As I write this I am in San Francisco with my daughter and her family. Krish, my grandson, is not quite two yet and is a bundle of energy.
When he sees me in the morning he says “Tatha,” and then he runs and hugs me. (‘Tatha’ means grandpa in Kannada, my mother tongue.)
He holds me tight for a few seconds rubbing his face on my knees and then he runs away. But those seconds are enough to open the gates to the Kingdom of Heaven. Words cannot describe that ineffable joy that bubbles up from somewhere and suffuses every part of my being.
And what do I do this angel who trusts me implicitly and loves me unconditionally?
I lie to him.
I lie to him every day. I lied to him this morning a few minutes before I sat down to write this. I lie to him deliberately knowing what I am doing. I have done it so often I sometimes forget that I am lying to him.
The first time I lied to him was during a previous visit. He is learning to speak in one-word sentences. We had just returned from a walk and my daughter was tired. Krish spied a bottle of seltzer lying on the floor and grabbed it. He tried to give it to my daughter, but she refused to accept it. He brought it to me and said “Open.”
And he looked up at me with a face radiating love and confidence that I could solve this problem that was troubling him. I caught my daughter’s eye and she imperceptibly nodded “No.” This was sensible. Krish had, more than once, spilled fizzy liquid on the floor, on the furniture, on the curtains and in his parents’ shoes.
So, I lied. I pretended to try to open it and strained every sinew and finally gave it back to him with a gesture of defeat and said, “Stuck.” His face welled over with tears as he took the bottle back and ran around saying “Stuck. Stuck.” His vocabulary improved and he forgot in minutes, but I felt sick as mud. What hurt most of all is that he believed me.
And this morning? I lied again. By now I had done it often enough that there was barely a twinge of conscience.
There is a graveled walkway in my daughter’s backyard and Krish had gathered several handfuls of small stones in his toy bucket. He wanted to bring it into the house. I had visions of pebbles on the kitchen floor and the hours — OK minutes — of clean up and ‘accidently’ tipped the bucket spilling the stones back on the walkway. “Tomorrow,” I promised him as I led him back inside knowing full well that it would not happen.
This is how the lies begin.
These are trivial but then they become more consequential. And Krish will believe the bigger lies because I will have been joined by many others in a phalanx of trusted persons united in the falsehoods we are conveying.
He will believe that he needs the approval of others — teachers, coaches, bosses to be happy.
He will believe that fame is worth pursuing.
He will believe that there is ‘one person’ out there who can make him happy.
He will believe that he has to work hard so he can ‘do better’ than others.
He will believe that happiness arrives when he accomplishes something and not that it is his right now, right here.
He will get caught up in tribalism and ‘us vs them’ thinking and bemoan the state of the world.
And ever so many more.
And I fear I may have toppled the first domino in that chain.
And I mourn.