Home always brings back bad memories.
And since it’s after a long time that I am actually staying at home (apart from the short few day visits when I could have been called visitor), I’m getting a lot of these memories.
Fuelling this, is my younger brother’s new and improved demand for independence. Go bro!
In my high school school days, independence was something I really longed for. And my brother is making those exact dialogues that I made three or four years ago (If you want me to be independent, then let me be. If you don’t want me to be independent, then don’t ask me to be.)
(By the way, school didn’t give me that independence either. The time of the day of pure bliss were the ten minutes on the cycle back from school, or the few hours after school — before my brothers or my parents got home. I tried to separate my school life and home life, but those bitching teachers would always end up uniting the two by calling up my parents every now and then. I was the teacher’s pet who always stood outside class, who was always sent to the principal’s office, and whose parents were always called. So when my Dad once told me that he was refusing to come and meet the principal, I told the principal just that. She believed me.)
We got our computer when I was in 8th. Ever since, my parents have imposed the following rule for using the computer: we can use it only on saturday or sunday, for one or two hours (in the beginning it used to be half-an-hour slots. There were also rules that we shouldn’t tell our friends about having bought a PC). Then my brothers take over — we are three brothers. Sigh.
To use the computer, I’d have to ask permission from my parents.
So the whole week, I’d spend plotting my plans for what I intend to do on the weekend with the computer. In later years I sometimes used it in that few independent hours I got after school. Experimenting on the computer was not possible. If anything went wrong, and I couldn’t fix it, my Dad would blast his anger on me — that I think of myself as very intelligent, and that I think of myself as a Computer God, and that, in his reality, I was not.
Internet was of course, on an expensive dial-up, so I’d have to ask special permission to use the comp at 5 in the morning on a Saturday (special call rates).
Parents have a knack of figuring out what you like to do best, and decide that that is an evil thing to do and so you better stop doing it and that you should be studying instead: mathematics, programming, painting, day dreaming… all fell under that category.
The worst, and the most dramatic, of the issues, was religion. Possibly like all parents, they impose all their religious ideas on their kids. I am not allowed to argue the non-existence of God. I am not allowed to interpret a bible passage in any way different from what a preacher or priest has interpreted it. And I am supposed to go to church on Sunday.
On Sundays, I would feign sleep, till the last moment, when my Mom storms into the room, and demand that I get up, and go to church. Often, I would refuse. And would give the same reasoning that I gave a few Sundays before. Then comes the very theological battle, which ends up with my Mom in tears, describing how God saved us from financial crisis, or how both my Mom and Dad had to struggle in their childhood days, and that I was ungrateful. That was my cue. I was not allowed to argue beyond that point. Sometimes my Mom would say “What happened to the old Arnold.. earlier you used to get up before the rest of us and go for Sunday Class too, without us having to tell you.” … right, I can’t argue this too, because the reason I used to get up and go for Sunday class was that there was a pretty girl there… well, that’s another story. (And PS: my atheism started way back in 7th standard. That again is a story in itself.)
I enjoyed all my chances of staying on my own. The first (I think) being staying in Trivandrum for a NTSE camp at the end of 10th for about two weeks.
At the end of 10th, I also had to go to Bangalore for a KVPY interview. Sadly, Dad booked the train ticket, and he was coming along with me.
I knew what KVPY interview was all about. Yet, with Mom and Dad, and their refusing to allow me to express my opinions of what it really was about, told me: Bangalorites are very formal people, so you better go in formals, and wear a tie. They want to test your whole personality for giving you that kind of money, not just your Mathematics skills.
I didn’t get KVPY that year, and had to spend two days with my Dad in Bangalore. And I swore to never listen to them about such important matters.
It’s not that they don’t know stuff, they both have a lot of life experience, that probably I can’t even hope to have. It’s just that there’s a generation gap, and just that they used to bug me a lot. Dad can get overly protective: thinking about it now, maybe I wouldn’t have minded him buying himself a ticket to Bangalore, if he didn’t follow it up with a story of how he lived alone in Bombay and that we should also be independent like him.
The quest for being on my own, also led me to a Priest training camp. It was Mom’s idea, certainly I couldn’t come up with that. It was just that I didn’t refuse.
This was a camp, where they brainwashed young kids finishing their 12th to become priests. You might not know this, but to become a priest you have to go through lots of studies, if I remember correctly — some 11 years of studies. Anyway, at the end of the three days there, I enjoyed telling that counselling-guy that I had no intention of becoming a priest, that I was there only for the fun of it, and that I didn’t believe in God. And trust me: if any of those other kids were a sample of what the next generation of priests were going to be like, well, then Christianity is doomed.
Then there was INOI camp at TISB. Again, Dad booked tickets for himself too. Well, this time I wasn’t quiet. And so I got my Freedom. This time my parents respected my demand for independence. I wasn’t disturbed too often by phone calls.
And then, of course, there was CMI. I had a life of my own: my first year I tried spending as little as I could, to try and live off—as much as I could—on my CMI stipend, and on the little money I got from a few other sources. Second year I got KVPY. I was almost completely on my own (I say almost because KVPY isn’t punctual in sending money. To my parents I kept emphasizing, that I was borrowing, and not just living off their money).
Three years later, I’m now back at home, I don’t need to demand my independence any more. Everybody accepts it now. The problem with the theological clashes still holds, and the same sentimental arguments do pop up (which is why I rarely went home during semesters. I didn’t want to be at home on a Sunday anyway.)
And as I said earlier, my younger brother, who is starting his 12th, is behaving a lot like the Me of my high-school days. He’s joining a hostel for a year while the rest of us are shifting to Mumbai, and he’s pretty happy about it.
There are lots of reasons this blog post came up. Recent discussions with friends about the generation gap, or of the benefits of being a middle-sibling in the family. Or when I saw a friend censoring her blog because her parents knew about it (why would anybody let their parents know about their blog!?)
And the benefit of being a middle-sibling? Well, neither are you expected to be the next breadwinner of the family, nor are you going to get the unwanted pampering.
Will just end with: It’s not them, it’s me.