A young boy writes a letter in reply to the one he has received from his
father. Let us see what he has to say.
This is in answer to your letter about my transgression. Yes, my first rank slipped
to the second. You advise that I should think before answering the papers. Yes,
the operating word ‘think’ did make me reflect and these are the results of those
Father, we’ve never really been close and I can’t rightly say you’ve been my
friend, philosopher, guide, etc. Yet I would like you to be aware of my thoughts.
They are very important to me. You are highly educated and you provide very well
for the family. But in your departmental store, do you apply Pythogoras’Theorem
or Newton’s Law of Gravity? For that matter, does your doctor friend? Or your
Papa, my grandfather speaks of a carefree and beautiful childhood. Of days spent
in plucking mangoes and guavas from their orchards, of picnics on the banks of
the river where the men cooked mouth-watering food, of playing marbles and gilli
danda. From his talk, it seems, studies were an ancillary subject: and living and
experiencing, the major subject. Father, is he fibbing? Or is it possible that the
world has turned topsy turvy in just about 70 years?
Papa, my grandmother is semi-literate. Yet she is at peace with her pots, pans, her
flowers and garden, her Bhagvad Gita and scriptures. My mother, highly qualified,
is highly strung, tense and nervous. Do you think literacy makes us, restless, afraid
Oh Papa, last week, my rose plant almost died. Some pests. I asked my Biology
teacher what I should do to save it. And she was cross. She said go ask the guy
who keeps gardening things. He’ll tell you. We learn about pesticides but we do
not know how to use them. Oh father, it matters not to me why the apple does not
fall upwards, nor do I care what Archimedes did. What matters to me is that my
rose plants remain healthy; when there is a fuse in my house, I should know how to
do something about it: I should know how to make a desk for myself from my
carpenters tools. Instead I learn about hypotenuse, relational square roots..........
Papa, once I asked my grandmother how she got to be so wise. Do you know
what she said? By living and experiencing. And she laughed as though I had asked
something which was so obvious. Are we living Papa? Or is life by-passing us?
What I fear is that if I were to meet Newton face to face, I would fail to recognise
him, so busy am I learning about him! You know, just like that boy, Vinu, in that
award winning film, he prattles on- “the Hibiscus is red”- a hundred times, but in
his book, he colours it yellow. Are we missing out on the essence of life?
Anyway Papa, do you know where I lost that quarter mark that brought about my
fall? It was a fill-in-the blanks. I held that I was invited to tea and my teacher was
adamant that he was invited for tea. A matter of grammar. And Papa, if he says
George Bush is the president of India, it will have to be so. If he says the sun rises
in the west, so be it: and if he says the earth is flat, it will be, it will be, my Papa. At
least on my answer papers. My first rank is at stake, you see. Still, my dearest
Papa, I shall keep your advice in mind and try not to lose any quarter marks.
Yours ever obedient son,
P.S. Your eyes will not see this anguished plea, my father. This was only to lighten
my over-burdened heart. It is not all arteries and muscle: it feels too.
-a newspaper article from The Hindu