Puja was a naughty little tom-boy. She loved to play in the street with boys. She played cricket with them and also wielded the slingshot with alacrity. She spoke and walked like a boy. She wore only shorts and Tee’s because she hated frocks and skirts. Her hair was barely long enough to be combed.
Her parents were usually upset with her for doing something wrong or the other. As soon as she got into the shower, her mother called out, “Puja don’t take so long; it’s getting late!” At the breakfast table, Puja spilt the milk on the tablecloth and mother rebuked her “Puja don’t be so careless!”
Puja got up to leave for school, with a long face. She banged the door after her in defiance. Mom shouted behind her, “Puja don’t bang the door!” But Puja was too upset to listen.
Puja came home after school, with a bruised elbow and a torn shirt. Her cheeks were scratched and dirty. Her mother took one look at her and said, “So, you’ve been fighting with Arun and Daman again! Puja don’t you ever remember that you are a girl? Don’t you ever think about being just a little sensible?”
Puja gave her mother a defiant look and said, “They pushed me first. Why should I take it? I had to hit them. I’m not a weakling!” Mother said, “Puja don’t think that you can ever win a scuffle with boys. They are always stronger.”
In the evening, Puja was doing her homework. Mother came and peeped over her shoulder and commented, “Puja don’t you think you can write a little more neatly!” Puja said crossly, “No, I can not mom. I hate this work!” Mother snapped back at her, “All right, but Puja don’t you come to me when your teacher punishes you for untidy handwriting! I’m quite sick of your antics.”
The day passed. That evening Puja was watching Cartoon TV when father came home from work. He called out, “Hi Puja, don’t watch TV from so close baby, you’re straining you eyes.” Puja moved back her chair a little and continued to watch.
Mother called out, “Puja don’t you think you should get up and greet your father? Perhaps you could get him a glass of water.”
This was a usual kind of day in Puja’s house. Later in the evening; father had some guests over for coffee. The man asked Puja, “Hello! Little girl, what’s your name?” Puja said innocently, “In school they call me Puja. But at home I’m called Puja-don’t!” The man looked at the little girl incredulously and asked, “At home you’re called Puja … What?” “Puja don’t,” she repeated with conviction.
Perhaps some of us are also like Puja’s folks. We also suffix ‘don’t do this’ or don’t do that’ to our children’s names, every time we address them. Perhaps all we do is dictate, sermonize or admonish. Perhaps we need to be more careful of what we say to them. For a change, let’s put ourselves into their shoes, for it is only the wearer of the shoe that knows where it pinches!