Saturday was my daughter’s convocation (graduation ceremony). The son got his degree from a different University two and a half years ago.
It seems like yesterday the kids was learning to speak the first words, take the first steps. Then into school.
When we moved into our own home, the two kids would run excitedly and repeatedly in the lounge, exclaiming how big it was. The same lounge and house became too small for them when they grew up a little.
When discussing what color carpet to put in their room, the two came to me and said: “we don’t need a carpet in our room”. When I questioned them in my way, they confided in me, with tears rolling down their eyes: “mama wants to put a dirty carpet in our room!” I laughed quietly. The wife had said to me: “we will put a mellkhora (one on which dirt doesn’t show up so easily) carpet in the children’s bedroom, and the kids thought she meant dirty.
I would come back from office, and the daughter would present her “news” copy to me. Today’s news invariably would be “electricity went from ab:cd am till xx:yy am”.
The two played games with me. I would be their horse, and they would sit on my back while I ran on all fours. Over the years I got tired, and they became heavier, so the game became who could hold on longer while the horse tried to shake them off. The boy always got thrown off within half a minute of climbing on the horse, but the little girl managed to cling on. Then the horse got even more tired, and the children even more heavy, so the horse became an alligator. They could sit on the alligator, but the alligator had his stomach to the floor, and didn’t move at all. They kept telling me they didn’t like the alligator, but the alligator loved it. He refused to become a horse again.
I told them stories. They loved every word of mine, from their youngest age. They would show their happiness at whatever I said to them. Even with the dumbest and most non-sensical words I smithed for them.
One day the two kids came to me and said: “we won’t go to school from tomorrow. There is no need”. I was surprised. Why, I asked. The reply came: “They are increasing the fees. It just isn’t worth it. You teach us well. You can teach us at home”. The wife and I were beginning to have arguments over our loan re-payments. She insisted on paying her father immediately, as per promised schedule, and I said our income doesn’t allow such fast repayment anymore. Let us ask him to give us more time.
I guess the kids overheard us, and wanted to ease our economic condition. Such considerate kids! I dismissed the story of increase in fees as children’s fantasy. Then my neighbour mentioned it. “I am going to take my children out of that school. I can afford the fees several times over, but what will you do? It is unfair to you”, he said.
When the school gave us notice for increase in fees, I took out the children from that school, and put them in government model schools. I put the little girl one clss ahead. When getting her to prepare for it, I asked her to do one more exercise. She said: “Papa, I do get so tired!”. I realised my mistake. What was I doing to my baby girl, I thought. I hugged and kissed her and said: “Take it easy”, but I don’t know if the damage had been done.
The same kids, particularly the son, refused my coaching as they got older. I wanted to teach in a way that would open their minds. They wanted to finish it the way their teachers wanted, so that they could get on with their TV. And the media here did not provide education.
Sent the kids to Karachi for holidays, on their own – the travel that is. They stayed with my mother and siblings. When they came back, they ran excitedly to me: “Papa, see what we have brought for you”. And what was it they had brought? large thin chapatees that are sold by Karachi’s naanbaees (bread makers). For me. They thought their Papa hadn’t seen or tasted this “delicacy”. At Karachi, they had insisted they would be the ones who go buy these chapatees every mealtime.
We went on picnics, and childrens’ parks, and sightseeing. It was fun for them, and for us too. Then gradually it petered out. I don’t remember why. Perhaps the wife had too much work to do. It has been real hard for her, being my wife, I guess. Perhaps the kids lost interest. Maybe I started bringing the troubles of the office into the home. I don’t remember, but I have missed it.
I thought the kids were more attached to me, they were taking sides for me against their mother, so I gradually made them go back to their mother. But they went too far. They stopped seeing me as a friend. They were insufferable in their teens, but now they have outgrown that.
Anyway, the little girl now has her degree in Software Engineering. 🙂
At the convocation, the parents of one of her friends greeted us. I didn’t recognise them, and the wife scolded me for that. She still doesn’t understand my handicap. This is the 7th convocation I have attended. Two of my children’s as the father, five of different Universities as the Rector’s/Vice Chancellor’s representative. I never attended my own – I dislike all occassions official so much, I declined a medal for fear I would be asked to go up the dais and shake hands etc. I was present at two of my convocations though. Outside, not inside to receive the degrees. Didn’t have my parents or siblings there. Didn’t feel anything special, either.
Official occassions bore me. I feel an air of pretentious make-believe in it. I don’t like the robes, the solemnity, the chairs on the dais, the repetitions, the addresses, the protocol, the mutual sctratching of backs, the award of shields to each other by the Rector and the Chief Guest.
I have often wondered, about the pretentions, and the validity of robes, specially when the robes have intricate embroidery on them. Why should faculty wear such robes? I wonder about the robes that ulema wear too. Would that be considered Islamic?
Back to the convocation. The happiness on the young faces washed away all the doubts and questions. And then there was lunch.
The kids have grown up. They have other interests. They don’t want to listen to my words any more. Perhaps my stories aren’t interesting enough. They don’t like going out with me. I have a suspicion they don’t like being seen with me. Perhaps they don’t like the way I dress, or behave in public. Is it me being paid back in kind. I left home at 16/17, and didn’t pay much attention to my mother’s emotions. Now that I am a parent, I understand, and I can only give them duas. But these kids do have love in them. The son keeps it underneath. The daughter shows and seeks the visible signs.