When Kindness Kills
I and Ramam decided to celebrate Onam ( A festival of Kerala) at the army club, RSI, Bangalore. It was an impromptu decision. I and Ramam seated ourselves comfortably in one of the restaurants. I placed an order for Chicken lollipops and Sprite for him. Dr. Yamini (NIMHANS) had suggested me to write things out rather than repeat them verbatim every time .These are called visual chits. I proceeded to make these. As I rummaged my bag for a pen and didn’t find any, I decided to borrow it from a gentleman across our table. Being the gentleman that he was, in the true army style, he objected to me getting up from my chair, walked to our table and handed over the pen to me. He noticed what I was writing. I thanked him and returned his pen. The visual chits said “No clapping hands, No shouting, Eat quietly.”
We continued our starters, and I noticed the gentleman had just ordered beer and Ramam was surreptiously eyeing the ice bucket. He finds ice cubes irresistible. He started pointing towards it and I knew he will want some for himself. Ramam got up and walked toward the gentleman’s table and I held Ramam back. I told the gentleman if you lend it this one time, he shall repeat it every time. And so the gentleman backed off. I told the waiter to fetch me ice cubes and Ramam proceeded to enjoy himself.
Then subsequently I ordered fried rice and a gravy dish for him. Things were going smoothly when again he spotted something on the opposite table. I reasoned with him that I had already ordered rice and that is what they were eating. From my position, I could not see the French Fries on the other table. To make his point clear, he walked closer to point to the plate of French fries. As if on cue, this old gentleman sprang to life and rushed to our table and began emptying his plate into Ramam’s. All the while he kept telling “I understand mam”. I wanted to ask him “what is it that you understand?” But he showed no signs of stopping, that I physically stopped him from transferring the contents. Meanwhile, his wife joined me and went on and on. “We have grand children, children are like that, he will outgrow it….blah, blah ,blah….. I said that is not the case.
Finally, at last or lunch drew to a close and I was about to leave when a third gentleman approached me, and handed me his visiting card. I had not noticed him so far. He patted Ramam and told him, you are a fine chap, a very handsome fellow, and asked me what his problem was? I thought not again. He said his friend’s son younger son was autistic; that they had settled down in Dubai…..
At the end of it I thought I had been in the restaurant for 45 min had hoped for a quiet peaceful lunch in a nook with my son on a weekday, and how things spiraled out of control. BTW the restaurant is named ‘The NOOK’. That set me thinking. If I had not been in a military establishment, people would not have gone out of the way to be courteous. Here the old world charm still rules. If I had probably been in a hotel, people would have probably ignored us, maybe, for some occasional stares that would have come our way. If we had been in United States, his behavior might have been condemned outright.
Where do draw the line? The first gentleman made the right decision in backing off, allowing the parent to take the call. All of it is not actually Ramam’s mistake. His only intent was to communicate and he did it in the wrong way. I felt like kicking myself as I was carrying his AAC device (proloquo 2 go) and all I should have told him to use it. Call it sympathy for the underprivileged, or an urgent need to deflect an unpleasant situation, the old man overreacted. Simply put, in this gentleman’s case, it could be a misplaced sense of morality. We are offered unsolicited advice without actually knowing what the problem is. This is exactly what his wife did.
This is what Dr. Yamini told me. Many a time, with normal children; the society plays a major role in their behavior modification. They learn to abide by rules, listen to people in authority. For instance, if the janitor, in my daughter’s school ticks her off, it has a lasting impression on her rather than me trying to make her see the point. Recently, the security guard told Ramam to move away, because some digging work was on. Ramam responded quickly. But such instances are rare. Another incident, I remember, was when my neighbor wanted to give me something. In Ramam’s viewpoint it did not belong to us, so he did not allow her give it to me. She said she will bring it when he is not around. I probably should have stood my ground. But how many people do you check. Most times people try to be considerate of their handicaps, or simply ignore their existence. Also as parents we are overprotective.
Sadly, this kind of kindness does not pay, it kills. Sometimes you want to sing out aloud Jeene do jeene do from the film Three Idiots.