No peak too high

Humour

This Independence Day, my kindergartener asked me, thoughtfully munching on the mandatory school peda, “What’s independence?” Seizing the golden opportunity, I held forth on the great Indian struggle for independence.

I had barely gotten to 1857, when with the uncanny knack of a kindergartener, she jumped straight to the point of controversy. “Why did my Miss ask you to let me be independent? Am I ruled by the British?”

“Err... no,” I hastened to assure her, “the British rulers are all long gone. And British or not, whosoever could possibly rule you?”

“Then why did my Miss say that?”

The school had just announced an educational trip to K2 for the kindergarteners. I thought a sneak preview of next year’s class would be rather educational and fun. It was when reading the packing list that I began to have my doubts.

Why would a 5-year-old need oxygen to walk across the small school corridor? Her teacher looked at me compassionately, clearly concluding I was mentally challenged.

“K2 is the second highest mountain peak in the world, and at such heights, the oxygen density is very low.”

“K2? Aren’t you being too ambitious? These are kindergarteners!”

“No, we certainly are not too ambitious. It’s going to be a very low-pressure trip. That’s why we didn’t pick Mount Everest for them. That is where our first graders are going.”
“But people die trying to climb those peaks!”

“Nonsense. There’s a higher likelihood of children dying of lung disease from secondhand smoke than of dying on K2. Look up the statistics — no paediatric deaths among K2 climbers ever! Just don’t smoke at home, and they’ll be fine.”

“But why K2? The kids would enjoy Bannerghatta National Park as much.” “Come on! We want the kids to get out of their comfort zone. Challenging oneself in this way promotes brain development, increases emotional intelligence, and makes your child a strong contender for a future Nobel prize. In fact, all of us need to get out of our comfort zones once in a while.”

I heartily agree. Precisely why I walk out of my air-conditioned office twice a day and take a five-minute stretching break, experiencing the sweltering heat, noise and humidity outside. Prudence kept me from revealing this.

“I’m still not convinced I should send her...” She narrowed her eyes and gave me a dirty look. “You can’t let go, can you? Want to keep her tied to you on a leash!”

I thought that was pretty unfair. “No, no, it’s not about control. It still seems a tad risky. And expensive.” Then the teacher triumphantly delivered her parting shot.

“Don’t you want her to be independent?” This was the holy grail that no parent in their right mind could afford to belittle: independence. So important that we have a day in the year devoted exclusively to it.

Again, don’t get me wrong. I am all about independence, especially when my daughter stands beseechingly with a bursting-bladder look on her face, too scared to set foot in the dark bathroom.

But why trudge all the way to K2? Ask the kids to fend for themselves without adults for 24 hours, and they’d emerge craving mom’s food, realising independence is a myth. But I could tell her teacher was in no mood to listen. 

“Just tell me one thing,” I said. “Where are your 12th graders going to?”

“Mars,” she said. “But by the time your child gets to that grade, they’ll probably have an exchange programme in place with another solar system.” Amen.

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