Degree Certificate for Survival
- Part 1 -

R.K. Shivachandra *

Some thirty winters have gone by, I bid him adieu with a heavy heart at a school by the river of Hooghly, and this is where the little one had to pursue his studies in three grades. It was all for the best and hopefully a venture into the bright new world. He was too small and the school was too big.

The hostel superintendent chopped off the earring dangled at my son's ear with a scissor and handed it back to me. She declared "Earrings are meant for girls not for the boys". I nodded in submission. Not long ago there was a big Nahutpa ceremony (ear-piercing day) for my son at home. Friends and relatives came by and the function was celebrated with great fanfare and my son was the most blessed-boy of the day.

A self-reprimanding effect and trepidation impacted me and a question crept up within. Why? He is too small and tender, how on earth should one languish in a hostel like this which is thousands of miles away from home. His age deserves full parental attention round the clock. Am I doing good or bad? I could not give the answer…I prayed for the best and left the answer on the lap of destiny.

Time was running out. In a short while, the hostel superintendent would take him inside the hostel. While offering him the best sweets and bakes, I console my son not to shed a tear when dad leaves the hostel.

"Are you sure you wouldn't weep" I demanded. He nodded 'yes' but his pink cheeks on milky face told a different story. He was pensive and frown and his most favourite biscuits were seen lying uneaten in dry tiny palm. Time for goodbye has come, I hugged him tightly, wishing him to give me more strength and courage in the new school.

The little one spoke no languages other than his own mother tongue. I was in bewilderment, not very sure whether he would be able to follow the instructions of the hostel. It was a feeling that I had never experienced before and I realized that was the pain of being a father.

Hostel superintendent suddenly appeared and ordered me to take a quick leave of the place so that she could take my son inside the hostel. Without wasting a time, she led the boy by hand and spiralled up through a narrow staircase of the school building. The young one looks back at me, seemingly so reluctant to his new home. I sneaked a glance of crystal-clear tear drops in the corner of his lovely eyes. I pretended as if I had not seen it. Suddenly he disappeared in the staircase.

The cab driver who waited for me outside the school gate was almost in his afternoon napping in the driver's seat. There had been a lot of goodbyes in my life but it was never the same this time. I shrank into the back seat and exhaled a heavy breath and the cab started moving. The road leading to the city was dusty and bumpy. Alongside the streaming Holy Ganges that arose from Gangotri, an unbridled stream of tiny Gangotri began to flow in the corner of my eyes too.

Not long ago a brave father threatened his son not to shed a single tear and now he could not resist his own. He cried aloud to his heart's content like a small boy in the silent cab with no one to listen to except for the driver who shared the pain silently.

Hoogly-Bhaghirathi swamped up in the rainy seasons and her flow and roar was audible from afar in the silent valley road. As the Holy River flows down to the Bay of Bengal my tears of excitement also flow down to the memory lane where the small one had landed first in my arms in the form of the most precious gift of the world.

Sometimes, I could see the swamped parents that crowded the lanes and by- lanes of Imphal, who ferry their children to respective tuition centres, all busy on a soporific routine right from dawn to dusk just for the sake of their loved ones. The rat-race in the illusive amphitheatre of success and dreaded cut -throat competition became more visible and they are the 'relentless' parents of the modern days.

Whether one manages their children to pursue studies outside the state or one studies in Manipur doesn't make much difference when it comes to the expenditure aspects. The overall tuition fees for respective subjects soar up too high and every parent irrespective of middle-class or rich are inevitably to cough up with the fast-changing trend of the society. The concern of parents is indeed selfless, unfathomable and it is all about sacrifice and dedication.

Of late, I had been to a small hamlet in a hill station of Manipur where I came across a young Meetei boy, in a small rented hut. He was all alone in the tiny room, fully concentrating to appear for the ensuing 12th grade examination. He does not have a father to take him to tuition class. He doesn't cry for a smart phone for poverty had already muffled his mouth.

His father was poor and mostly working in the brickfield. The father and son duo had reached this small hamlet to make a living through manual jobs. While fighting the dreaded enemy 'poverty' they have not been able to acquire even a piece of homestead of their own, they purely survive on daily wages, working whatever comes before them. What struck me most was the young man's curiosity and enthusiasm for learning. He was such a lovely soul in the remote village, far away from the madding crowd yet he was never exhausted in endeavouring to become a successful man in life and to grow alone the wild orchid way.

Parents also need to digest why they blow up thousands of rupees. The more critical aspect is the question whether our children can tackle any awkward situation at any time. Also how they can earn and live. Education should go along with its essence, without which, education with some bookish principle, cannot make a man perfect. What do we want them to become? Money should not make an approach road to success.

An elderly local uncle, who held a top post of a government office in the early days once told me in his tears welled-up eyes. "Never expose your emotional compassion to your children, treasure it in the core of your heart silently". I listened to him in stony silence. My local uncle was indeed an influential and capable gentleman, who throughout his career, was known for his generosity and kindness.

He had been blessed with three healthy sons who were all destined to lead and succeed. They all studied in prestigious schools outside of Manipur. My local uncle had a humble beginning with a poor family background. He had faced numerous challenges and life was full of shortfalls during his childhood days. The long ordeal and agonizing journey of life inflicted him a sense that his children should not face any awkward situation in life and he always wanted them to live as happily as a happy prince.

That is why when his son asked for a sum of Rs 3000 he would not hesitate to double it up by adding another Rs 3000 more and he was happy in doing so. In due course of time, all his three sons became drug users and addicted to it. Easy money and easy living attitude had done badly. None of them survived. My local uncle said, "My sons were innocent and wanted to live more".

He sobbed and continued. "I strangulated and murdered them with my own hands". My local uncle failed to reach the most important education of life, how he had passed through the 'struggle of existence' to his sons. How he had survived the pitches of bullets fired through the barrel of poverty, was a missing lesson for his sons. Today, the small mistake sparked off and it took a heavy toll in his life.

To be continued...

R.K. Shivachandra
* R.K. Shivachandra contributes regularly to
The writer was President, Indo Myanmar Fraternal Alliance and is Convener of Act East Policy, Manipur
He can be contacted at nongpokharam(at)gmail(dot)com

This article was posted on June 05, 2022 .

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