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One allergy attack per blogathon seems to be the norm. Yes, I spent yesterday in bed sneezing and sniffling. Sneezing is really hard work. You find yourself drained of all energy. Not enough left to sit up and write a blog post anyway. So I reluctantly put it off for the next day.

While I thus lay unwell in bed, a long ago day came to my mind. I must have been twelve or thereabouts. One morning mother barged into the room and found me listlessly stuffing books into my school bag. I doubt though she noticed the listlessness – she has her hands full in the mornings anyway – because as soon as she saw me she exclaimed, “What! You are not ready yet?!” I told her I was not feeling well. “What nonsense!” she said quite pissed off, “Go for your bath, NOW!” She practically dragged me into the bathroom, pushed me in, and for good measure took a mugful of water from the big brass vessel in which it had been stored overnight, and poured it over my head without even waiting for me to get out of my cotton chemise.

The water was extremely cold. Yes, we did bathe in cold water those days, come rain or sunshine. But being ill, it felt like iced water to me. I still remember the shock of it almost half a century later. She left me there to continue, get out of my wet chemise and finish my bath. I don’t remember how I got through it. What I remember is, a few minutes later I was sitting at the dining table in my uniform minus the tie, wet hair and all, unable to eat my breakfast (no appetite) and shivering uncontrollably. My siblings who were already ready and eating their breakfast stared at me in silence. Father walked in to tell us to hurry up. He was the one who dropped us at school on the way to his office. He took one look at my shivering self and told mother, “Can’t you see she is unwell?”

He soon left with my siblings. I was given some pills and sent off to bed. The next thing I remember is waking up from deep sleep, murmuring ‘Pencils gnawing…pencils gnawing…’. I looked around the room expecting to see giant pencils. There were none. Instead there was mother sitting by the window, reading the newspaper. “What are you mumbling?” she asked. In my dream huge pencils had been trying to gnaw me for not going to school, I told her.

While reliving the day, two things struck me. The first, how parents were quite insensitive and unconnected to children in general and to their feelings in particular. There may have been exceptions, but then I am not talking about them. The internet abounds with pieces about how that type of parenting of the past was a good thing. I disagree, and very strongly. The most common refrain is, “Look how we turned out. Nothing wrong with us!” Yeah. I can really see that, is my silent, tongue in cheek response to that. More about that on another day as there is lots to say on the topic.

The second thought that struck me: Why are we so ready to believe the worst of people, whether it be grown ups or kids, with no reason AT ALL? Why not give them a chance, a single measly chance, before condemning them? Had I been in the habit of faking illness to get out of going to school (even once!), I would have understood the extreme reaction from mother and excused it. The reason I can never forget it is that I was always virtuous to a fault, had NEVER EVER done such a thing, prior to the day or since. Still she chose to disbelieve me the very first time I said I was feeling ill. Unfortunately I have noticed (still do) this is pretty common with many people. Those who know you well enough, and some who have known you long enough to know better, easily misconstrue what has been said and are ready to believe the worst of you. It doesn’t matter that you have been a genuine person with them at all times and that there has been no history of you ever having said anything unkind or sarcastic to them. Thus are relationships lost and friendships broken, over imagined slights. But maybe they were never meant to be. There is that.

© Shail Mohan 2020