• 27 Jul - 02 Aug, 2019
  • Ayesha Adil
  • Fiction

So, that time of the year came faster than I thought it would. Our baby was ready for school. Ibrahim finally reached the right age and emotional development needed to get admission in a proper school, not a play school. Our son had definitely come a long way.

Saima and I felt so proud. All the days of rigorous and difficult test preparations and interviews were behind us. When he had been accepted into which we considered the best school in town we were elated beyond words. As I rested my head on my pillow I could finally put behind all those horrible nights when Saima and I lay awake worrying about the interview the next day. We had to be sure that whatever we said exhibited happiness, prosperity, emotional balance and basically “well-settled”.

We kept Saima’s medical conditions or at least the previous medical conditions out of the discussion. God forbids if they found out that she had been in a coma for about the first 6 months of Ibrahim’s life then you can only imagine the kind of questions that would arise.

“Was he looked after well? Who was his prime caregiver? We are expecting emotional deprivations later in life. Are you sure he isn’t autistic? Why not let us run a battery of tests?”

It was Saima’s friend Saman explicitly told us to keep that piece of information out of the discussion. No one really cared and it was important to paint the best possible picture of Ibrahim’s health and emotional well-being.

“But what if Ibrahim does exhibit unusual physical or emotional tendencies later on? If we tell them then they will accuse us of lying.” Saima liked everything to be honest and transparent even if it meant getting herself hurt or worse ostracised by society.

“We’ll deal with it when we get there and besides people only look for scape goats and someone to blame. If we reveal your medical anomalies they’ll use it against us when the time comes and label our child unnecessarily. Trust me dear. It’s definitely better this way.”

I was surprised at the ease with which I handled the entire situation. I was also surprised at the level of deviousness that I portrayed. Maybe it wasn’t deviousness but self-preservation. But what really disturbed me was what I was arming my son with. My son was only almost three years old and already I was sending him into the world with stereotypical beliefs and with caution that was not appropriate for his age. But like all evil in the world it is easily shrouded with rationalisation and soul-searching consideration, and I came to the conclusion that we were not manipulating his innocence at all but we were protecting him; further creating a vicious cycle of hidden agendas and manipulations, unfortunately. Even with utmost effort and caution I would never be able to protect or preserve my son’s delicate psyche to these mind games.

Is this how racism and discrimination takes form? Definitely. But at this point in time I only had to do what was right for him, irrespective of the long-term consequences.

I brought myself out of this reverie and recalled that happy moment when we got the phone call.

“Congratulations your son has been accepted.”

The first thing that I did was give my suit in for dry cleaning. So many hours of sweating in cramp rooms filled to the brim with hopeful mommies and daddies and cranky toddlers. Then the actual grind of answering and asking questions at the interview.

“Okay, the last question sir. As a father do you think you support your son’s dreams and goals in life?”

Now if I stare out in open space like a zombie at the ridiculousness of that question my son would probably get rejected from this school. And if I do answer honestly then that would possibly lead up to the same.

I mean seriously, his goal and ambition in life for most days is to make it to the pot before he poops in his pants. However, if I said that I would possibly be asked to step out. Plus, I didn’t want Saima to be upset or worse case have a fight the minute we got home. I could feel Saima stare a hole into my face by her anxious look. I had to act soon and speak up. The only resort that I was left with was to lie. I nodded my head like a sage and answered that I fully support him in all his aspirations and goals in life and would do whatever it takes to make his dreams come true. I knew it was all about the money and felt like adding that I would pay all the ridiculous fee vouchers and all the ridiculous hidden charges without complaint so as to allow my child to be happy and hearty but I decided to keep that to myself.

In the entire process I also had my own reservations. It was my child and my time and my money. I also rejected a few schools along the way. I sued my trump card and spoke my mind.

“If we keep rejecting them then there won’t be anyone left for our child.” Saima always had the tendency to overreact.

But to be honest I didn’t find one principal out there that impressed me. A principal, an academician, an educationist that dealt with us not like a meal ticket but like we were people, which we were but lately I began to question this reality. There wasn’t anyone who talked to us as if we mattered. After all we brought this meal ticket into the world and looking at him showed not only lots of love had been showered on him and attention but also good manners and good upbringing.

He didn’t pick his nose in public, said sorry and please and showed real care to animals. Not one woman out of them all noticed that. It was always a list of questions that bordered on the insane. Whether we would be having another child was a personal question and nobody’s business but ours. If we took ten holidays in a year or none was our business too. And these were only a few absurd questions that I had to answer. I strongly doubted whether any of these schools were what I wanted for Ibrahim but beggars can’t be choosers and short of deciding to home school my kid I had to settle with the best of the worst.

So I shut my eyes and my mind to the mess in my head and went with the flow.

I could see the amount of pressure that all of this was causing Saima. He had a strict ritual of waking up at ten and would be drilled right after breakfast. He had to solve so many quizzes and puzzles. Then after that he would be given some lunch and allowed to sleep for about an hour or so then back to the drill in the evening.

“You have to lighten up Saima. We haven’t gone out in so many days. He needs some fresh air and he needs a break. Look at him. He seems sad. You need a break too. Look at you. You look unwell. I am actually concerned.”

And yes to be honest he was sad. He was melancholic and tired. “I know but just a few more days. Once he’s appeared for all the tests and we’ve had all the interviews, we can all rest.”

So when it was all over I made sure we all relaxed. We ordered dinner at home and had a good meal. We arrived bright and early at the orientation. I was just another face amongst the freshly washed, polished and buffed faces around me. As we were seated into the auditorium I looked around to see the ostentatiousness. Money can buy us anything these days. I hoped that it would buy my son some character too in this institution.

The orientation started soon enough and I laughed and clapped at all the right punch lines and I nodded when I was congratulated on my wise decision to bring my son into this amazing place. Saima looked self-absorbed and accomplished too. At least I was happy to see that she was happy. Ibrahim looked overwhelmed but I knew I would assuage him in time and I continued to smile.