“She’s (our daughter) found at VT. We go down on our knees and thank Mumbai Police who have turned Mumbai inside out to find her. A thousand friends have been with us for the last 18 harrowing-hours keeping vigil outside her school No parent should go through what we went through. Thank- you. Thank-you.”
I had no plans to write on this subject. Late day-before-yesterday night, I read about this incident (12-year-old Alina’s missing from her school gate y since 8.15 am). A member of our Society had shared on our Society members’ WhatsApp group this appeal from Alina’s heart-broken parents. Immediately, so many of our members voiced their concern and prayers… I went off to sleep after that. Yesterday morning, TOI had carried the same news… “12-year-old girl went missing from Powai school… and the search to find her is on…”
That’s the last news item I read before leaving my home, last morning…
And, here, when I reached my office, I saw the breaking news on our Scoeity’s WhatsApp group… “The girl has been found… Thank God,” “God is great,”… “Thanks to Mumbai Police,” and so on. My wife forwarded the message from her own WhatsApp group, which I have shared here at the outset… “She was found at VT station at 2 a.m., ” someone else had added. ““Last what we knew was Alina’s mom scolded her and dropped her to the school,” texted another in our group, “When she came to pick her up, she (Alina) was missing…”
The last line of Alina’s parents, in their thank-you message, took my breath away: “No parent should go through what we went through. Thank- you.”
Read that again… Contemplate on its depth… the anguish… the wider application…!
My elder brother, who is gem of a human being, who we all brothers look up to today for strength… Yes, he had failed in 10th standard. My dad, who himself was a loving soul, did not know how to handle his rebelling teenage sons. I was in 8th standard and was mom and dad’s ‘good sheep’, while my elder brother and the next brother were the ‘balcksheep’… Not mom’s but dad’s. There were constanst confrontations at home… and, our innocent mom was all a wrecked soul… As a tender boy of age 13, I myself did not know how to handle what was going on around me. The next thing I knew was that my elder brother and two of his classmates were missing! Ours was a village in Mangalore… We did not have even electricity and a toilet in the house, leave alone a telephone and today’s cell-phones and social media… Imagine the plight of the parents… I do not know about my brother’s two friends… but, I can tell you why my own elder brother had decided to ‘run away’ from home: due to his constant tussle with my dad. The tenth-standard result was just the last straw!
So, what happened to my elder brother and his two friends? Were they found? Where? When?
After almost three weeks, the parents of one of my brother’s friends received a letter giving details of their whereabouts… near the city of Mysore. The parents contacted the rest and cautioned: “We will be going to Mysore to fetch all three boys home… Please, please, please do not scold or punish them.”
Once the young boys were brought home, the other parents were called. I remember that night… It was past ten. I had accompanied my dad and mom to the residence of my brother's friend. I also remember bumping into Mr. Mathias, a respected senior community member, enroute. He reminded my mom and dad about the story of the Prodigal Son from the Bible. “You just need to rejoice, thank and celebrate your son’s home-coming.” Even he cautioned: “Please do not be harsh to your son when he comes home.”
My elder brother, as I said, is an amazing gentleman, today… We really lean on him for strength and guidance… But, to become a strong and gentle soul, perhaps, that ‘Prodigal Son’ episode had to happen in his life.
My dad had issues with my next brother, too, as I said. He, too, was a rebel and dad did not know how to handle the rebellion. This brother of mine had been away from home, while in school, at least twice… only to come back to our parents’ fold. The scars of that tender age, somehow, have not left him, yet… even after thirty-two years since our dad left us!
Every day, parents shout and scream at their children. No matter how enlightened and educated you are, as a parent, you do scream and yell at your children… Of course, you justify it saying, “It is all for your good… or, saying, “We do it because we love and care for you.” Here, in schools, colleges and classes, we teachers, too, do the same… We scold and yell at our students… very often, criticize, ridicule and even mete out harsh punishment… And, yes, we, too, try to justify our actions with the same rationale: “It is for your good,”… “We do it because we love and care for you.”
Mercifully, all children do not run away from home. Some divine grace intervenes… Something saves them from taking the drastic step!
To me, the experience of going away from home… and coming back home… is spiritual… a Prodigal Son experience. Perhaps, that’s the reason why Stephen Covey famously said, “Life is all about coming home!”
Well, here is another thought… I need to express it, however uncomfortable I may feel about it: As a parent and as a spouse, has the thought of leaving home crossed my mind, any time?
Whether you admit it or not, I would like to be honest about it. Just like my dad, I, too, find myself wanting wisdom in this area… There have been childhood scars which have shaped my consciousness… which drive my actions… cause me to sulk or erupt… But, something saves me all the time… Grace of God, if you like to call it. I do not leave home… I allow the extreme feelings of sadness or anger pass away… I stay home…
Yes, staying home and coming home, both, need God’s grace.
GERALD D’C UNHA
Pic.: Chetna Shetty