Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Atreya Enlisted

Yesterday, we dropped Atta at Pulau Tekong for his enlistment in the National Service. People have been asking me how I feel about it. The fact is that my feelings about this event are not important. It is all about him and what he is feeling or going through.

Atta and I have been speaking about his army service for years. At first, I was very against it for two reasons. One, we are not Singaporeans. Two, I abhor violence of all kinds and the basis of army training is getting ready to kill the enemy. It conflicts with my (and Atreya's) Buddhist belief of sanctity of all human life.

Over the years, I got over the first issue. This country has given us a lot in the 12 years we have spent here and is Atta's home country, regardless of the passport he holds. He belongs here and if he needs to do this service in return, so be it. As years passed, I noticed that he began thinking of NS as the normal course of life. And finally, another consideration was that he is likely to spend many years here- or at least should have the option to.

Regarding the second issue, we talked a lot about it and came to a conclusion that army training can be dealt with dispassionately. Learning to use a gun isn't the same as killing someone. If he can deal with the physical training without letting it mess with his mind, it should be fine.

So, when we finally went there and saw the camp he will be in for the next 12 weeks, I was fairly resolved and calm. Unlike other parents, I wasn't worried about the load he will have to carry, or the distances he will have to run, or the heat he will have to bear, or the discomfort of the bunk bed, or the quality of food he will get to eat. I have never mollycoddled him and he has been fairly independent all his life. He has travelled to India once a year by himself since he was 7 and spent months away from me each time. He has cycled around Singapore alone and run long distances and exercised in the gym for years now. I know he is a capable and fit young man and can handle all kinds of physical exertion and discomfort.

But after having a short phone conversation with him last night, there is another aspect that I suddenly became aware of. Yesterday, he lost his way of life. He will now live the way someone else wants him to.

That loss of freedom is something I (supposedly the sensitive and far thinking mother) hadn't considered in all my contemplations and discussions. That loss of freedom is what was written on his face all day yesterday that I didn't recognize. That loss of freedom is what kept me awake last night and lingers on today as sadness I can't shake off.

1 comment:

  1. yes he will be dictated by his officer incharge.These are desciplines of army which he will have to follow. But he is not a prisoner. He is free to think and feel and yet stay within the limits. This is part of growing up into a man.