“That twittering bird fluttering around restlessly around your house because it can’t find its way out is now exhausted. It’s too panic-stricken for you to even help it. The fear of being locked in has made it blind to the door you’ve opened wide just for it to escape. It plummets against the windowpanes, ricochets off, dangerously whizzes past the fan and rebounds on the window again. Flying is dangerous, sitting around is worse. It’s quite a while before it goes back to the sky, too tired to fly free and explore the azure expanse created just for it. Stripped of all its passion for exploration, it flaps back home in despair. While you stare at the door the bird escaped from, you’re painfully reminded of yourself.”
No matter how many times you negotiate with your parents, your curfew is rock solid. That standard time limit that has increased by only an hour since forever. Frustrating, binding - it’s like being chained with a leash to your door. You can go outside, sure, but you stretch it a bit and you suffocate, with the struggle only making it worse. As you spend your adolescent years weeping over the fact that you are the single most party-pooping member of your friend circle; you still have to go back home before it’s 8. Setting aside hanging out with friends, everywhere you go you’re given a time to adhere to. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing or how far you need to go for it. The irrationality of it all rages within you, setting up a determination even more solid than the curfew you’re given – once I’m free of this, I’m doing whatever the hell I want to.
Why don’t parents realise that giving some leeway to children’s wings is for the best? Even the gladiators of the old days knew better - caging them up made even the tamest animals thirst for blood. Even a harmless visit to your friend’s place would have you uneasily staring at the landline phone, waiting for that irritating ring to remind you of the time. You miss one call on your cell phone and everyone you know gets a ring. This new GPS business resembles Marine Commandos reporting back to the Base. Helicopter parenting is the rage- constant, uncomfortably conspicuous surveillance, reminding you that you have a leash on. As they hover over you, all you wish is to run away from everything while screaming your lungs out.
Oh, that’s wonderful. While you’ve been thinking of flying away and achieving great things, you realise you’re thirty minutes late. Trudging back home, you see your mother squinting under the streetlight, hanging onto the front gate, perhaps on her seventh recall of the accident you may have been involved in. A twinge of pity runs through you, but as you come close enough to the gate it turns into the usual annoyance.
How many times has it been that you’ve been threatened to be thrown out of the house? Too many times to even remember, of course. That numbing fear that paralysed you when she mentioned telling your father is now a thing of the past. Ignoring her yelling, you storm back to your room and flop onto the bed, tuning it all out. Walking right back out is also a course you’ve taken often. Challenging her authority isn’t your priority so much as simply giving yourself an illusion of freedom. While your mother goes silent, you almost start repenting your rudeness when suddenly the memory of being grounded strikes you. Anger boils up all over again. So what if you lied about staying out that one night? Wasn’t it fine that you came back in one piece? Curling up your hands into tight fists you remember how, just like the last time, you locked yourself into the apparent safety of your room only to be told that you were grounded. The humiliation brought tears to your eyes back then; now it just brought fury - fury at the entire reasoning of it all. Foregoing dinner and breakfast were easy, but listening to your mother’s anger turn to despair was heart-breaking.
Why were your parents obliged to be enslaved to this mode of parenting? It was ridiculous. Every time they remembered the old time, their days of youth, exploration and daredevil acts, you’d look on incredulously. What if you did the very same right now? Unfair, almost hilariously, crazily blind to your own state, your parents are, perhaps, in a cruelly contradictory way, the exemplars of the Age of Freedom. Homes usually never closed their doors all day back then. Open fields and long walks were to be expected. Exploring where they lived, even if it took all day, was never a crime. So why tie you up? As you wonder, you wrack your brains to think of everything you could tell your parents that would evoke in them a broader scope of thinking.
What good does it ever do anyone to stay locked up, weighed down under all sorts of obligations? Society has warped itself enough to put restrictions on everyone. Why do parents give up the spark of individuality that could potentially light up their homes, to the clock on the wall? Curfews rob every bit of magic and inspiration out of your life. Whatever positivity, creativity, and ingenuity you could have achieved through your interactions with the world is given a huge, immovable full stop. Slowly smothering you to a bland, lifeless mass of grey – only resenting your parents’ warped love – these chains are laden with poison on both ends. Going out and exploring things, thoughts, places, and ideas do come with risks and challenges, but none of these are insurmountable. Staying under your parents’ wings turns you gullible, unable to face the world, stuck forever in the world of chickens, while they in turn become afraid of the realities you will have to face.
Of course, as your mind goes up in flames thinking about everything you could have achieved with a little bit more time and freedom, you realise that you cannot deny the blameless motivation behind all this - a mother’s love, a father’s unspoken worry, their constant need to provide protection. Nowhere do you find any cruelty or evil intentions. They don’t wish to lock you up or cut off your wings. But their over-protectiveness perhaps blinds them to the fact that their narrow outlook is way more dangerous than allowing you to stay out late.
The entire scenario might play out all over again, repeating itself - unless you brave the storm and negotiate once again, this time with a rational explanation in hand. You can probably taste the bittersweet experience of freedom and live your life to the fullest, understanding that the world was tough enough to warrant their protection and wonderful enough to deserve your exploration.
Photography By: Sumit Thakur