Tolerating intolerance

  • Anmol Sandhu, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: May 28, 2014 10:17 IST

My father developed a penchant for flying kites when he was about 10 years old. Those were the days when mobile phones were still not invented; and telephones and televisions were a luxury few could afford.

He would fly kites with his friends for hours and most of his free time was spent enjoying the game.

He recalls an incident when he, along with his best friend James, fondly called Jemmy, went kite flying.

They were out for the entire day, flying kites and were so engrossed in their little game that they did not realise it was getting dark.

It eventually occurred to them that they were late to go home when it became difficult for them to fly kites anymore. They hurried back home, fully aware of the consequences.

As they neared their houses, they realised that their lane was swarming with people, most of them had gathered outside my father's house. Fearing the worst, my father started running towards his house when suddenly an old gentleman turned around and exclaimed, "There he is!"

Before my father could comprehend what was happening, the old man came and gave him a hard slap across his face.

Jemmy was dragged back to his house by his mother, who was also present among other people. My father searched the crowd for someone from his family and saw his mother, silently sitting and crying in a corner.

He was about to rush to her when the old man again grabbed him by his shirt and yelled at him.

"Look at her. She's been sitting here for hours thinking that someone had kidnapped you or worse.

So engrossed you were in your silly game that you didn't realise that your parents would be worried for you.

Your father has gone with other men of the town to search for you. How can you put your parents under so much stress? Why can't you be more responsible?"

Teary-eyed and ashamed, my father hugged his mother and apologised profusely.

The old gentleman was not someone from the family or even someone living next door to my grandparent's house. He was just a responsible old man who lived nearby and was concerned about the apparent disappearance of a 10-year-old.

My father still remembers this incident not because he was slapped by the old man, but because those were the days of undivided love and affection and that man had shown the same concern that a parent has for his children.

When he sees how things have changed now, he often wonders if those times were better or today's are. He feels that the level of intolerance is rising rapidly and the worst hit are youngsters.

Though he doesn't go around slapping kids, he never ceases to point out something he feels is not correct. And most of the times, the reaction he gets is either an unabashed, careless shrug or an irate, creased forehead.

He doesn't blame the intolerant ones for the way they are. He believes that parents tolerating intolerance are the root cause of situations like these.

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