Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Aditya's life after Maths and Physics

 A short story*

Aditya was lying in a pool of blood; absolutely aghast were Suresh and Reema, standing in front, surrounded by onlookers, neighbours and relatives. The ambulance could be heard from far, and now, it was just about to reach the apartments. Reema was barely able to stand the plight of her son, she fainted and Suresh was reeling under the worst shock of his life, pondering... “What made him do this? How could he jump from the terrace without even thinking twice, so impulsive? Haven’t we provided everything he wanted, where did I go wrong as a father?” He was filled with all kinds of thoughts – regretful, irrational and remorseful. As the boy was being lifted and placed in the ambulance, a note from his trouser pocket just fell on the ground, it read, "I cannot continue to study this way, I don't like it."

Reema was taken to the family doctor for immediate medical care. Though she was conscious, she was freezing with fear, she feared that worse could happen to her only son. Gradually, as the initial shock was wearing off, she screamed loudly and cried inconsolably. It was difficult for Dr. Ashok to pacify her. The relatives and neighbours gathered around her and tried to tell her that Aditya will safely return home. But nothing could control her at the moment; she was filled with intense grief at her son’s attempt to end his life. “He’s just sixteen and he is such a bright child, he never troubled us and always listened to us, I’ve always tried to be his friend, he used to share everything with me, how could he think of leaving us...we have so many expectations from him.”

“Calm down Reema, take care of yourself, he’ll be alright... we all understand, both of you have been such wonderful parents, please avoid thinking negatively, Aditya will be fine soon”, comforted Ranjana, her sister-in-law, who lived in the same apartment complex.

Aditya was battling for life in the operation theatre. The fall from the seventh floor was almost fatal, damaging his brain and bones. There was very little the surgeon could do. “We have just completed the surgery and sent the patient to the ICU, let’s wait for twelve hours for the patient to respond”, Dr. Taneja told Suresh who had gone completely pale with the news reaching his office first thing in the morning. He still could not figure how getting less marks and a lower grade in two subjects could make a strong-willed boy like Aditya to take this extreme step. Tears were rolling down his cheeks and his brother Rajesh could do little to help him. The hospital provided Suresh a specialist in trauma care. Reema joined him a little later. As soon as he saw Reema, he broke down again and held her closely as both tried to console each other. They refused to eat anything, they even refused to drink water. All they did was to pray for the recovery of their son.

Twenty four hours had passed after the surgery, there were no positive signs.  Aditya had gone into coma – the doctors declared. The police arrived at the hospital and inquired about the incident. Suresh was not in a condition to talk to the police. A family friend visited the police station and provided all the details. The police decided to postpone the inquiry on humanitarian grounds.

The parents could not bear to see their son lying still, speechless, motionless. They would not budge from the bed, both of them trying to speak to him and tell him things that they thought he would like to hear. “Alright, Aditya, if you did not like Maths and Physics, you could have changed your subjects, why didn’t you tell us earlier, were you so scared of your dad and mom?” Suresh whispered to Aditya.

Days turned into weeks and it was already fourth week in the hospital. It was feeding time one afternoon and Reema was trying to help the nurse in feeding Aditya. She held the nurse’s hand tightly and started weeping, remembering the day when Aditya came to know that he hadn’t done well in his 11th grade public exams. Aditya was a sincere and hardworking student and took his studies seriously. However no matter how hard he worked, he could not secure top marks or the best grade in the class. Often, he used to question himself, “do I really like Maths and Science” or “have I chosen these subjects because I cannot displease my parents”, Aditya was old enough to know what his likes and dislikes were. He excelled at creative writing, table tennis and music. It was his passion to write blogs, short stories and poems. Often, he would write them secretly not letting his parents know that he was wasting time on useless things.

Suresh was working as a Delivery Head at an MNC and Reema was working as a Quality Analyst in a software firm. Both were post-graduates in Science; apparently, their limited knowledge and deliberate ignorance about various options in higher education made them close themselves to other options and choose the science stream for their son. Reema was very particular from the day Aditya was admitted in the primary school that he should fulfil her dreams in pursuing Artificial Intelligence at a premier university in the USA. For Suresh, there was nothing before and after engineering subjects. He devalued humanities and arts and never paid attention to Aditya’s love for writing and music, let alone encourage him in developing his interests.

Aditya was eight when he participated in the annual event at school. For an eight year old, he could sing marvelously. The parents attended the school function and saw Aditya getting first prize for singing in the under-12 group. Aditya’s talent was appreciated by the principal and the teachers. To some extent, looking at the boy’s passion for singing, the parents enrolled him in music classes but this was not done whole heartedly.  Their encouragement was not genuine; it was more of a gesture not to displease him.  Aditya was not strong enough to put his foot down and reject the science stream for his higher secondary school. He gave in to his parent's pressure without even objecting to it and joined the college that coaches students for all the competitive exams in the field of engineering and medicine. He was slogging throughout the day and night. He could not pursue his other interests like writing and music. He hated the way they made him mug up and prepare for the exams at the coaching classes.

Both Reema and Suresh appropriately moulded Aditya from his childhood, sending him to every possible competitive event in Science and Maths, enrolling him all the hobby courses that could blinker his vision to focus only on Science. They loved their son so much that they wanted him to fulfil their dreams and expectations, little worrying about what the boy was good at, what his natural talents were, what his dreams were and not even giving him time to blossom and open up.

In a way, Aditya had very little of his choice in his scholastic and extracurricular life. Everything was chosen by his parents. He was sent to chess coaching because Reema felt that learning to play chess would help him grow intellectually too.  At one phase in middle school, the boy was made to study advanced Mathematics just to prove to the rest of the students that he was exceptional in Mathematics, little realizing that his wizardry in maths could make him lose friends who saw him as a geek showing off his advanced knowledge and disturbing the class with his pre-studied answers. Often the teacher in the class would shout at him, “Aditya, don’t reveal all the answers, just because you have solved the problems beforehand... let other students solve the problems by themselves.”

“Aditya, have you started preparing for the national talent search exams?” Reema would make sure that he prepares well for the exams and scores highest. But, sadly that was not to be. Aditya failed to qualify in the talent search and the parents were disappointed. For most part, it seemed like their mission in life was to show to the world that they have a son who was simply exceptional in Maths and Science and who would excel in these subjects with highest honours.

Sad, but it was not true, this was not to be.  Their son was neither a wizard nor a magician to meet all the expectations and perform miracles, he was simply a teenager like many other young adults growing up to explore, discover and learn. Though he was a bit of a loner, he enjoyed the company of his close friends and wanted to have fun. The fact that Aditya never complained about his forced choice of studies doesn’t mean he was happy with it.

As he was being treated in the state of coma, the parents were regularly undergoing trauma care sessions with an expert at the hospital. The specialist had told them enough about how some children would passively go through the emotional and intellectual turbulence and rarely react or never show it overtly. This was the case with Aditya. He swallowed his feelings and his resentment and pretended that he could complete his studies as per his parents’ wish. Perhaps he feared his parents’ reaction if he had told them the truth about his actual preferences for higher studies.

Somehow, the love and the bonding between the parents and the child seemed to rest on a series of misgivings about each other.

It was the thirty-fifth day in coma when Aditya breathed his last.

He entered a life beyond Maths and Physics.

*This story is inspired by the mad-rush-for-maths-n-science syndrome that affects millions of teenagers in India, thanks to the parental pressure and social compulsion.


Unknown said...

Very touching and very true indeed, Madhuri.It is indeed a life beyond
" bondage " with everything.
Very good.
Dr. G. Rajagopal of EFLU.

Mohanraj said...

Makes an excellent material for case study in a training and counselling institute. Sounds very true. Congratulations

Mohanraj said...
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