul-less dungeon where I would have no friends, no family and was be all alone. Or at least that’s what my fifteen year old brain convinced me would happen.
What followed next were a few weeks of utter torture. Not of the mental kind, but emotionally heart wrenching. I bade a heavy-hearted good-bye to all my friends and my neighbours and was soon on my journey to this new ‘gated hell’ that awaited me. Since the summer vacations in the Middle East and in India are during different times, my father was unable to accompany us. So a couple of days before the start of the new academic year, my mother and I, made the long and arduous journey to this enormous residential school in Nilambur, thousands of miles away from home.
Now, up until that point, I had never asked my mother the reason behind my father’s actions. I mean, I did not even ask my father the reason. I just complained and tried to resist the change. But that day, sitting at this quaint little cafe, merely minutes away from walking through the gigantic wooden gates that would lead me to my new ‘home’ for the next couple of years, I was overwhelmed. Mixed emotions surged through me like roller coaster ride with no stop in sight. But somehow I gathered my wits and asked my mother why they did what they had done.
As I sat there waiting for my mother to give me an explanation, tears started to well up and for the first time I could remember, since I had entered my teenage years, I cried. No, it wasn’t a wail like how babies or little kids do when they’re hurt or throwing a tantrum. It was more of a continuous stream of pearl-shaped droplets chasing each other down the contours of my chubby cheeks, while my brain struggled to process the potential reasons behind my parents’ actions and how I would face the next two years in a strange place. I felt like I was in a dark tunnel and there was absolutely no light at the end.
Suddenly my mother spoke. I wiped my tears and looked at her. Her eyes had started to well up too and the tip of her nose had turned a shade of light pink. As she gently called out my name, it struck me. This transition and change was going to be a lot difficult for her than it was for me. Yes, in due course, I would make friends and settle down. But my mother, whose life revolved around her little family, that included my father and me, would be missing a whole part when I had gone. The fact that she was a teacher who would be teaching kids around the same group as I was, would not help either. For in every pair of eyes that looked back at her while she was reading aloud that poem or story, would remind her of me.
As these thoughts rushed through my head, she pulled up her chair towards me and embraced me in a tight hug. Suddenly, I felt like a little kid again. I did not want to go anywhere, but just stay like that forever. But she cut short the embrace and looked into my eyes.
“Listen,” she said, her soothing voice offered me as much comfort as a gentle babbling brook, “We’re in this together. Even though your father might not acknowledge this, it is as difficult for the both of us to be away from you, as much as it is for you to be away from us. But we won’t be there with you forever. There will be a time in your life when you need to be able to adjust to newer surroundings, make new friends and be optimistic about the future. And that time is now! Look back fondly on the memories of all the time you’ve had with us and your friends and at your old school. They will be your light during the darkest days. And they will guide and help you to make more memories with new friends here too.”
As I quietly nodded along to everything she said, she added, “And remember son, we love you. We are doing this because we love you and want you to be independent. You can’t live in our shadows forever or live with the decisions we make for you. This is the first step to your new life. So embrace it. And for everything else, we’re always there to guide you. Together, we can do this.”
Looking back, that was perhaps the best decision that my parents had made for me. And also the last. They gave me the support that I needed to be independent, and of course have always been together with me during my low points and high ones. Today, I stand proud and tall with my head held high because of the fact that I’ve known they have always supported me. In retrospect, I might even say that was perhaps one of the most memorable moments in my life. The time that I spent with my mother in the cafe that day and listening to her telling me the reasons behind their decisions, helped me look up and be optimistic about my future: a life lesson for me.
No, it wasn’t easy, but as she said, together, we did do it.
*This article originally appeared on the author’s blog.