Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Nest Half Empty

"Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday."

                                                                                     --Kahlil Gibran

It has a numbing feel to it. A bed lying empty. No creaks of footsteps in the bedroom above my home office. No random openings and closings of the fridge door as a hungry mouth prowls the house in search of food.  No exasperated yells of "Come down to dinner" going up to head-phoned ears. No more eyes rolled at clueless parental comments. No more ready smile as he walks in from school.

Last weekend, we dropped off S in Manhattan, where he is going to attend New York University as a Film and TV major. ('What, not engineering or medicine??!!! What kind of parents are you?" are the unspoken words we hear for every exclamation of 'Wow, how interesting, at least a different kind of major!" that we hear from other desi parents, whose kids are predictably bent on becoming neurologists or pediatricians or computer scientists or engineers. Maybe, we are crazy, or ahead of the curve, or both.)

Little things matter, as we collect the minimalist belongings that we figure S can fit into his share of bedroom space in the residence hall. They supply all furniture, we supply bed linens, clothes, a clothes hamper, laundry supplies and toiletries, and all importantly S's PC and his laptop. Everything fits into a few of the cavernous suitcases that we haul every year on trips to India. A life condensed into the bare essentials. For everything else, there's the friendly neighborhood K-mart, that the maps of Manhattan assure us is just a couple of blocks away.

We spend a day scouting out the new location, before S is allowed to move in. I start to feel more and more at ease as we walk past the residence hall. There's a Trader Joe's supermarket within stone's throw, a Whole Foods another block away. Two of the few green spaces in Manhattan(Union Square and Washington Square) are both 5-10 minutes from the hall.  Bookstores galore, eateries galore (Dunkin Donuts in the same building, Subway, Pizza place, Chipotle right across the street.) The compact nature of urban living hits our suburban sensibilities with the promise of easy accessibility to food for our first-born. The one thing that I'm sure S will never lack, even considering that he is on a freshman's food plan in the university dining halls, is Food. 

So, we leave him there, waving to us as we leave the building for the parking garage a few blocks away. Mission accomplished, or started. How does S get from being a dependent adolescent to an independent adult, I wonder.

A day later, I chance upon a review of a documentary on film makers in the New York Times online. It's a must see for any serious connoisseur and student of film, 'worth a whole year of film school', raves the reviewer. In tiny letters at the bottom, 'playing at the Quad, xxxx E13th st, Manhattan'. I send the link to S via email, advising him to catch it if he can, not thinking too much of it.

I get a call in the evening. S is literally falling over his words in excitement. He went to see the film, and got to participate in a Q&A session with the director, it being the last day that the event was being held after the film show.

I was floored. That's where passion and interest will get you. It's for these kind of opportunities that we were willing to send him to the Big Apple, even if it came at the cost of proximity and comfort in selecting a university. I only hope that it gets him where he wants to be a few years from now in the film or television industry.


Balachandran V said...

My best wishes to S, Sujatha!

I am reminded of a very familiar situation here. My friend's son had recently done his degree in Visual communications; through his father's connection he got apprenticeship as assistant film director. Though he did two movies and with the help of his father's friends, the boy could have found a foothold in the film industry, the boy opted out for an year in the theatre, much to the chagrin of his family and friends. It took a lot of courage,but he has stuck to his decision. Like Rathan Tata said, 'one does not take a right or wrong decision; one takes a decision and then work to make it the right decision'.

I had sometime back written about the 'Empty nest syndrome', when K left for higher studies in Bangalore.

Sujatha said...

Thanks for the good wishes, Balachandran sir!
That was an interesting anecdote about your friend's son following his muse.
I will most definitely check out your 'Empty Nest' post.

Lekhni said...

You'd think all those engineers, software professionals and MBAs doing boring jobs would want their kids to choose differently.. in fact, I like to believe that the next generation will all be writers and artists, and their kids in turn will probably decide their professions based on whatever's lucrative then :)

Sujatha said...

Actually, not. There's something to be said about comfort factors in people's decisions when trying to get their kids to follow in their footsteps. It would probably account for the persistence of the Indian caste system, in earlier times.
The heartening thing is that this trend is becoming pervasive in India as well, so maybe kids will be allowed to fly free and fulfil their dreams, very different as they may be than their parents' visions.