It was Rahul’s eighteenth birthday and a trip to Shimla was the gift he demanded from his parents. The Mother was working as a helper at a ladies salon and earning a small salary. The father was working as a watchman at night and as a tailor in the day. He would get to sleep only about 4-5 hours in the evening before his night shift as a watchman.
Rahul’s sister was teaching tuition to small children after studying for her own college exams. Rahul was nagging his mother to let him go to Shimla to see the snowfall.
The mother tried hard to explain to him that there was barely money to buy food for them all. The winter was getting more severe and she wanted to buy a heater for keeping the family warm in the chill of the winter. But Rahul was in no mood to listen. He threw tantrums, said angry words, refused to eat and generally behaved terribly.
The next day Rahul happened to read a crossword puzzle in the newspaper. It said that the answers should be sent to the Editor and the best answer would win a cash prize of Rs. 1000/- and a free ticket to Shimla! He couldn’t believe his eyes! Now he could go to Shimla, without asking for money from his mother. He started answering the questions in the puzzle.
Q1. What is the income of your family?
Rahul was not quite sure but this is what he wrote.
A1. My father earns 10,000 in his night-shift and 8,000 in the day. My mother earns 7,000 and my sister earns 3,000. So we have 28,000/- in all.
Q2. How much rent do you pay? Do you have our own house?
A2. Rahul racked his brains but he couldn’t remember. Perhaps he had overheard the landlord saying that they must increase the room rent to 6,000/-. So he wrote the answer as 5,000/-
Q3. How much is your average expenditure on ration for the month?
Rahul was blank.
Q4. What is the price of one kg of Moong dal and one litre of milk?
Rahul was blank again.
Q5. Do all your family members have warm quilts for the winter?
A5. My sister and I have warm quilts. My mother and father put two blankets together and use them to keep warm.
Q6. What work do your parents do?
A6. My mother works in a salon from 10 AM to 6 PM. Before that she cooks for us all, packs our tiffins, cleans the house and the washes the dishes and the clothes. In the evening she cooks dinner and clears the kitchen after everyone has eaten and then irons our clothes.
My father works as tailor in the boutique from 10 AM to 5 PM. Thereafter he sleeps for a few hours and goes for his night duty as a watchman from 10 PM to 08 AM. When he comes home, he takes a nap for an hour and then bathes and goes to the boutique.
Q7. What responsibility do you have in the house?
Rahul thought and thought but he could think of nothing that he was responsible for. Everything was being looked after by his parents.
Q8. If there would be no water in the tap, what would you do or who would you ask for help?
A8. I would ask Papa.
Q9. Do you know how to make khichdi or a chapatti?
Q10. If you have a hundred Rupees to buy something to eat, what is the best possible use you can make of it to buy something filling and nutritious?
A10. Rahul was totally blank.
Q11. Do you ever help mother in cooking?
A11. (By now, Rahul’s hands were shaking) No.
Q12. Do you ever help your father in his work?
Rahul was finding it difficult to write that he had never helped his father too.
Q13. What is the name of your mother’s mother?
Rahul realized that he only called her Nani. He didn’t even know the name of the woman who had loved and pampered him always.
Q14. What do you want to be when you grow up?
A14. I want to be a pilot.
Q15. Do your parents have the means to educate you to become what you want?
A15. (Slowly Rahul wrote) No.
Q16. Did you ever say ‘thank you’ to your parents for all that they do for you?
A16. (Rahul was able to write with difficulty) No.
He then realized that whenever he had told his father that he wanted to become a pilot, he would always say that he would take a loan from the bank and fulfill his son’s dreams. He never shared his hardships with the boy. He never made the boy realise how difficult it was for him to make ends meet.
Rahul did not submit the paper to the Editor because he was too ashamed of his answers.
That night, to his utter surprise, his mother gave him enough money for a short holiday to Shimla. Rahul took it but he was overwhelmed by guilt. Rahul slept fitfully all night. The next day was his birthday. He woke up at the break of dawn to catch the bus to Shimla and found that his mother was kneading the dough to make chapattis for everyone’s tiffin. Alongside she was stirring the vegetable cooking on the gas. He asked her, where his father was. She said, “The milkman didn’t come. So he said he would go to get milk, but his scooter wouldn’t start. Now he has gone to get the scooter repaired. I hope he will come back soon and also bring the milk so that I can make tea for all of you.” The boy looked outside; it was a cold and foggy day. There was a slight drizzle too. He realized that his father had gone out in the chill while he was sleeping in the warmth of his quilt. He noticed that his sister was sewing buttons on a shirt at this unearthly hour. He asked, “Whose shirt is that?” She said, “Papa had to give these shirts to his head tailor after putting the buttons. But he had to go out to get milk, so I thought I should do this for him.”
Rahul was totally shaken. Slowly he put his haversack down. He said, “Ma, I will go and bring the milk. And don’t pack any tiffin for me. I will stay back and help Papa in his work. And today you rest Ma; I will clean the house and make the chapattis.” As he said it, his voice trailed off because he realized that he didn’t know how to make chapattis.
So, Rahul didn’t go to Shimla. He spent the vacations learning how to cook from his mother and how to do minor tailoring jobs from his father. He realized how much his family had always indulged him. He understood that he had never tried to understand the hardships they went through to give him the best they possibly could.
He decided to help out and share the burden of his family. Even after school reopened, Rahul continued to wake up early and helped in the household chores before going to school.
This is the way it is! Most children do not know what the parents go through in bringing up their offspring. But it’s the duty of the children to look beyond and share the responsibilities of the house and most important of all, to be thankful and helpful to the parents!