The place was a city in the U.S. The seven-year-old boy had exceeded his normal quota of throwing tantrums that day, and his dad lost his patience and thrashed the child. The boy did not cry. He slowly withdrew from the scene and shied away from his mother, who attempted to cajole him. After an hour, the State police officers knocked at the door of the house. The little boy gleefully rushed from inside the house to the door. Obviously, he had alerted the police on whose grilling, the dad was arrested for child abuse.

After a few days in detention, the dad managed to extricate himself from the clutches of the law. He did not question his maverick son why he had taken to the extreme step of roping in the police, nor did he counsel him. Neither dad nor mom now dares to scold the son, let alone beat him up. The son forgot the storm that he had created unwittingly and slowly dissolved in his daily life.

Twenty months later, the family travelled to India on vacation. After collecting their baggage from the conveyor in Chennai airport and loading it on a trolley, the dad did something unbelievable. He slapped his son with all his might and challenged him, “Now, call the police and complain of child abuse. Let me see.” The son was completely shocked, puzzled, disoriented and dazed. Tears started flowing down his cheeks in a torrent, as the hapless crowd in the vicinity looked on. …

This was a happy-go-lucky family living in India, comprising the husband, the wife, a 10-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter. The son was bright in his studies but was full of pranks and bubbling with energy. It was the time when cassette taperecorders morphed the sale of gramophone players. The father proudly brought home a newly bought taperecorder and displayed to his wife its various features. The inquisitive son keenly watched his dad in action.

Some time later, as father and mother were engrossed in a serious family discussion, the son stealthily walked up to the taperecorder and activated the ‘record’ function.

After six months, dad travelled 200 km to his brother’s town carrying with him the taperecorder, just to demonstrate the cute wonder to his brother. As he switched on the player, the mellifluous voice of SPB, Suseela, Jesudas and Janaki permeated the house and his brother’s family was thrilled.

Abruptly, the music stopped and a conversation emanated out of the machine. The elder brother was talking ill of his younger brother, while a lady voice ridiculed the attitude of the brother’s wife. The conversation stopped and music resumed. But by that time, the damage had already been done and sparks flew. The elder brother realised that his son must have meddled with the cassette player. Embarrassed, he headed back home.

His son had just returned from school. Thrilled with securing the top grade in his class and blissful on seeing his dad return from a trip, the boy ran to him. But dad was no in mood to embrace his son. With all the energy that he could muster, he smacked his son on the backside of the head. The son fainted and never recovered. His mental faculties were irreversibly hampered.

These are real-life incidents, narrated by friends long ago but which remain etched in my mind, not for the mistakes committed by the children but for the storage of revengeful thoughts in adult minds. Children are bound to commit mistakes. They disobey you in the morning before going to school and return home in the evening completely forgetting their morning sins. How can one take revenge against such innocent children?

Recall that famous and touching poem “Toys” by Coventry Patmore.

The poet concludes that when we (adults) bid goodbye to our lives, God would feel sorry for our childishness. Then what can one talk of the childishness of children!

(The writer’s email is: vishyvaidya@gmail.com)

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