Let Him Learn The Hard Way. A Short Story By Varalotti Rengasamy Rahul was with me in the kitchen helping me out with the dishes. From his facial expression and his unmistakable body language I knew he wanted to ask something. Rahul is doing his first year HSC in a reputed school. I have always been afraid of spoiling him with my affection as he is my only child. We are well placed in life. Both of us – my husband I – are HR executives. While he heads the HR Department of a large company having more than a thousand people on its rolls, I am the Head – HR of one of the call centres. We have just about 100 people; but in terms of the complexities I am sure my job is ten times tougher than that of my husband. As I was about to switch off the kitchen light, Rahul came near me with pleading eyes. “Ma, our school is organising an excursion to <st1:City><st1lace>Darjeeling</st1lace></st1:City> this time. See Ma, next year I won’t be able to go because I would have to prepare for the Boards. So why don’t you let me go this year, Ma? “They are charging only Rs.2000 per student which covers all expenses – train tickets, food and stay. Ma, please, please let me go. You have more than a month’s time to pay the money. And we are going only in our pooja holidays.” I did not know what to say. My motherly instinct was to say an immediate yes to see a smile on my son’s face. But I should not spoil this nice kid. So I adopted the usual dilatory tactics. “Rahul, I need to talk to Dad. Can I tell you tomorrow morning?” “Thanks, Ma.” My husband came home only after 9 on that day. When we were in the bed I broached the topic to him. He heard me out patiently and said at last: “Shanthi, I don’t have any objection. It’s the time for him to go around and see places. Nothing like going in the company of his friends at school. But let’s not spoil him. “Money is no issue. But he should not take this for granted. So what I suggest is that say yes but make him earn the money. Devise some method by which he can make the money himself by a little sacrifice. That way he will not be spoilt, and will enjoy the trip better.” That was one thing I like very much about my husband. Even the smallest of problems would receive his best attention and his solution would usually be the wisest one – mostly unconventional. I thought of a plan before hitting the sack. “Rahul, Dad and I thought about your <st1:City><st1lace>Darjeeling</st1lace></st1:City> trip. Yes, in principle it’s okay for us. But I can’t just hand over the cash of Rs.2000 to you. You have to earn it. You said that you have more than a month to pay the money. “So this is what I am going to do. Your packet money of Rs.500 will be doubled this month. And your daily lunch allowance of Rs.20 per day will be increased to Rs.70 for a month from now. And it’s up to you to save the money for the excursion. It’s a deal.” “Thanks a lot, Ma. It’s a deal. I shall surely save the money well before the due date.” “And Rahul, I would like to know the progress you make every day. So let me know how much you have saved on a day-to-day basis. You shall write that on this board. Okay?” “Okay, Ma. Thanks once again.” It was nice to see the bright smile in Rahul’s face. Even as I laid down the strict conditions I wanted to just hand over the money in one stroke and say “Go ahead and enjoy.” But I told myself that I was doing this only for his good. I started keeping track of the savings he made every day. When I gave his increased packet money two days later he set aside the entire amount for the excursion. He was having lunch with just Rs.10 or Rs.15 every day and was saving about 60 Rupees a day. I asked him what was he eating for lunch. He said matter of factly: “Earlier I used to take fried rice and paneer masala in our school canteen which used to cost Rs. 20. But now I take just curd rice and pickles.” “But Rahul… you need not have to starve …” “No, Ma. A lot of my friends just bring curd rice from their homes. And many take curd rice in the canteen. It’s also good and very filling. I don’t feel hungry at all.” I had half a mind to break this damn thing and tell him to go ahead and enjoy his fried rice. But then I remembered that nothing is worse than calling off a test midway. Let him learn the hard way, I told myself.