“I perfectly remember the day I smoked my first cigarette,” said Mrs Salma Parvin, placing a cigarette in the corner of her mouth. “It was the day my son’s private tutor tested positive for Covid-19. The timing couldn’t have been worse. Where was I supposed to find another good tutor during a goddamn pandemic? Smoking helped calm the nerves.”
The Covid-19 pandemic lasted only a year. But the world economy stays dead even after a decade. I interviewed parents like Mrs Parvin, who believe that the world leaders’ lack of foresight is responsible for our current woes.
“We had two things by the end of 2020 — a vaccine, and an entire generation of stupid children,” said Mr Ashraf Hossain. “A year without school made my son dumb as a dog. He forgot how to speak or do basic algebra. Dhrubo! Get your ass over here! Quick!” A young man, now in his twenties, ran towards us. Dhrubo stared at his feet, clearly afraid of his father.
“What’s two plus two?” his father demanded.
I had to ask Mr Hossain, “Have you considered that this might be a reaction to bad parenting?”
“What? No!” His features were exaggerated. “His mother and I would take turns sitting next to him with a stick as he studied. We gave him no time to think, get a stupid hobby, or read any of that nonsense you call novels. We were the hardest-working parents during the pandemic. Had the government implemented the Rahima Khatun Rescue Plan, my son could have been a scientist.”
“Yethh,” said the son.
“I got agitated when my daughter wasn’t studying for exams.” Mrs Shetu wiped her eyes with a tissue paper, indignant. ‘Then we heard the government scrapped the Rahima Khatun Rescue Plan. We immediately called the private tutor and said, “Screw the lockdown and come teach my daughter. I’d rather have my daughter die than watch her get an A–’ He said he couldn’t come! The world economy collapsed because of these traitors! Why is that animal still not in jail?”
Dr Enayet Hossain, author of the bestselling book Parenting for Dummies, sat with me at his former university campus. “A year without school and private tutors made every child dull and unproductive. This is the generation that would have rebuilt the world post-Covid-19. We can’t make that mistake again.” When asked about his own son’s mental health, who took his life during the pandemic at the age of sixteen, he said, “I’ve addressed this in my upcoming book, Parenting Suicidal Kids.”
“The United Nations was a joke. I’m glad that it’s abolished,” said Mrs Rahima Khatun, mother of two, who had proposed the historic Rahima Khatun Rescue Plan during the pandemic. The United Nations quickly dismissed it, saying it had a catchy title, but made no sense.
“The solution was online classes for rich kids and physical schools for poor kids,” said Mrs Rahima Khatun enthusiastically. “Only 2% of the poor kids would’ve died because of this. But poor kids died anyway. They could have at least died as martyrs, had my plan been implemented.” She handed me a copy of her plan before I left The National Institute for the Mentally Handicapped.
“See, that’s the brilliance of her plan. If you can afford online classes, do. If you cannot, go fuck yourself,” said Dr Enayet Hossain. “Countries could have used their limited resources to prepare a handful of children as future leaders. The poor chaps could have been handy in some of the lesser jobs. Farming, for example. That would’ve brought a much-needed balance in society.”
Ms Tanzeela, my last interviewee, popularised the phrase ‘Learning is a Sport’. She has faced constant criticism from the World Anxious Parents Organisation (WAPO) for her radical ideas on parenting and education. I met her at the school where she taught.
“I was a JSC candidate during the pandemic. My father always said I had to study late into the night if I wanted to become a doctor,” she said, smiling. “Then came 2020. He lost his job. And my school closed. We had nothing but free time, can you imagine?” One of her students interrupted her, and she helped her solve a math problem.
“That’s when my father started lending me his story books. I read all kinds of stories. I never imagined there could be stories beyond textbooks, and that I could read something without worrying about exams.”
“Do you think we can get back to normal?”
“Oh, of course!” she said as if I’d asked a ridiculous question. “It’s inevitable. We just have to show the next generation how fun learning can be. Rich. Poor. Everyone.”
“She is just a lesbian with an agenda!” said Mrs Rahima Khatun about Ms Tanzeela and her activism. “Now is not the time to waste our children on her experiments, for crying out loud. They need homework. We have to drown our children in homework, or God knows we’re doomed.”
Nayeem Ehtesham loves to read and believes his degree in computer science has helped him write funny stories using his computer.