Not many would vouch that living about almost two decades with parents can be among the pleasurable experiences. If there happened to be monster breathing down your neck- an overbearing grandparent or a cantankerous, impertinent and bossy aunt or uncle well then it is a certain rendition that can unnerve you even in middle age.
Sometimes if one is fortunate the sternness of a parent may be lessened by the subtle empathy of the other. Absolute misery is it when parents in tandem are dictatorial. Then it is tyrannical! ”Les Misérables”!
The more fortunate ones get to stay in college and school hostels, There getting around with the warden overburdened with a few scores of young fellows is easier than sneaking away on escapades from home. If you are not fortunate then the angst and alienation that shadow you during adolescence and teen are often unnoticed or ignored by parents. Just a few, I guess seem to be on the right side with luck, where parent or one of the parents is always around for comfort. Chalk and cheese they are more often!
An old friend narrated to me recently an interesting episode from her teens. By the way the parents of this person were perhaps ahead of their generation, especially her mother who was an exemplary, woman. Self-assured, confident of herself and her kids, warm and understanding about her children and their friends, articulate in what she expresses and unequivocally blinkered in outlook and judgement. Though, she in her own words told me that she had to pop a couple of valium pills when I told her that I was going to marry a catholic girl. But then that is a different story.
Coming back to the story I mentioned, this young girl was sent to Chennai to study for the Chartered Accountant examination. Those days, back in the early eighties, there were no mobile phones and the trunk or STD dialing boasted by the sole provider of telephone service - the Telegraph department was antediluvian in every respect. Which meant that to get an approval from home for something that you are not sure of will take about a week to be conveyed by post to you in Chennai from say Trivandrum. That required one to cross one’s fingers and do what first comes to the mind.
I guess I moved away from the subject yet again. This young friend was pretty weak in math and she would have ghoulish nightmares even a week before the math examination in school. Now, adding to her misery and utter consternation calculus and trigonometry besides statistics were subjects that she had to digest if she wanted to stand some little chance of qualifying in the Chartered Accountant examination. As luck would have it she was told by someone that there was a teacher who was very good at teaching math and he specialised coaching students planning to give the CA examination. However, the only clue to his whereabouts was that he lived somewhere near the police station in Vadaplaani, then a suburb of Chennai.
The young lady took off in the direction of Vadplani and after an arduous, futile hunt in the sweltering weather for the math teacher she walked into the police station. A lone teenage girl nonchalantly walking into the police station sent the constables scampering hither tither, and curious, some with their door handle whiskers and some with their ubiquitous potbellies preceding them.
Tamil policemen though no symbols of goodness have in them some cultural fallout that Tamilnad have, they sort of respect women unlike the Jat policeman in places like New Delhi.
“Enna amma, enavenam?” (Dear woman what do you want?) Asked one of the policemen. Another asked rather surprised by the cheekiness of the girl to walk in to the police station. “ enna amma unkku konjamkoode bhayam illaya , ondiya police stationulley nuzhayarathukku?” (Dear girl tell me are you not afraid to be here alone?).
She was rather perplexed by these candid queries. She said. “Why must I be frightened? I’m her to know if you gentlemen can direct me to the math master who takes classes for CA students. I’m told that he lives near this police station. By the way I understand that police station is meant to be place of assistance to people, so why must I be frightened of you guys?”
In no time she was taken to the master’s house in a police vehicle and pleasantly seen off by the constables. Later when the matter was told to her parent’s two distinctly contrasting replies came across by post. The first was from her father. It read,” Dear girl, you did the right thing in going to the police station; when in doubt check with the authorities.” The message from her mother read, “My girl that was the most silliest of things one could do. Never, ever walk into a police station all alone.”