My neighbour’s teen son had walked out of his house one weekday evening, and was found dead on the neighbourhood railway tracks!
When I met the shattered parents of the boy, I heard he had simply walked out of the house, leaving behind his cell phone and everything else. The track, where he was found, is almost notorious for its role in accidental deaths, it’s just one of those unmanned level crossings in India where a number of people die trying to cross the railway line, even if they see a train coming. We all think we can hoodwink death, and take a gamble.
Was it what the boy, or rather the young man, was trying to do at that time? Was it deliberate or simply a gamble to crossover? As my neighbourhood erupts in the discussion of what may have happened, I find myself thinking about the parents and yes, parenting in general. What makes a boy keep his worldly belongings at home, and simply walk out of the house, never to come back? What kind of society pushes a teen to that corner?
Delhi, I know, puts this abysmal level of stress on students to perform. You will not get a chance to study in the bigger colleges of Delhi University if you don’t have a score of 98% or more. I have even heard of some cut-offs for subjects being decided at 100% score levels. Yes, you may think it is absurd, but that’s how this university functions. And did I tell you this almost morbid fascination parents have for their children to opt for Science stream in standards 11 and 12? Not only the parents push for children to take up science subjects in high school, lack of adequate seats means that children get into a seriously unhealthy competition at a much lower age, in order to score consistently well to ensure a seat in the science stream for Plus 2 years (the pre-college education).
Where does that leave the children or the older teens? What if my child is not interested in studying science? What if I push her and she takes it up only to realise that it’s not her cup of tea? Will she not blame me? What if what I consider to be coaxing, she considers it a pressure? What if what I think is correct, she thinks is wrong? What if I want to reach out and she refuses to communicate, feeling that I am unwilling to listen to her, and she has no one in her corner?
I shudder to think that I may push my teen to a corner where she feels alienated from her family, where she feels alone and depressed and I have no clue! I may mean well, and all these times when I have taken care of her, I may have become expert at taking care of my child, but what if my zeal to think on her behalf, my concern to see her well settled in life, my own notions about what kind of education is good for her, are no longer relevant?
Parenting is tough, but in these days of living in a metropolis like Delhi, the complications are much too deep in the society to be able to adjust to easy and known solutions. If we do not push our children, we run the risk of not being enough of a role model. And if we do, we run the risk of losing our children, physically and emotionally. Lots of love, some bit of pampering, a big chunk of discipline, and an overdose of involvement is what we offer our children. But will it ever be enough? As I look at the loss of the parents next door, I am sadly reminded that there are no solutions, and we can act in good faith, and in moderation, and simply pray that one day our children will understand that we did our best.