The Other War

Getting a teen to study extra hours also involves mines, surgical strikes — even LoCs

Written by Shalini Langer | Updated: October 18, 2016 11:48 am
Hispanic Mother Helping Young Children With Homework There were lines of control, lines of actual control, and many minefields in the middle. With no fencing or body armour. (Source: ThinkStock)

While you catch your breath in this blistering blast of patriotism, I have my flag-bearer — “Harshvardhan”. I knew there had to be one of you out there: A teenager willing to study three extra hours daily, “for the sake of the country”. With the weight of the prime minister behind me, I turned with new vigour to my 16-year-old. My contribution to the patriotic cause also had to be a surgical strike, but with strategic restraint. There were lines of control, lines of actual control, and many minefields in the middle. With no fencing or body armour.

WATCH | Pakistani troops violate ceasefire in Jammu Kashmir’s Rajouri District

I know teenagers and parents move in different time zones, at different speeds. But behind every Harshvardhan — reminds me, must find one child by that name — there had to be a mother, I was sure. Looking for those three extra hours daily.

So last Thursday, my unsuspecting son and I began our first day with an eye on the clock. As he got up protesting, I found myself noticing the feet. Were they dragging? Did he really walk that slow? With the drumbeats of war in my ears, that teen shuffle, I thought, had to remain our dirty secret. What if the nation that needs to know came to know I was raising this breed of lazy Indians?

As he sat sulking in front of his food, I felt time ticking by. The daughter, realising all the attention was on the other front today, was off triumphantly. Thirty minutes had gone, and for the next 10, I had an idea what would follow. How long does it take for a teenage boy to make his hair without a comb? Let me just say that, like the comb, I concede defeat.

School, TV, homework, football had to still come. Around 12 hours in all. What could we bargain on? It was time for a confidence building measure. A pizza meal, for a quickie lunch? The remote to be his rather than his sister’s? Lock her in another room maybe and thus get one “time-waster” out of the equation? Hmm, that could be the game changer, but no, couldn’t risk the counter-strike from that end. Perhaps I could finish half his homework? Or fuse the bulb in the football field in one of those stealth operations to make him return home earlier in the evening?

The thought of me on the pole was very distracting, but I had to focus. Of course, we could both just stay awake into the night, studying. I was already dreading the direction this was taking.

It was 3 pm, time for the school bus to return, and I had few answers. It was 4 pm, and the pizza and TV CBMs had long failed. By 5 pm, homework had been spread out and we had not saved an extra minute. My son had his book open on a chapter on the United Nations with a bravely smiling Ban Ki-moon. I felt a wave of sympathy for the gentle man.

It was 7:30 pm, and as my son finally began to wonder why I wouldn’t leave his side, I started telling him about Harshvardhan, who, in Class XI, was managing his time so well, apart from writing letters to the PM. Was there any proof three hours of extra studying changed a country’s life, he asked. Really, how dare he? Martyrs and dedicated students were to be taken at face value, particularly when one was difficult to tell from the other. The image of a Harshvardhan, bent over his books in a dark room, next to a shut window, with food being slipped under his door, slipped into my mind. Focus, focus.

It was 10 pm and I was ready to call it a day. Of my three extra hours target, I had met 30 minutes. We said our goodnights, neither meeting the other’s eyes, got into our rooms and closed our doors, both with a sigh of relief. At the other end awaited a ceasefire, a bed and “not doing anything”. Remember the feeling? It was eight hours to another day.