Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Empty swings

Pulished in Today (10th April 2003) under the title, My son and 'toosun'

One warm winter afternoon, I watched my son swinging in the park, all by himself. A laborer working nearby broke off to speak to me.
“Doesn’t he go for tuition?” she asked, indicating my son with a nod.
“No,” I said, refraining from adding smugly that he didn’t need to.
“Neither does my son,” she said.
I was wondering what to make of it when she went on, “He is supposed to, but he plays hooky, runs off somewhere to play. Me, I have to come here to work, so I never know whether he has gone to study or not. He doesn’t realize--- if he doesn’t go for too-sun, he’ll end up like me, breaking stones for roads.”
My first reaction was indignation. Why should she suppose that because my son was playing in the park, he was playing truant like her son? By “does not go”, I had meant “does not need to go” whereas she took it as “is supposed to but does not”.
I shook myself out of this grammatical reverie and thought about her remark. My indignation dissolved as I looked around. Where were all the children? Was not my son playing by himself? Everybody was at tuition classes. They are now the rule rather than the exception. No wonder the swings are empty. No wonder the laborer thinks my son plays truant. It must take a sizable chunk of her wages, but it was worthwhile expenditure for her.
A vegetable seller I know says he prefers to finish off his entire stock in a couple of hours. I am curious. What does he do the rest of the day? A job perhaps? No, he wants to get home and supervise his children’s studies. “Of course, they have tuition, but unless the parent takes an interest the child slacks off,” he says.
After TV, tuition seems to be the great leveler --- everybody has it.
I am aware of mixed feelings—wistfulness about the empty swings but also a gladness that those whom we consider uneducated are enlightened enough to dream of a better world for their children.



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