1 December 2011
The scene is a small terrace house, somewhere in Kelana Jaya. Ten year old Mary and her younger brother Timothy approach their father who is sitting in the living room flossing his teeth after a large meal.
“Papa, Timmy and I would like to tell you something”
“Oh, really, both of you want to gather together and say something?”
“Yes, we think it is a very important issue and we would like to express ourselves to the whole family”.
“I see, so you want to assemble peacefully. You are not going to get violent are you?”
“Of course not Papa!”
“Good. Good. Very well, you can’t say I am a wicked and authoritarian father. I am in fact very liberal; much more liberal than other fathers, for example that Mr Hlaing from Myanmar. I am very happy to give you the space to get together with your brother and express yourselves to your little hearts’ content”.
“Oh thank you Papa. You are such a kind and understanding Papa”.
“I know, I am, all my buddies tell me. However, I just have a few teeny tiny conditions”
“What are they Papa”?
“There are some places in the house where you cannot gather. The kitchen is one. It is a very sensitive area where food is being prepared and I don’t want you to get in the way of your mother who is busy cooking there. Also you can’t gather in the dining room because that is where we eat. The living room is off limits due to the fact that the television is there and you would be interrupting the quiet enjoyment of the family by making noise when we are trying to watch TV. The garage is a no go zone. If you go tramping around in there you might jolly well scratch my car and we can’t be having that can we?”
“I suppose not Papa. Is there any where else we can’t gather?”
“Let me think. Of course! You can’t assemble in the toilet”.
“In the toilet? Why not?”
“You know very well that I suffer from incredible bouts of gas and I need the toilet to be free at all times so I can relieve the build up”.
“So, where on earth can we gather”?
"How can the other family members know what we are complaining about if we are stuck in our bedroom”?
“You silly little thing. If the rest of the family want to hear what you are saying they’ll just have to go to the bedroom isn’t it? Except little Annie. She’s too young and I don’t want her getting confused by what you have to say”
“Are those all your conditions Papa”?
“No, I have one more. If any of the family members complain about what you are saying, then I won’t let you speak”.
“That is not fair. You know that big brother Abe never agrees with us and he is bound to complain. He is your favourite and you always listen to him no matter how stupid his views are”
“Now, now, you are being over emotional. I don’t have any favourites and it is irresponsible for you to say so. See, I let you speak and you say irresponsible things. There are limits to freedom you know”.
“Your limits have no limits papa. This is too much.”
“Alright then, if you are unhappy with my rules you know what you can do.”
“You can go to your room and talk to yourself over there”.
Mary and Timothy trudge unhappily to their bedroom. Suddenly their father calls to them.
“Wait! Wait! Mary, I said you can go to your bedroom. I did not say that you and Timmy can go there together in a procession. When you walk in a group you block up the hallway and that is very bad. There’s a good girl. Now off you go and when you are finished, go make me a cup of tea”.