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Jerry Pinto
Jerry Pinto

STRANGE ENCOUNTERS

We have failed you

I sometimes feel like going up to the young children I see and apologising to them. “I am really sorry about this,” I feel like saying. “It is our fault and we should be suffering this, but it has been visited upon you. We messed things up.”

What? the canny reader will ask. What does he feel like apologising about?

I am sorry your parents are the way they are. They mean well but they’re driving you demented, I can see. They want you to learn ballet and yoga and Mandarin and scuba diving, and you’re three years old. You have a schedule worse than mine.

I am sorry your syllabus is the way it is. You have to learn English and Hindi and your state language, and we teach you so badly you end up hating all languages with a passion and you have no relationship to any of them.

I am sorry your college degree will leave you unable to cook a meal for yourself, repair a fuse or stitch a button. These are ordinary survival skills and for some reason we seem to have dropped them entirely from the knowledge bank of the educated.

I am sorry you think a smartphone will make all your problems go away. You look at your parents and you see how much they get out of these things—all their information and their entertainment and their news and much of their views and lashings of gossip—and you want in on this magic device. This was the way it used to be for my generation when we watched our parents handle books; we wanted in on what they had.

I am sorry we have already ascribed a faith system to you based on the one your parents have. Or say they have. I know you should be allowed to develop one on your own but we don’t trust you enough.

69wehavefailedyou Illustration: Bhaskaran

I am sorry you don’t get to choose your own name. I mean, your mother might think Compass Rose is a lovely name but your playground friends will have a blast. You might want to be called something ordinary but your mother named you Expediency. I am sorry. I don’t know what she was thinking. I wonder if she does.

I am sorry you don’t see as many trees as you should. We cut them down. We’re still cutting them down. Some of them go into the making of the books we love. Some of them go into the making of stuff you love. This is the way it seems to be: that every time we need something, we cut down some more trees. You’d have thought we’d have figured out a way not to do this. We didn’t. We were too busy inventing something called 4G.

I am sorry you won’t be able to marry someone you love if s/he’s not from the right set of circumstances. Some of these are genetic; some of these are social; some of these are ascribed; some are just pure stupid, but we so love our systems we can’t do anything about them.

I am sorry we have a world in which we have to teach you not to trust people. It is almost impossible for any of us to live in a world without trust. We got to where we are as a species because we developed communications and because we learned to work together. As soon as we got good at it, we developed the need to lie. I haven’t figured that one out but I have to tell you, I lie too.

I am sorry we have a world that will judge you on how you look, what language you speak, how you dress and not on whether you have a kind heart and an honest tongue and a warm spirit.

But on the other hand, I am not sorry we’re leaving all this to you. I think you might make a better job of the world than we have. I have huge faith in you. I am sorry to tell you this, but that’s only because I don’t have any other choice.

Pinto’s next novel Murder in Mahim will be out soon.

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