Before my spine surgery, as I lie on a stretcher outside the operating theatre under the effect of medication and await my turn, my thoughts wander in a maze of situations. Finally, they settle on my school days. I am sure I was not a lazy child, but in those days of no television, evenings were abuzz with a lot of outdoor activity that exhausted me. As a result, I used to lie down a lot, so much so that I even studied in a lying down position. After completing my scheduled study in the post-dinner slot, the best part of my day would begin, that is in a dimly lit room with a bed lamp, lying snugly under the quilt in my cozy bed, with a novel of my favourite author in my hands. In those days this looked like the ultimate happiness.
But the next morning would again see father reading the newspaper and mother juggling with the daily chore of getting the two children ready for school with bags and tiffins. Running against time often led to short tempers. Mom would ask us to get up fast, and simultaneously complete the chores at hand. Things would go berserk, and then in disgust she would tell my father, “I have been telling you for days that most of the time she is sleeping or reading novels. I am sure this girl will not pass.”
This would shatter my happy moments of night like a house of cards. Then father would carry it forward and the parents’ favourite preaching and the long list of dos and don’ts would begin. “Be a good child, behave properly, eat healthy food. You should not read while lying down, sit in a chair and study, keep your back straight. Adopt an accurate posture. Do not avoid physical training at school.” Sermonising or preaching then appeared the most disgusting thing in life. Fifty years on, I realise that had I listened to and obeyed what my father had told me then, this spine surgery could have been avoided. Parents shower the essence of their experience on us, but during that phase of our lives we are not receptive. The importance of that sermonising dawns on us only when we ourselves become parents. Now, I have also become a preacher to my children.
The writer is an Amritsar-based medical practitioner.