Funny word this.. education. Is it not the same word that is the topic of most of the debates? The very same which people fight for? The very same word that people quote to flaunt their supposedly highbrow stature? The very same that people state to indicate that that’s what makes them different? The very same , that makes students take up “n” number of entrance exams, the very same which is a dream for millions and the very same which doesn’t have a boundary? the very same that…and the list is endless..
“What is your son doing?” asked Vimala.. “Oh! He just finished his B.Tech and is now getting into MIT.We are so proud of him ” , beamed Kamala who seemed to feel as if it was her trip abroad and she was the student. Ofcourse she had every right to feel so . “Wow!That is some news Kammu .. Is he getting a scholarship too?”
“No Vimmy.. They said they would not fund him for the first term and even the second term is a doubt. But getting into such an institute is commendable enough and we don’t want to say no. After all , he will earn once he is done with his studies. We have left everything in God’s hands.. ” sighed Kammu.
This is not a very unusual conversation. Probably we have heard it far too often to even appreciate the depth of it. But sample it against this conversation I recently had with a mother, a mother of an 8 or 9 yr old.
Before I present the conversation , I must give you a backdrop of whom I am referring to. Well , lets call him Addy. Atleast that is what I still call him – a bubbly guy, not too talkative , but you can still move a pin here and there and hear tiny bursts. How did I meet Addy? Even I don’t remember very clearly. My friend Mr.A was his therapist and I vaguely remember him bringing Addy to my room just to improve his “socialization” skills. That was our first meet and then , Addy’s mom and I got pretty close and well , she started coming to me with li’l things that Addy accomplished after days of hard work and all her li’l woes. He has been diagnosed as having having one of those conditions which one can ,in a very sophisticated manner , refer to as apraxia. Well , just to get familiar with what it means , let us just say that it is a condition where the person cannot perform a task when he is asked to, as in , he may be able to lick a drop of honey from a plate but cannot put his tongue out when you ask him to. Well , apparently this child has certain other problems too – like , not being able to follow all the pragmatics and all the “rules and regulations” which the supposed to be “normals” find “normal”..Anyways , not getting into too much personal info. for reasons of privacy , this is what ensued between me and Addy’s mother the other day.
Me (all surprised to see Addy after a long time! and smiling?!):Hey Addy , how you sir? Had lunch? (of course , it was past lunch time and I was sure he must have had his lunch , but just started a conversation!)
Addy comes upto me and what do I see? He has a flower in his hand which I know he must have plucked from our garden, not an impossible task , considering we don’t have the devilish-malis who shoo away kids. He just gave the flower to me ( man! you know how to impress girls already , I mutter to myself)
Me: Thanks Addy..oota aytha (had lunch?)
And then , Addy’s mom joins us.
Addy’s mom: Hi..chennagidhira?(kan= Are you doing well?)
After my nod , she goes on..” Addy , what did akka ask you? Did you have lunch? Addy (after a few seconds): ummm..aaaaythu( very much understandable , but misarticulated to a trained ear)
Me: Gooood! So , what did you have? Addy(looks at mother who nudges him to answer): aaati
Mom: chappati..say chappati Addy..
Me: Oh! Chappati ..I had chappatis too! How many did you have? (Now you may wonder , why on earth was I behind his chappatis!?!)
Addy: ….mm….(looks here and there) eedu
Me: eradu? (2) Oh..naanu 2 chappati thinde (even I had 2 chappatis)
By now , Addy’s mom just cant wait to end this conversation. I can see that she has something to tell me. So I just move nearer and ask her what is troubling her.
She:You know? I have been trying to put Addy to a school where he can really learn something but I am having lots of problems.
Me: But he is going to a school meant for ” normal” kids right?
She: Ya..but am not happy with the school..I tried for “X” but the principal there was so rude that she did not let me complete my sentence the minute she saw Addy’s certificate. She said it is going to harm other children and that Addy will be responsible for it. She ask me to try a school for mentally retarded. But doc , Addy isn’t mentally retartded!! I tried telling her that and she refuses to listen..
Me:(quite shocked that the Principal of “X” could have said it!) Did you try any other school?
She: Well , I just tried the school for “special” children but I am not very happy with them either. After all , I know Addy is at a higher level and special schools usually are for other kids , you know..I am really worried..
Me (Honestly , not knowing what to say only because I am too familiar with this battle and aware of the fact that paretns usually check pretty much every option out before they come to you so dsperately): Let me just take a look at his file and get back to you. I have forgotten his scores and all. Maybe we can talk to the supervisor and see how it works out. Dont be disheartened. Things will be fine..We surely have more schools..we just need to search a bit..will get back to you.. and also remember, we have the rights in prints. We can always fight (I hope I have the strength that I am tryign to give her generously).
She: Please do let me know as soon as possible.. will leave now..
I take one loong look at her and a longer one at Addy. He was happily chasing a butterfly and had 3 more flowers in his hand. I called him and waved at him. He smiled and waved back.That was it. And he was one amongst us all, another kid who needed to be understood.Who had to be given a sense of belonging. He needed a school, a school that accepted him for what he was and understood that he was one among us too. He wanted friends too. He wanted comanionship too. He wanted to play the same pranks too. So what , if he could not do a few of the stuff great? He could do a lot of them just super! He wanted appreciation. He needed support.love. And understanding. A lot of it.
All that Addy needed was, a childhood..