August 26, 2016

Leaving:The Mother and Son Relationship

Leaving for the Greater Good
In the Form 4 English Literature component, one of the the most heartfelt issue that comes to mind is the theme of sacrifice. In M.G. Vassanji's short story,Leaving, we read about the value-laden conflict of perspectives between protagonist and antagonist.

Let us delve into the relationship of Aloo, the protagonist and his mother, the antagonist.
Aloo’s doting mother is the antagonist. Widowed at thirty-three, she has 5 children. A strong woman, she did not marry, committing to raise all five children on her own. She was practical and focused. She sold her shop after her elder two daughters married and then moved to quiet Upanga to take care of the youngest two children and their education. As her elder son, Firoz, was a school dropout who worked and lived on his own, her hopes and future were clearly pinned high on the narrator and Aloo.

Her younger son, Aloo is the protagonist. He is intelligent, bright and ambitious. He is obedient and respectful of his mother.

Then came the main event to bring conflict between mother and son.

Inspired by Mr. Datoo, a former teacher returning from America, Aloo made a decision to study in America. Armed with initiative and resourcefulness, he wrote to many universities in America to seek a place to study.  When Aloo was given a place to study medicine at the famed California Institute of Technology with a scholarship thrown in, Aloo was ecstatic! The door to opportunity and many related possibilities opened before his eyes.

While mother-son relationship was on an even keel of respect, responsibility and duty until now, the university offer and scholarship issue started to cause a schism to appear between mother and son. Their relationship was now put to a test. Will it bend or will it break or will the test strengthen their relationship further?

Both had their points of view on this matter. Let’s look at them.

For Aloo, to study in America, represents a vision of his tomorrow, the fruition of a longing hope. America was a brand new world out there for his taking. It will provide him with a golden opportunity to not only study at a renowned university but also in his desired course-medicine. On top of that he was awarded a scholarship! Certainly, not that Agriculture offered by a local university which he looked upon with so much disdain. He had friends studying overseas and these peers became his models to look beyond his native shores for education prospects.

Aloo was certainly disappointed when his mother did not share his excitement, hopes and dreams. When his mother brought up the issue of money that was needed to spend in America that was beyond the remit of the scholarship, he suggested that they could borrow some or that he could also work to help supplement the shortfall of the fees and other overheads. This shows his desperation to take advantage of the opportunity to be something better; to be someone better.  

For his mother, Aloo’s opportunity to study overseas certainly forced her to think long and hard. She realized she had many misgivings. Although she may not have to spend too much money to enable Aloo to go to America, she bore some unspoken fears; utmost being, that she may lose her son forever to a foreign land if he did not return. She also found out that she was conservative as she harbour a fear that Aloo might take a foreign wife. Similarly, she was also concerned that Aloo, being on his own, may fell victim to bad habits such as smoking and drinking.

Though, having mixed feelings as an overprotective mother who may be about to lose one of her son, albeit briefly, she was not blatantly against Aloo and his ambition to study overseas. We can perceive this as she never did raise any objection when Aloo started corresponding with foreign universities to obtain prospectuses and entry forms. We know she was a responsible mother who cares for the future of her children. As such, she was not insensitive to Aloo’s needs. In fact, she was sensible. She was aware of his ambitions and his dreams.

She had made sacrifices before, why not one more? Though careful, she sought assurance. So, she went to see Mr. Velji, a learned education officer whom she respected. They discussed on the matter at hand-Aloo’s scholastic performance, the course in medicine and the scholarship.  When the advice given was supportive that Aloo go to America to study; the mother, despite being conflicted by the sense of potential separation and loneliness, accepted the advice as profitable and was willing to forego her selfish fears such as loneliness, cultural issues and possibly, religious apprehensions.

In ending, we can say the relationship of the two main characters, which underwent a reassessment of their values and priorities through an intense emotional challenge, gained better footing as it matures to a new level of sacrifice, love and understanding. Allowing Aloo to go to America was the mother’s ultimate sacrifice. For both mother and son, it was to be an ideal win-win situation. 

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