When I was queueing up outside the theatre tonight I met some family friends. Husband, wife, two adult sons. I thought of them -- them and my own parents -- all through the movie. Both sets of parents have had children with special needs. I have known all my life that my brother was way more intelligent than I. When I was really young I didn't have very high expectations from myself -- I figured if somebody as smart as my brother couldn't crack the academic system, how could I hope to achieve anything? It took me some more time to work out that my brother may have been smart but he was only smart outside the system; within it, he could be a real klutz.
These two mothers -- my mother and her friend -- fought, long and hard, to get their sons some space, some security, some help of the sort they needed. My mother's friend won through. Her elder son finished his graduation in a law degree, and is now working. Her younger son made it through school and is now ploughing through college. A regular course. He's not brilliant, but he gets through. My mother though did not win. And she rues it every day she lives.
When Rahul was born, I watched the fear and the sorrow cross her face every now and then. Her face and Giga's -- they were the ones who loved my brother the best, apart from my grandfather -- and they were the ones who tried to understand his needs, to work out why such a bright child shown so much love, denied nothing that could be got, could fail every exam. Even when he knew the answers, why he wouldn't write a word. A day came when Giga too began walking away. Incidentally, Giga was what my brother called her at Rahul's age. When I was trying to figure out what Rahul should call her, she insisted that this long-abandoned name be resurrected. And I can see how she and my mother are trying to ensure that they -- and I -- don't repeat the mistakes made twenty years ago. Because in a lot of ways Rahul shows his temperamental similarities with my brother. That same quick frustration. The same flaring temper. The same undeniable charm. The same open heart.
Rahul can be so frustrating. He is obviously intelligent, doesn't miss a thing. You'll say that I'm a besotted mother who thinks her son is perfect. But that does not change what he is. He is so sharp, so quick to follow, to pick up. But he does not like being taught. There are only two ways he is willing to learn something new -- either he watches somebody do something once and picks it up instantly, or he approaches the new thing from all angles and works out a way to do it. Few of his toys survive this treatment. It upset me when I saw younger children play with simple toys that he didn't know how to handle. And then I watched a little while longer and saw that these kids knew only the one way of playing with any toy. Rahul, refusing to accept any demonstrated method, often destroyed the toy in his attempts to play with it, but when the toy survived, he had figured out several ways of playing with it. So while he takes longer, often much longer, to figure a new game out, he is also less scared of approaching new things, new places, new people.
I'm not saying he is smarter than the other kids. But he is already demonstrating that his approach to learning is a little, shall we say, hatke? I have spent the last three months turning this round and round my head. I've been hounding Choxbox to tell me more about the Montessori system. I fitted well enough into the academic system. I've never been a brilliant scholar but I did get my first divs and was satisfied. V's academic record on the other hand is nothing close to impressive. His brother showed great promise but refused to study beyond his engineering degree. My own brother never finished class XI. They are three of the most intelligent men I know. Thanks to my father, I have learnt to appreciate a keen intellect when I find it. Anyway, so these are the genes my little boy carries. And I watch him very keenly so that I can give him the kind of support he needs. I don't yet know what he will require but I am trying my best to learn from past mistakes. I can't find another system to fit him into. But I can help him find, as his father has and my brother hasn't, a place where his talent shines.
There was a moment in the movie that hit very close home. When the mother cries, asking herself what she did wrong; didn't she give up her job and career, what was it all for. I guess it's now time and beyond that I made my peace with the kind of life I'm going to live. I know I can't go back to a full-time job and leave my son with somebody else. I would trust him with V and my mother -- one has his own career to follow and the other lives 1600 km away. So, if I'm going to stay at home, I might as well come to terms with it. I have to stop feeling so cheated, so denied, so repressed. And I have to remember how much I valued having my own mum around all the time. I knew, no matter what else drew her attention away from me, that she was around, that some time in the day I would eventually find her alone and responsive. Am I attacking working mothers? No. I think if you and your children are comfortable away from each other most of the day, then you're wise to hang on to your careers. My mother rues the career she never had. But secretly I'm glad she didn't, because I got to have her all to myself.
What I'm saying is, I've got to stop whining and get down to making this place a home. Start putting Vicky and Rahul before myself. I don't do that nearly enough.