I don't want to go to school," declared my son the other day.
It was like any other day. I thought that stomach pain or toothache must have been the reason (no there was no live cricket match on Star or ESPN channel). I knew these sorts of excuses are quite normal in normal students like my son. But before I could say anything he said, "Papa, let me tell you, there is no pain in my stomach nor my tooth is giving me any trouble as you must be thinking (true chip of the old block). I was caught but was also delighted at my son's sharpness and progress. After all WYGIWYS (what you get is what you sow).
My frowned brows and light tapping of my roller pen on the desk was a known sign by now that I was trying to figure out the real reason behind this unexpected revolt. Seeing me do that he said, " Papa, don't try too hard to find out the reason. You only have taught me the futility of trying too hard. It does not help. Harder you try harder it will be for you."
I admired him and suddenly found that I had stopped tapping my pen. Like all the religious preachers, readily available dime a dozen on every satellite channel, he sat in front of me in Sukhasana or Vajrasana (I don't know much of yoga) and said calmly, "I am going to stop going to school."
His calmness scared me to my butts. Yes, I was scared. Scared to an extent that I forgot to lose my temper. He continued in the same tone without waiting for my response. "I want to be a drop-out."
By this time, I had regained my composure.
'What? What did you say?'
I did not believe my eleven-year old, seventh standard ICSE student son speaking thus.
He again said more calmly, "Yes, you heard me right Papa. I want to drop studies," he said it with equal ease with which he dropped his shorts everyday only a couple of years before.
I was in trouble for sure. Perhaps I did not know the quantum. So like a cautious Steve Irvine ready to catch a calm looking crocodile, I cautiously tapped him on the shoulders. His cold and chilled look was more ferocious than the croc. I felt the sweat on the nape of my neck. Soon it covered my forehead and face. I badly wanted my wife by my side and at the same time did not want him to know my condition. I surely did not want to lose the case even before it got filed. So mustering all the courage I had had gathered from all the known and unknown sources and remembering John Stuart Mill's treatise on the development of the child, I said, 'So you want to drop out?' and then not knowing exactly how to continue started struggling for the words.
My son had already answered my courageous question in the affirmative. It was his basic premise. And he was not going to budge an inch from there.
Seeing me helpless in the situation, he spoke (and I got relieved), "After all what is the use of all these studies Papa? What exactly am I going to use the knowledge acquired in this way for? Can I not get the same knowledge or even more than that without going to school? What would happen if I do not know what a paramecium is so long as I know what a Dolly is? What if I don't remember the dates and years of History so long as I know Hiroshima and Nagasaki? What would I lose if I do not know that the Earth is inclined at an angle of 7.5 degrees round its own axis as long as I know that the most important Ozone layer is being destroyed, bit by bit, everyday by all of us."
I was bewildered by his bombardment. He was not right and at the same time was not wrong also. One good thing had happened. His barrage of questions had given me a breathing space. Measuring every word I started talking, 'But tell me son, where did you get this brilliant idea from? Surely it is not a day's work. You seem to have given considerable time and thought to it. Right.' "Right, Papa." He said. The praise seemed to have done the trick.
He continued, "Look at all famous people Papa. They are all dropouts: Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Sachin Tendulkar and to top them all Bill Gates. All were dropouts. The list could be bigger and bigger. Do you now what would have happened to all these guys, had they all gone to school and colleges?
The argument was very strong and convincing. I had to find out a solution immediately other wise I could very well visualize myself as a father of a dropped out son; a seventh standard drop out. I timely remembered some one saying, "In a given situation be a Jerry but never become a Tom" (of famous Tom and Jerry cartoon). Now all my senses were with me. I said, 'Son you are not wrong (I purposely avoided the use of the word 'right'). But all these people are an exception to a set rule. And as we have studied a few times that every rule has an exception. If everyone starts thinking the way you are then nobody would go to school and colleges. A sort of imbalance will be created and chaos will rule. Moreover tell me, I was getting bolder now, who runs the world? These few dropouts or the remaining ones that finish their prescribed studies. I agree, their path looks tempting but it is not as it looks. And as a matter of fact remember one thing: all the dropouts don't become rich and famous.'
The solemn sermon had the desired effect. It made my son quiet. I did not want to defeat him but I could not afford to let him win either. 'So what do you say Sonny?'
"Nothing," he said, but tell me Papa, he added with a twinkle, wasn't it a brilliant idea?
" Wiping the perspiration and heaving a sigh of relief, I said, 'yes my dear, if it was just an idea then it indeed was a brilliant one.'