The Dinner Table Talk!

All that one could hear was the cluttering of utensils, as Ajay, Priya, and their fourteen-year-old son Arjun sat on the dinner table. The silence was palpable. A reminder of what had happened a few hours ago. Everyone was a little stiff – a little on the edge – as they ate food from their plate. Arjun sat at a distance, holding himself tightly. He tried to escape the gaze of his parents, trying to chew his food as carefully as he could. He almost wanted to disappear into nothingness, never to feel the cold indifference of his parents again. But he knew he had to stay. Moving away from the dining table was as much of a crime as getting poor grades in exams. Finally, he heard his fathers’ cold, deep voice. “How much did you get in biology last time?”

Before Arjun could respond, he heard his mother’s voice. “71%.”

He sighed. “And now 64%.” He shook his head disappointingly.

Arjun was tempted to correct him. 64.8%, he urged, but held back.

The silence returned, carpeting over the dining table like a familiar foe. It was again broken by his father, this time looking straight at his son. His eyes sharp like a razor, daggered at Arjun mercilessly.

“Arjun, you know how important the sciences are, right?” His mother’s tone sounded empathetic, but he knew her well enough to know that the soft sound was anything but empathetic. Arjun nodded, lowering his head. His mother fell silent again, as if finding the right words for her anger. “There is no place in this world for mediocrity, Arjun,” she went on. “This-” she turned her face towards the desk, “this result. It is shameful.”

His father groaned within himself like a carnivorous animal. “Huh. Who would say this is our son,” he mumbled. “Our son”. This time he looked at Arjun, his eyes fiercer than hers. “Dr. Ajay’s only born. Huh. Everyone said you will continue our legacy. Become a doctor. A better doctor than me, your mother, your Dadaji. This is how you will become a good doctor?!”

There it was again, Arjun thought. The legacy of doctors. A legacy of people who forgot that there is more to life than one profession. He sat there in silence, recalling his marksheet. It was not half as bad as his parents made it seem like. Yes, he could have done better. But that can be said for everyone, he thought. If only his parents looked beyond biology, and mathematics, they would notice that he had done well in literature and social sciences. But he knew better than anyone else that they did not care about those subjects. They existed just to fill the paper, existed not to shine but to be of service to science and mathematics. A voice of anger brewed in his mind. It was like a relentless hum that kept getting louder with each second. It soon turned into a rhythmic thumping. The silence was deafening; the noise in his head unnerving. He stood up, realizing his parents would object to him leaving the table without completing his food. But he did not care. Not anymore. Not right now. He stormed into the bedroom he shared with his grandfather. Images blurred past him as he fell on the bed, his face lost in the bedsheet as he tried to erase this feeling of being the worst possible successor of a familial legacy that he was too young to make sense of, and too lost to be proud of.

Just as he was feeling a little comfortable, he heard the familiar brazen voice of his grandfather. “Hi, young boy,” he said. Arjun held his head up and saw that his father was sitting on the same bed. He almost felt a little bad that he did not notice him earlier, but he gulped his apology silently. Instead, he crawled towards his lap and rested his head in them.

“What happened?” he asked, his voice full of love.

“Didn’t you hear?” Arjun murmured.

“I did,” he ran his palm over his head. “But I want to hear it from you.”

Arjun noticed his eyes getting a little moist. He held his head up, looking at his grandfathers’ face now. “Dadaji, you know, I have actually scored well in English.”

“You have?”

Arjun nodded.

“Can I ask you something, Arjun?” he asked.


“What do you want to do professionally when you grow up?”

Arjun fell silent. It hit him that no one had ever asked him that. Everyone assumed that he wanted to be a doctor, like his parents. No one ever even thought that he could want to do anything else. No one before right now. After thinking for a while, he responded. “I don’t know, dadu. A writer, maybe?”

His grandfather smirked at his response. “A writer, eh.” He held him lovingly by his shoulder. “And where do you think that interest came up?”

Arjun shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know,” he replied. “You are all doctors. And writing is so different–”

His grandfather rose from the bed. He made the little sounds that old people make as their joints ache in the simple act of getting their body to move. He moved to his almirah, jostling through a few items before extracting a worn-out diary that looked like it belonged to a different era altogether.

“Here you go,” the grandfather passed the diary to Arjun who held it like a prized possession. As he opened it, he realized what it contained. In that perfect handwriting of his grandfather, there were poems that looked as beautiful visually as rich they were in their themes. A smile appeared on Arjun’s face as he went through each of them. His father’s voice felt like a background score to his reading experience.

“I used to write poems in my late teenage,” the grandfather said, “before I went for my MBBS.”

Arjun looked up to him, excited. “I will talk to your parents,” he continued, “you just give your hundred percent every day, alright?”

Arjun nodded.

“Also,” the grandfather sighed. “I know it is tough for you to see it that way, but, try understanding that your parents are not bad people. They love you. Care for you.”

Arjun shook his head, unimpressed.

“I know, I know. But they are humans too.” He sighed before speaking again. “When you grow old you realize there is more to life than a career in medicine. I know that. They still need to grow up, you see.”

Arjun smiled. “You will talk to them?”

The grandfather smiled. “I will.”

They shared a long, warm hug after which Arjun dozed off to sleep, his grandfather revisiting his poem as he saw his grandchild soothingly asleep beside him.


The relationship between parents and their child can be a tricky one. While deeply personal, it comes with a strong influence of societal expectations each has from the other. It is important, therefore, for parents to understand the individuality of their kid, and not see them as an extension of themselves, burdening them with their ambitions, and dreams.

Similarly, it is equally important for kids to realize that their parents are individual humans before and beyond anything else. There needs to be an impetus from both sides to see each other as human beings, both flawed and fabulous. In doing that we may move past the societal demarcations, and demands that come with one looking at the other with the weight of unnecessary expectations.

By Rachit Raj


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