By A Staff Writer
‘They should have named me “Dinky-Don’t-Don’t-Don’t!” instead,’ cried Dinky to himself. ‘Whenever they open their mouths, it’s “Dinky, don’t do that!” or “Dinky, don’t you dare do this!”’
Dinky had recently turned 18, an age when young people should be able to decide many things for themselves. But unlike his friends, Dinky just wasn’t allowed a mind of his own. His parents were always at him for something or the other. ‘Don’t wear red, that’s a womanly colour!’ his father would growl. ‘Don’t walk so slowly. Real men walk fast!’ ‘Don’t waste electricity! I have to pay for it, not you!’ ‘Don’t use the phone without my permission. I have to pay for it, and MY money doesn’t grow on trees!’ ‘Don’t waste your time idling in bed! You should be up and about, doing something all day! You don’t want to be a failure in life, do you?’ ‘Don’t back-answer me!’ Don’t forget that this is MY house!’ ‘Don’t you dare give your family a bad name!’
‘Don’t!’ ‘Don’t!’ ‘Don’t!’, on and on Dinky’s father would go!
Dinky’s mother was no different. ‘Don’t you have any manners? Say good morning to your parents!’ she would begin the day. ‘Don’t you know how to smile?’ she would snarl. ‘Don’t eat so slowly, you’ll miss the school bus!’ she would scold him on the breakfast table. If Dinky ate a little hurriedly, as she insisted he should, she would snap, ‘Don’t eat so fast! Are you catching a train or what?’ ‘Don’t drink cold water, or you’ll fall sick,’ she would instruct.
‘Don’t throw your clothes on your bed!’ Dinky’s mother would screech, barging into his room when he got back from school. It was a daily routine. ‘Am I your servant that I have to clear up your mess?
If ever Dinky tried to explain that he didn’t quite agree with his parents on every little thing, all he got back, even before he could open his mouth, was a barrage of don’ts! ‘Don’t act smart!’ ‘Don’t think you are very clever!’ Don’t answer back!’ ‘Don’t you have any respect for us?’
‘Don’t!’ ‘Don’t!’ ‘Don’t!’ How often it was that that word would echo in little Dinky’s head, driving him dizzy till he felt that his head was about to burst! Sometimes, when things got really unbearable, he would rush to the bathroom, lock the door and cry, all by himself. But even that didn’t stop the don’ts! ‘And if Dinky tried to explain that all he wanted was to be able to decide little things for himself”like whether or not to accompany his parents to a social function or what to do with his pocket money or which game to play and with whom”his father would burst out, ‘Don’t you dare ask questions! Just do as you are told!’
It was thus hardly surprising that Dinky grew up frightened of doing almost anything at all on his own! No matter what he did or said, he was bound to be shouted down by his parents.
Sometimes, when things get really difficult for people and they almost give up all hope, God decides to intervene in their lives and bail them out. And that’s what happened with Dinky one day. At school that day, Dinky spotted a colourful poster on the students’ notice-board. It was an announcement for a four-year scholarship to help in a research project on pandas in southern China. All expenses would be covered.
You won’t believe how excited Dinky was as he went through the poster! He imagined himself travelling around China, through paddy fields and forested hills, spending nights in curiously-shaped pagodas and eating noodles in wooden bowls with chop-sticks! He saw himself cuddling up with a baby panda, singing it a lullaby and drifting off to sleep with the furry little thing in his arms!
How wonderful it all seemed! How Dinky wished he would be selected for the programme!
Over dinner that evening, Dinky told his parents about the scholarship. He was just about to add that he wanted to apply for it when his father barked, ‘Don’t think I don’t know what’s playing on your mind! Don’t think you can go to China and play around with pandas! You have to become a doctor! We’ve been doctors in this family for as long as anyone remembers, and that’s what you are going to be as well!’
Dinky knew better than to start a squabble on the dining table. Sensibly, he kept quiet, but, unknown to his parents, he applied for the scholarship. Now, Dinky was an intelligent child and was good at his studies”that was nothing less than a miracle, given all the many fears that haunted him. The essay that he submitted to the scholarship authorities”it was on animal rights”was so impressive, as were his grades at school and the online interview that he gave on Skype, that he topped the list of applicants for the scholarship!
You won’t believe how excited Dinky was when, some days later, he received an email message informing him that he had been selected for the scholarship, along with an e-ticket to Beijing! And in a few months, he found himself trekking through the bamboo forests of southern China, along with a team of other boys and girls, making a census of pandas in the wild! He’s still there”having the time of his life, at last being able to be himself and to do what he knows is best for him, without the word ‘Don’t! Don’t! Don’t!’ buzzing around in his head!
And as for Dinky’s parents, now that Dinky is in faraway China and they have no one else to try to control and terrorise into obeying them, but each other, they are beginning to realise what their son must have felt being curbed at every step and living in fear! They are, or so one hopes, beginning to mend their ways.