“So ja beta, nahi to gabbar ayega”
Chances are, if you’re an Indian parent..you condemn your soul to moral perdition at least half a dozen times a day. We don’t believe in burdening our kids with the truth when a well chosen whopper can make them eat their dinner, brush their teeth, study for their tests and stay chaste till their 40’s. We invoke the police and the bad guys with equal zest, often for the same purpose. We shield our kids from bad news by telling them “Grandpa has gone for a long trip” or “Tommy(the dog) has found a new home.” We deflect questions about the birds and the bees by making up elaborate concoctions sure to keep them in therapy or couples counselling for years to come. Stories using organized religion as a backdrop maybe the biggest corkers of them all..no wonder they are called fables.
Our movies reflect our propensity to pretext. Movie moms deal with the loss of the movie dads by telling the child “He’ll be right back.” Exactly how dumb do they think the child is?
When I was growing up, my esteemed parent frustrated me on long road trips by answering the question “When will we get there?” with “In 5 minutes,” every single time I asked. It took me a while to figure it out, but eventually I realized that I would only get the answer she thought I wanted to hear. So when I had kids of my own, I figured I was going to be absolutely truthful to them. Both my kids have been exposed to the virtues of vitamins in their veggies and the perils of tartar in their teeth before they were two, leaving them with permanently bemused expressions.
Unfortunately, all my good intentions came to a hasty end at the hands of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, who conspired to make a liar out of me. When it came to a choice between the magic of childhood and the clinical and unsatisfactory virtuousness of truth, it was no contest.
Still, I thought I was doing a fairly good job being straight with my kids on all the stuff that really mattered and instilling in them a love for truth that would help them grow up to be responsible, upstanding citizens when an incident happened that shook my belief in the virtue of verisimilitude.
My 5 year old had been asked by her teacher to go to bed at 8 p.m. sharp prior to an important test day. As it happened she slept half an hour later. In the morning, she was in tears because she had disobeyed the teacher.( This is a rather sad commentary on the authority system at her private school, but that is a topic for later.) I tried explaining to her that-
-each child had her own sleep schedule and an arbitrary bedtime made no sense. ( more tears)
-she was to feel free to blame it all on me.( tearful objections -“but it was my responsibility”)
-the teacher was an idiot and she was not to listen to her( shocked tears)
I went around the block (literally and figuratively..the parking lot was full) with these arguments for a while before exasperation took over. “Just lie,” I said, ” and tell her you slept at 8 p.m., ok?”
The tears disappeared like magic.
“That’s what I wanted to do in the first place,” said the politician in training.