It isn’t often that I stay awake into the unearthly hours of the night, not even to watch a cricket match on the other end of the world. But this Friday was different. After spending an evening to give Ganapati Bappa a ceremonial send-off in the placid waters of Dubai creek, when I returned home and tuned in to witness what in my view would be a hair-raising moment, the lander was already in descent.
The overall sentiment on the TV screen was one of huge anticipation. No one said it was going to be easy. The risks were calculated and factored in, but we believed we would make it. We had faith in the efforts of all those who had pitched in. Hard work should pay off handsomely, shouldn’t it? So there was no second-guessing.
And then, when the odds went against us, and the gloom in the frames grew, I remembered Murphy, shook my head and smiled wistfully. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
What followed were poignant moments. Moments that taught me several life lessons.
It will take a long time for the video grab of Dr. Sivan sobbing into the shoulder of Mr. Modi to fade from my memory. Here was a man heading the country’s biggest space mission yet, a man who had set out to make a remote possibility a reality surrendering to the most innate of human sensations – pain. The world saw his deep anguish at having let down a billion hopes, like a child who had sweated through his terms but had fallen short of his parents’ expectations when the results were announced.
On the other side was a man, patriarch like in stature and manner, who held him close, patted him through his bitter tears and bolstered his shattered spirit. He represented a tribe that we are beginning to see less and less of – a parent who stands by his/her child who despite his best efforts couldn’t make the cut.
Suddenly, the scene assumed a totally new meaning for me. It wasn’t about an almost-there space mission, it wasn’t about the touch-and-go nature of expeditions, nor was it just about how we had all begun to redefine success and failure in the light of what had transpired.
When I watched the Prime Minister reinforce his confidence in the ISRO Chief and his team, I saw in him a parent who knew what his child was capable of, but hadn’t made it only because it wasn’t destined to be. It was a lesson in parenting to me. To be able to tell our children that life is all about taking chances and giving it one’s all, to be able to stand by them when they come home with a result that falls short, to give them the stimulus to get up and start from where they stumbled and fell, to give them credit for their persistence and to instill faith in them when they flounder is what sensitive and sensible parenting is all about.
Nobody is discounting the disappointments of the best-laid plans going astray, but the road ends for us only if we stop. If only, as parents, we could adopt this attitude that our Prime Minister demonstrated yesterday and give our children the leeway to shape their lives, if only we can hold them tight when they have their ‘almost there’ moments and reassure them that we are with them come what may, we would be raising a generation that will commit itself to rewriting histories.
Let us be their props so that they reach for the skies. They will then touch the stars, at least. Or if all goes well, they will kiss the moon and be back to tell us a fairy tale.