Parents seem to think that parenting is pampering with strings attached, strings that end on the report card, strings that can sometimes sink into a bloody mess.
We have seen that happen in the West. We are now seeing that happen in India, in Chennai which fancies itself as a citadel of religion, tradition and culture!
Last week, Uma Maheswari teaching in a north Chennai school was in her class waiting for students to get in before she could begin her Hindi lesson of the day when the teenager rushed in with a knife, slashed her throat and stabbed her repeatedly on her chest.
Maheswari died on the way to the second hospital, the first one having been ill-equipped to handle such a serious injury.
The boy did not flee, and was taken in by the police.
Later, he said (or bragged) that he was inspired by the latest Hindi film, Agneepath, to commit the crime. In the Bollywood movie, Hrithik Roshan’s character lets the fire of revenge simmer in him for years before he brutally kills all those who had murdered his schoolteacher father.
The Chennai boy had been livid with his teacher because of her comments in his dairy on his poor performance in class.
The teenager was reportedly a pampered child, one who got Rs 100 every day as pocket money, and which he used this time to buy the killer weapon. He had been carrying it on him for three days before he spotted Maheswari alone in the classroom.
The act was pre-meditated, not one carried out on the spur of an angry moment.
It is true that the present education system in India places a terrible burden on the child. A five-year old has to pass a test before it is admitted into the kindergarten class. Then begins the daily grind to school, its back bent with the weight of books it has to carry.
Later, the boy or the girl is pressured into being a performing puppet: he or she has to score marks as close as possible to the full 100. If it is 99, it is great, still better if it is 100. Figures like 98 or 97 are okay, but anything below this is frowned upon by the school, which is obsessed with its reputation and record, and, of course, by parents.
Money spinning professions
Fathers and mothers want their children to get into money spinning professions like medicine or engineering, maybe information technology. And for a seat in a medical or engineering college, they are prepared to pay huge bribes (call them capitation fees) that run into tens of lakhs of rupees.
It hardly ever matters if the child learns anything. Real education is not something that anybody is bothered about in today’s India. What matters are the numbers in one’s report card.
I personally believe that parents are to be blamed – at least to a very large degree, for the kind of growing violence in the community.
To begin with, in the country where consumerism is king, parents spoil their children by bribing them with goodies in exchange for those magical figures on their test papers.
In the early years of a child’s life, a father or mother wracked by guilt for spending too much of time at work shower sons and daughters with expensive toys.
Later, gifts could be expensive holidays, cars, cameras, mobile phones and what have you, and these merely disturb the sense of balance in a teenager. He/she grows up in a kind of valueless vacuum, believing that money can buy just about everything, even lives.
Drunken driving of some of India’s celebrity sons is a case in point. So what if men are killed on the streets.
A rich friend of mine gifted an awfully expensive car to his son when he turned 18. The boy could have well done with a modest vehicle. He drives to college in that every day, probably fuelling discontent and jealousy among his poorer peers.
A relative of mine sends her college-going daughter only by plane, because the girl does not want to travel by train. And mind you, the relative can ill-afford such lavishness.
Pampering with strings attached
In Chennai, parents routinely bring their below-18 children for movies with gory adult content. Agneepath was not meant for the 15-year-old schoolboy.
Theatre managements faced with dwindling revenues look the other way when children troop into such adult screenings.
Sadly, parents seem to think that parenting is pampering with strings attached, strings that end on the report card, strings that can sometimes sink into a bloody mess.
That 15-year-old boy will serve three years in a correction home, where the chances are that he would not be corrected. For, reformatory centres in India hardly reform the young, often turning them into real criminals.
Nothing, as we all know, can serve a child better than a family. But in India today, this core unit itself is in need of reformation.
Gautaman Bhaskaran is a Chennai-India based author, columnist and film critic, and can be contacted at [email protected] . He is an FMT columnist.
[photo from The Hindu]