It’s been exactly eight years to this column this week. Aur aap logon ko mujh se azaadi mil hi nahi rahi J Howzaat for Independence Day intro, huh? Vaise, why would you want freedom from the harmless me? Apart from Chaddha ji, there’s no intervention of stress in my universe, and hence yours too. Smug in calmness and wrapped in the incredible amount of laziness that the very thought of a long weekend brings, I was about to write this Independence Day special on one of the most clichéd questions in the history of independence. ‘What does freedom really mean to you?’ Celebrities from all walks of life are asked this question by media, year after year. Their answers be something silly like – “Oh, it means that I can be myself,” and everyone’s happy at having contributed their two bits to celebrating freedom.
As I was about to contribute mine, two things happened. First, Bansuri Chaddha called up and asked me to come and watch her rehearse with the freedom choir of the colony, that is due to perform in front of the municipal councillor on 15th August. Second, she forgot to mention that the king of all things irritating – her father – is going to be there, too. So, oblivious to my fate, I went there to cheer her. Anyway, supporting someone whose parents have named her Bansuri is recognised under the International Good Samaritan law.
There she was on stage, in the fifth row, her mouth still making noises that could be distinctly distinguished as being something which was definitely not singing. We clapped and cheered the group that was doing a great job overall, till Mr Chaddha suddenly raised his hand and shouted. ‘Ruko, ruko,’ he said, and signalled Bansuri to come forward, in the first row, right in front of the microphone. She looked uneasy, so did the other singers. The bewildered choir instructor started to interrupt, when Chaddha ji glared at him and said, ‘Aise hi hoga’. Now, is the right time to inform you that much to the misfortune of the residents’ welfare association, Chaddha ji is the President this year, and had used his clout to get the Municipal councillor to agree to preside over the function. It is a given then, in Chaddha ji’s mindset, that his daughter gets to be in the forefront. Bansuri was visibly embarrassed, and trying to deal with the looks those others in the choir gave her. I slipped away, amid the chaos that was to start. Also, let me confess, aggressive and pushy behaviour of parents touches a really, really raw nerve with me. All through my school life, I competed in examinations to top the course, with this one classmate whose father would land up in school and bitterly argue with the teachers if his son got even one mark less than me. Dreading his presence used to be as much of a stress as it was to study. And I’m sure at some level, his own son dreaded it too, because his dad’s behaviour made him unpopular with the classmates, and the teachers.
The aggressive and pushy behaviour of some parents hasn’t seemed to change over time. Last week, a 10-year-old Indian-origin girl won an extremely tough challenge to be named as Britain’s child genius. What made more news, however, than the extraordinary sharpness of the kids who took part, was the rude and pushy behaviour of this girl’s mother, Sonal (Yeah right, laugh at the name and you’d have it from me). In the televised show, she could be seen objecting to the judges’ verdict, gesturing aggressively and quoting rules to get her daughter an extra mark. Eventually her daughter won, but her attitude left such a bad taste that parents from all over UK complained about it on social media.
Dekho bhai, who does not want their kids to do well in competitions, academic or extra-curricular. So no one’s doubting your good intent. But it’s about time kids got freedom to compete, without having to deal with helicopter parents hovering all over, and fighting their battles for them. Allow me to tell you that if you are a pushy parent, your behaviour is not good for the following four entities. And it’s only these four that matter.
1) Your child: Right from the day you forcible removed another kid from the swing in the park so that your toddler could play, he/she has looked uncomfortable. Just look closely and you’d be able to spot the embarrassment on your own child’s face. Just imagine that in the name of being a well-wisher, you subconsciously inflict this embarrassment on your child, year after year, even when they are grown-up enough to handle their own challenges. Just let them be, yaar. They’ll learn how to deal with competition, with disappointment, with unfair treatment, with failure. And they’ll deal with it beautifully if they’ll be secure in the knowledge that they have your love and support, unconditionally.
2) The teachers: Deep down, all teachers loathe pushy parents. They not only make the teachers’ job difficult by alleging partiality but also keep them from being honest and upfront about your child’s weaknesses. “There’s a boy in my class whose mom just has to come and fight if he doesn’t get an A+ in the exam. I’m so wary of the constant arguments that I don’t even feel like pointing out that child’s mistakes,” a teacher friend told me once. End mein nuksaan kiska?
3) The fellow students: The best way to make your kid unpopular in the class is to turn into a cribbing, complaining leader of the pushy parents gang at every PTM. “Uski mom toh ladai karke usey role dilwa dengi, aap bhi kuchh karo,” is what my daughter told me once, when she wasn’t getting selected for a school play. “Ok I’ll also come tomorrow, ladaai karne,” I told her. After five minutes of looking stressed, she came and said, “Mat aana, please. Everyone makes fun of her, now they’ll mock me, too.”
4) Yourself: It is just too stressful to watch your child compete, with your heart thumping out of your chest and the face more tense than it would be if India went to war with Pakistan. Is it worth it? Just sit back and relax for a change. Your child has come with a destiny, and loads of talent. Let that talk.
Sonal Kalra demands freedom from aggressive parental behavior this Independence Day. Live and let live. Laugh and let laugh. Mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org and facebook.com/sonal.kalra. Follow on Twitter@sonalkalra