“Anaamika, Anaamikaaaaaa,” Reeta called her.
“Yes, Ma” the reply was somewhat muted.
“Where are you beta?” Reeta searched and found her lying on bed. Reeta saw her daughter with her head tied with a cloth indicating that she was having headache.
“Arre! What happened to my baby,” Reeta put her hand on her hand with motherly instinct.
“Don’t call me baby, Ma. I am no baby any more.” Annamika jerked her hand.
Reeta was surprised and shocked as well. She sat near her and made an attempt to comfort her by caressing her back. This time Annamika did not resist but did not speak either. Reeta got up slowly and said,
“beta you have tutorials. Why don’t you get ready and go? Saachi bhabhi’s son has already left for his tutorials. Do you want to lag behind? You have to score maximum for your own future, for your own career and bagging a good job and husband.” Reeta dreamt of her future in just sixty seconds.
‘Let him go to hell. I don’t care. Am I tied to his destiny? Why the hell you are making him an example for me.” Anamika jumped from her bed and made an exit from the room stomping and closing the door furiously behind her. Reeta was too stunned to react to her sudden outburst.
Clearing 10th with at least 90+ percentage has always been a yardstick for furthering child’s career in the eyes of an Indian parents. The competition becomes tough as a child enters higher competitive levels to seek admission in the best professional institutions for making out a career at a later stage which always depends upon the stream a student choose and the marks obtained. Annamika’s parents were no exception. They wanted her to take up biology stream for her plus 2 Boards so that she could take up medicine and become a doctor. The pressure on Annamika was enormous as she was asked to choose biology stream instead of her choice of subjects once she entered 10th. For the last one and a half year, pressure to perform in academics was telling upon her mind and body. She was not able to cope with her daily routine of waking up at 0400 hrs in the morning, going through her subjects , preparing for her school, be at school till 1600 hrs and attending tutorials to get coached for biology, maths and english. She wanted to take some time off and indulge in some sort of recreational activities, going out with her friends, getting relaxed but expectations from her parents simply made her to shun everything which in the eyes of her parents were useless extra and irregular activities that could bring her academic performance down. However the breaking point always was when comparisons were made between her and her peers from the school, society and relatives. This not only made her irritable but she began to hate studies. Slowly and gradually she started withdrawing herself into her own shell.
Manu was dead tired when he entered into his flat. He saw Reeta opening the door before he could even ring the bell. She looked glum. Manu watching her came to know immediately something was amiss. He tried to force an unsuccessful smile but found himself following Reeta into their bed room.
“Now what?” Manu asked Reeta. Reeta started sobbing. Manu let her sob for sometimes while he changed into casuals.
“Is it Bai again ?” he asked watching Reeta
“No, Manu. Annamika is not at all serious about her studies. Boards are three months away and I am afraid that she is not preparing for it as she should. How is she going to get the required percentage for her admission to MBBS?” She blurted out in one go.
“What do you do whole day? Isn’t it your responsibility to check her performance and make her attend to tutorials. What for I am earning? I want to see her on top one day like Raje uncle’s daughter,” Manu made her unhappiness evident. Reena was not the one who could be browbeaten.
“No, it is your fault. I advised you to put her in coaching centre the day she passed her eleventh. You never listened to me.” Reena retorted. Manu thought for sometime. “Ok, let me talk to her. I have great plans for her future but she has to cooperate.” He watched Reeta glaring at him which galvanised him to stride out of his bed room. Moments later he came back rushing to Reeta almost shouting, “where is Anaamika ?”
Reeta was at her wits end. She stared at Manu as if he was to be blamed for Annamika’s disappearance. Manu and Reeta searched every room of their three bed-room set including bathrooms and improvised closed storage spaces but could not find Annamika. They were contemplating asking her friends when they received a call from Manu’s sister Reena.
Reena was watching TV serial IGT when she heard doorbell ringing. She got up reluctantly and opened the door. Annamika was standing in front of her leaning herself against the door as if she was drained of blood. She seemed to have wept. Her eyes were swollen and hair dishevelled. Reena craned her neck to see whether anyone was accompanying her. Not finding anyone, she ushered Annamika inside and made her sit in the drawing room.
“What happened? Is this about Boards again? Have they fought again? She asked while going into her bedroom to switch off the TV. She hurriedly went into the kitchen to fetch a glass of Tropicana juice which she knew was one of the favourites of Annamika. She did not hear anything from the girl. She came out only to find her sleeping on the sofa. She did not wake her up. She went inside again and brought a sheet and spreading over her turned the AC on.
Annamika always used to visit her Bua whenever she felt low due to any reason. Bua was her support line and a sort of councillor. Had Reena not be there for her, she would have taken some extreme step. Reena was the only one who could understand her ambitions and aspirations while Annamika was fighting the enormous pressure to perform academically from her parents. Reena knew that pressure to perform was snatching innocent pleasure of enjoying life within her and preying on her mind. She had advised her brother Manu and her sister-in-law time and again to let Annamika pursue her own passion, to let her study the subjects she wanted to study, to let her own dreams to follow but she was always asked to keep aloof from such matters as she had no child of her own who could understand a parent’s anxiety for their wards. She had understood the potential of Annamika as a designer. Annamika never wanted to become a doctor but Manu and Reeta forced her to take subjects in eleventh class relevant to appearing in MBBS exams after her Boards just because Sachchi Bhabi’s son was interested in doctor’s career and pressure of being left out in the race of one up-manship between two neighbours made Annamika to suffer. Raje uncle’s daughter Sheena’s success story was also playing on their mind little realising that Sheena studied in USA where academics play lesser part than personality development and honing one’s skills. Annamika had an aptitude of making designs. She had shown her designs of everything from clothing to auto-parts to buildings. Reena knew that Annamika’s future was not in medical line. This time she made up her mind to talk straight with his brother and sister-in-law.
Reena made a call to Manu and informed him about Annamika being with her simultaneously advising him not to come at that juncture to get her. She rang another number and spoke to someone.
Early in the morning, Manu and Reeta landed at Reena’s residence. Reena asked them to be comfortable while calling Annamika. Annamika came out of bathroom and stood still seeing her parents. Reeta jumped and embraced Annamika tightly. Annamika did not say a word.
Manu could not control himself and stood up advancing towards Annamika when Reena held him forcibly. “Why don’t we sit and discuss? She said softly but firmly. Manu sensed her sister’s firm resolve and sat down. Reena gestured Annamika to sit too. Reeta simply wanted to get over it and take her daughter home.
“Manu, this is not the first time Annamika has come to me in a state which I would call most depressive. This is leading her nowhere. You both have hyper expectations which she is definitely not going to fulfil. It is now high time that you both allow her some own space and let her decide what does she want to do.” Reena wanted to call a spade a spade this time.
Reeta could not tolerate such blatant intervention in their personal lives from Reena even though she was sister of Manu.
“Look Reena, it is our personal affair. Please don’t butt in. We have come to take Annamika” Annamika was about to say something when Reena asked her to keep quite.
“No, it is not your personal affair now. She has come to me. She always comes to me. Don’t pressurise her. You forced her to choose subjects which she never wanted to study. Academic pressure has suppressed her own desires, interest and hobbies not to speak about her deteriorating health.” She was interrupted by wind chime and saw Rishi standing at the door.
Manu and Reeta were surprised to see an unknown person at Reena’s flat. They exchanged glances with each other making their minds criss-cross within their heads. Reena welcomed Rishi to sit.
“This is Rishi. He was my student. He is an example of pursuing his own ambitions against all odds. He had tried to commit suicide twice to run away from extreme frustration when pressure from his parents, school, society tried hard to clip his wings of creativity and imagination. Today he has made a name for himself in fine arts. Like Rishi there are hundreds who chase their own dream. Let Annamika chase her own dream too.” Bua said in one breath while introducing Rishi.
“Yes,uncle. It is no use to fulfil your own aspirations and ambitions through your own child.” Rish spoke softly expecting some reaction. Manu realised how true was Rishi.
“My parents too wanted me to perform which I could not. They also wanted me to get into lawyer’s profession which I was least interested in. The education system also did not allow me to take up my hobby as a profession. The school wanted A+graders to bring honour to their school. I contemplated committing suicide but was talked out of it by Reena mam. The education system in India is such that it leaves little time for recreational, social activities, sports activities and pursue your own interests. Children are forced to piggy back lost baggage of ambitions of their own parents because they had actually failed in their endeavours to realise their own dreams. Isn’t it, Sir.”
Manu did not answer. What was being told was absolutely true.
“Is there anything wrong if parents wish to see their own dreams realised through their own children?” Reeta asked.
“Absolutely not, but parents have also to understand that their wishes cannot be forced on their child. A child is an independent individual too who wants his/her space in this world. Annamika wants to take on this world in her own way. Please don’t put hurdles in her pursuit and make her life stressful and miserable” Rishi stressed on every word.
Anamika sprang to life. She now had one more supportive voice in her favour. She expectantly watched her parents. Manu and Reeta both got up slowly and hugged Annamika.
“Lets go home, beta. We will sort this out now, but never leave us uninformed” Reeta cried. Manu thanked Rishi and Reena. Reena too hugged Annamika and waved her good bye.
Time flew by. Annamika was never forced to study since that episode but she studied on her own chalking out her own time-table which included meeting her friends, visiting malls, watching movies besides getting into serious studies chalking out a roadmap of her own but under a little supervision of her parents and her Bua as well. She secured approx 85% in medical stream yet chose to go in for structural designing, her passion. Within seven years Annamika became a name in the world of structural designing.
Saachi Bhabi’s son could secure only 60% which was not enough for his admission to MBBS. Subsequently he took commerce stream in graduation which landed him a job of an accountant.
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All rights reserved/Tribhawan Kaul