This story goes back about 20 years, when I was still a schoolboy in my early teens. I was an only child and attended a school in Kolkata run by Christian missionaries. The discipline was strict, and corporal punishment was quite a common sanction.
My parents – especially my mother – were nevertheless happy with this arrangement and I did well under the strict surveillance of my school.
Besides her daily chores as a housewife, my mother kept a close watch on me at home, ensuring I wasn’t spoiled. If I ever crossed a behavioural boundary, she would stare at me with an intimidating look – eyes wide and nostrils flared. That look would always be enough for me to begin behaving again – she never even had to scold me, let alone beat me.
However, my school work took a distinct turn for the worse when our local government banned the use of corporal punishment in schools. Of course, we students were overjoyed at the move but it’s didn’t find the same favour with our teachers. They feared they would lose control of their classes and it would eventually affect the school’s performance. My mother was also not happy with the new arrangements.
I was in Year 7 and my annual exams were in the offing. In previous years I had done well in these, scoring over 95% in all my subjects. However, this time was different – I didn’t even reach 90% in any subject. My class position also took a beating, five down in the ranking order. My mother was devastated by these results. She stayed silent all day until my father returned from work, then went into her room and locked the door. She came out to make dinner but at the table a complete silence prevailed.
The next morning, however, she seemed quite normal again. I was now at home, as Year 8 would not begin for another fortnight. To my dismay, my mother told me that she would tutor me at home until school went back, and she would keep a much closer check on my homework and general progress.
“We will have two hours of lessons in the morning, another two in the afternoon and again in the evening,” she said. “Your father and I have decided this between us, along with other measures which will be revealed in due course.”
That afternoon, my mother told me to start revising the curriculum from last semester while she went out for some important job. She then drove off in her car. After around two hours she returned, carrying a long thin parcel, about a metre long, wrapped in brown paper, and went straight into her room with it.
When evening came I was sent to my room to await my evening lesson from my mother. I sat down at my study table and opened my books, then I heard my mother’s step outside the door. When she entered my room, I saw that she was carrying the long, thin parcel she had brought home earlier.
She now opened the parcel in front of me and to my horror, it turned out to be a brown rattan cane. It was about a metre long and maybe 5mm in diameter. It had a waxed finish and a straight handle, wrapped in black cord, and was similar to the punishment implements I had been used to seeing in school.
My mother took the cane in her hands and ordered me to stand up. I obeyed and looked at her. She was in her usual attire of a saree and sleeveless blouse. Her metal-rimmed spectacles glinted as they reflected the light from the setting sun outside. Mother flexed the cane and gave it an experimental swing, the rattan hissing like a snake as she did so.
Then she said to me: “Suman, I presume you know what this is and what it is for?” I hung my head, expecting to be beaten any moment. “Yes, mother.”
“Well, I’m sure you were delighted when your school decided to stop using corporal punishment. However, that is exactly the reason why you did so badly in your last exams. So, your father and I have decided that the cane is needed at home. You will be disciplined for both academic and behavioural infractions, and I will be administering the punishment when necessary.
“It will be a bitter dose, but it is for your own good. We love you and care for you intensely, and we want to see you become a well-behaved, successful man. Because of this, be sure that I won’t hesitate to be harsh with you!”
I felt sick just at the thought of having to bend over for Mother to cane me, especially as she had never so much as raised a hand to me when I was a little boy, and I was now well into my teens.
From then on, mother would religiously sit with me at my study table and tutor me every school night, as well as at weekends. The cane would be placed within easy reach of my mother’s hand. She proved a very effective teacher and my academic performance improved rapidly.
Nevertheless, I made mistakes, as children will, and the cane went to work. I wasn’t spared by any stretch of the imagination. However, the deterrent worked. The frequency of my canings declined and I passed my final exams with flying colours. When she saw my results, my mother broke the cane in two and put it in the rubbish bin.
Today, I am a successful software professional and my parents are extremely proud of me. In retrospect, I’m very glad they decided to be strict with me and the cane taught me many important lessons.
Contributed by : Suman