- Amal Raju
Mother always told me to take care of other people’s emotions while speaking. People were good, she said. Why spread sadness when your words or even restraining your feelings for less than a minute could do the exact opposite?
Growing up, I came to the same conclusion as everybody did; people were not good. Everybody had their own motives – good or bad, nobody cared – and simply worked towards that. These profound realizations came predictably during the teenage years and as always, it was pegged to being rebellious and the desire to break rules. After all, was there even a profound difference between a teenager and an adult? The latter just learnt to hide all their true emotions and absorb a mechanized routine, eventually.
Arguably, it took me a long time to learn.
Mother once pulled me into the kitchen, away from the family gathering we had organized and where I was forced to socialize.
“Did you tell your aunt that you were not going to marry?”
It was true. At that point in time, I had seen many marriages and heard, even more, stories, exposed as I was to the millions of friends who engaged in relationships. Fights, less freedom, tensions of raising a family. All these plagued a home and I knew it by then.
“I did, but…”
“Why did you tell her that?”
“NO. NOW SHE IS GOING TO THINK THAT WE ARE HAVING ISSUES WITH OUR FAMILY. DID YOU LEARN ALL THIS FROM YOUR FRIEND? WHAT HAPPENED TO THINKING BEFORE SPEAKING? MARRIAGES ARE IMPORTANT! WHO IS GOING TO SUPPORT YOU WHEN YOU ARE OLD, YOUR SISTER WHO IS GOING TO BE HAPPILY MARRIED? MARRIAGE IS THE BASE OF OUR SOCIETY AND OUR CULTURE. IT IS AND ALWAYS BE A NECESSITY. YOU WILL THANK ME ONE DAY.”
I learned that day that you never disturb or criticize the age-old notions of your family’s culture. Especially not to an aunt who is firmly rooted in the very same. It didn’t matter whether you had completely thought it through or not, it simply was WRONG.
The other day, I was attempting to contact my grandparents as to inquire how they have been.
The call got connected. A cheery conversation ensued.
And then, the million dollar question.
“How are you?”
Silence. It wasn’t the first time that I had received this response, but each time it dulled me a little more. I knew they were tired, I knew they wanted someone to take care of them, I knew they were miserable to the core yet had learnt to focus on their basic routines.
I knew they simply wanted to give it all up.
“We are fine, dear. A little tired, but that is obviously because we are so old!”
A little laughter.
I learnt then that there came a point where you got tired of hiding your true emotions but by then, there was no one around. No one around to lend an ear or a hand. So you simply resigned yourself to the realization and acceptance of your fate.
A few weeks before, my relative approached me.
“Why did you not pursue science or maths, dear? You were excellent at it!”
“Everybody has their own aptitude, aunty. I still like maths, but now I prefer history and economics more. Maybe we should talk about your son. Not doing very well on that math test, is he?”
Mom stood across the room. She smiled and shook her head.
People’s emotions are necessary to be considered. And maybe I won’t be the best adult. But who told that there was only going to be one version of an adult anyway?
I just had to be the best in my version.