Framing Change 26th July, 2018

‘Stethoscope’: A Story About The Distance Between My Parents And I.

Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them. They move on. They fly away. And the cause of this very basic problem is a lack of understanding.

I was in grade 4, when my parents replaced my writing pad with a stethoscope. Back then I didn’t understand how that complex toy was a metaphor for my parents’ expectations. I was in grade 9 when my elder sister was forced into studying medicine by my parents (who were doctors). Ironically, even with their stethoscopes, they couldn’t tap into her racing heartbeat the night before her NEET exam. It seemed like there were no tablets to cure her panic attacks and no treatment to fix her anxiety.

I was in grade 10 when I told them I wanted to be a writer and not a doctor. And I remember that, as soon as those words were out in the open, life at home changed drastically. My parents stood still. It was like we were on two separate islands. Mom and Dad on one side, and I on the other. And the ocean between us symbolized the difference in their expectations and my aspirations. It drew me apart from them. Dad always thought writing was an unconventional career choice. The very idea of looking at art as a profession instead of a hobby used to get on his nerves. “Log kya kahenge?” (What will people say?) was more of a concern to him than his daughter’s happiness.

But I don’t blame them. I don’t blame my Mom for not knowing what to say when she saw the scars on my hand for the first time. I don’t blame her for not understanding that depression is not a phase and that her daughter was not insane. I don’t blame my Dad for never watching IPL matches with me since that fateful day, because he somehow feared the awkward career talk that we would end up having. I don’t blame him for being ashamed of saying that his daughter wanted to take humanities and not the sciences because “Arts is for kids with weak grades”. I don’t blame them. I blame the lack of dialogue. I blame the lack of understanding between parents and children that pushes them away from each other.

A conversation between a person of my age and one of theirs should not be like a maze. There are things that each of us know, and which must be spoken about. But then there are things that we both shy away from; we fear the reactions that starting such a discussion might evoke. Issues like gender, sex, depression, harassment must therefore never be spoken of, no matter what. And because of our respective ages, and for reasons of so-called “decency”, these are what society would refer to as taboos: forbidden topics, which we may merely stroll among. Issues that, although perfectly evident to both of us, must not be mentioned at any cost. And so the very foundation of a healthy relationship between parents and children become flawed. But what we need to realize is that conversation is a two way street in a bustling town. I realize that if only my parents had talked to me when I felt rejected, confused, lost, anxious, wronged, disappointing and angry I would not have contemplated suicide at the age of 14. I would not have resorted to sharp blades or pills. I would not have preferred an empty stomach to a fight that Dad and I might get into at the dinner table.

You see, the opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference. And I fear the day when every child becomes indifferent to their parent and every parent becomes indifferent to their child simply because there is a lack of dialogue and a lack of understanding between both of them. I fear the day when a mother cannot cradle her baby in her arms because the baby is ashamed of crying out loud for help. I fear the day a father doesn’t go back to check on their child at night only because the child is scared of being heard and has mastered the art of crying under the blankets with the lights off.

Mathews once said, “People change people” and I should say I agree. People change people because only people can hurt or love people. Parents and children, both, have the choice to either hurt in silence or love through conversation. I believe that in a room full of people, no one should feel alone. #StandWithMe is a cry for help. It is symbolic of sufferance and strength. It is a voice that demands you to breakthrough the problems and strike up a conversation. Because the best thing I have ever learnt is that it feels good to ask for help.

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