It was a pleasant summer evening when an afternoon rain was still dripping itself dry in leaves and branches. The cool rays from the sun settled on my lap as we watched the neighborhood children play a game of “robber and thief.”
The kids imagined one corner of the garden as a jail. Marked its boundaries with a broken red brick piece. A flower opened the lock. A dry twig became a gun. The narrow space behind the rose bushes was their deep dark cave to hide.
Each one of them took turns to be a police, robber, a watchdog, and a pedestrian. They were effortlessly imaginative, creating stories and acting their parts with ease, creating twists and turns on the go. In their exuberance, creativity ran, hid, laughed, and fought until the sun went home.
I was reminded of Bharath, as I watched the kids play.
Ramesh and Malathi are doting parents of their only son Bharath. Ramesh runs his business from home and takes care of Bharath when he is back from school. “Right from the day he was born, we have planned his life. We decide what he should read, what music he should listen, whom he should talk to and what he has to eat,” Ramesh told me.
Malathi works in a MNC and is a busy lady. We met for dinner a few days back.
“How is Bharath preparing for his board exams?” I asked.
“He is busy attending classes. His day begins at five in the morning and ends at ten in the night. We neither have a TV nor a computer at home because we don’t want him to obsessively play videogames or watch TV shows,” Malathi told me.
“And in spite of being strict, he plays in my laptop when he finds free time. I don’t know when he will take his studies seriously,” Ramesh complained.
“It is tough for him too. He needs some time to relax,” I tried to calm him.
“You don’t understand, Subhashini. Children do not know how to use leisure. Bharath needs to stay focused on his studies until he finishes his final exams. Once he is done he can do whatever he wants. We are doing all this for his good”, they explained.
I smiled a knowing smile. I know that Bharath will not be free for a long time. This is just a vicious cycle where exams flow one after the other. It will go on until his education is over and he finds a “dream job” his parents approve of.
If leisure is the most sought goal in the world and the entire humanity works hard to earn it, why are parents afraid of their children’s leisure? Isn’t leisure a good companion like Hobbes is to Calvin, reveling in the discovery of unknown. Leisure is not idleness as many think. Leisure is the activity that expands the mind and allows us to be curious. After all, only a curious mind can create.
As children grow, parenting suddenly becomes a competition among parents. The fear that their children may not “do well” in life daunts them. They control and manage their children’s lifestyle. Ramesh and Malathi are such parents. They do not want Bharath to think. Rather, they would have him think what they think. They are afraid that leisure will corrupt him.
Before the kids left, I asked each one of them, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Most of them wanted to be a doctor or a teacher. Only one of them had a different answer.
“I want to be happy,” he said, busily chasing a dragonfly.
Like the waves that are born in the relaxed sea, creativity is born from leisure. Indulge them.
Subhashini Chandramani is mother of a teenager. She is a homemaker and poetical story-teller who writes under the pen name, neelavanam which means the blue sky. You can follow her thoughts at http://neelavanam.tumblr.com/ and @Neelavanam on Twitter.