My son came home from school yesterday, peeved to bits.
The manner in which he jerked off his shoes after plonking himself on a handy chair, told its own story. With eyes averted and face glowering with impending thunder, he snatched off his tie and belt as if they were to be summarily hanged.
Hmmm, I said to myself. Something’s afoot.
Knowing better than to touch a tinder to a mound of gunpowder, I proceeded to douse the dangerous thing with some moist love.
“Here, drink some water”, I said to him, cunningly pretending as if I had noted nothing amiss.
He drained off the glass at a gulp and sat with his head lowered, fuming. I expected to see smoke coming out of his ears any minute. I moved aside prudently lest a bolt of lightening from his eyes turn me into a heap of ashes.
A few minutes as I tried to look busy while mentally twiddling my thumbs and waiting for him to be out with it. A few minutes was all it took.
“Mom, I’m angry today”, he began.
“You remember that boy I told you about, R?”
“Yes”, said I.
“Well, he is a very irritating character. He keeps on planning stupid pranks. And some of the kids in my class agree to any idiotic thing he suggests. Its like they have no brain of their own!” fumed he.
“Hmm… they say that about sheep too”, I interjected, thinking aloud.
“Whatever!” he declared impatiently. “Today R convinced some of the kids to replace the Good Morning Ma’am greeting with Suprabhaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaattttttt Ma’am when the science teacher came into class.”
“Oh!” said I, secretly impressed with R. “Then?”
“Well, the teacher got angry. Because everyone dragged out the Suprabhaat Ma’am to almost a full minute.She was very offended. As it is, you know how strict she is! But even if she were not strict, that is not the way to wish a teacher!”
The boy was outraged with the ill-advised levity the effervescent boys had permitted themselves to indulge in; I could see that.
“So what did she do?” I asked.
“She called our physical education teacher”, he said in a voice heavy with disappointment. “He came, and scolded us for the rest of the period. I wouldn’t have minded that, but he did something even worse. He cancelled all our games periods for the rest of this academic year!”
‘Oh boy!’ I thought to myself. This is a biggie!
“Oh!” I exclaimed to him. “This is not good!”
“Mom, this is BAD… and unfair! Why should the whole class get punished because a few kids are stupid? Let THEM be punished… let them get kicked out of the school even… but WHY SHOULD THEY TAKE AWAY OUR GAMES PERIOD FOR FOUR MONTHS!?!”
When one acts on pity against justice, it is the good whom one punishes for the sake of the evil; when one saves the guilty from suffering, it is the innocent whom one forces to suffer. There is no escape from justice, nothing can be unearned and unpaid for in the universe, neither in matter nor in spirit—and if the guilty do not pay, then the innocent have to pay it.
While I wordlessly hugged him and tried to soothe his bruised heart, I slid into a silent soliloquy.
‘This is what we do beta. This is how we teach our children that they are not individuals. This is how we throw them- YOU- into a communal pool of sin and let the errors of your brothers and sisters cling to you like wet clay… impeding your progress, bogging down your footsteps, clogging your wings. This is how we teach you that even when you are not wrong, you still are because you are to be held in trial for the wrongdoings of your brothers. This is how we shove you all under the yoke of the Common Denominator. And then, my son, we wonder why you are so full of rage!’
“You will need to protest”, I said quietly.
“How? What do I do?” he asked.
Justice based purely on laws is about as accurate as a portrait created out of large low-resolution color pixels. If you stand back far enough it looks good. Come any closer and the glaring approximations overtake all semblance of the original. Justice should be viewable under the microscope, not from a telescope.
And for that it needs to be based not on law but on truth.
“Your class teacher is a fine person. Speak to her about it. Make sure she is alone. Explain the whole situation to her. You must remember to be objective when you are recounting the incident. Tell her of the punishment the whole class was given. Tell her that you are upset that you are to miss your games because of this.
“Once you’ve done all that, ask her what you can do to help her resolve the situation. After saying all this, be quiet. Don’t say a word. Don’t give her your suggestions on what YOU think she should do. Let her think and suggest a way out. If she tells you she will think it over and get back to you later, accept that. Don’t put her in a spot by forcing her to take a stand then and there. Assume that she is on your side…. which I am certain she is. I am sure she will find a way out. Don’t be upset now, okay?”
“Okay mom”, said he. I think I saw the sun peeking out from the clouds there. “So, what’s for lunch today?”
I heaved a sigh of relief.