The big day woke up to an uncharacteristic early morning buzz around campus. Enthusiastic fathers and mothers from all over, after having barely managed to contain their excitement through the night, were up and about before the clock had struck eight. Bleary eyed sons and daughters, who had long since forgotten what waking up at that hour felt like, were dragged out of beds scarcely an hour after they had gotten into them and were sat down to voluminous breakfasts.
Through breakfast (in the student mess), the teeming mass of intermingling fathers and mothers made every possible attempt to prove how and why their sons and daughters were the worthiest of the lot; conscious efforts made, through cleverly disguised queries posed in disarmingly innocuous manners to friends and friends’ families, to ascertain how popular their progeny were.
Most of the sons and daughters, including Son, finally managed to extricate themselves from the adoring clutches of their parents after what, while it had lasted, had seemed like an unending breakfast, on pretexts of getting dressed for the impending event. That left the fathers and mothers slightly lost and befuddled as regards the next course of action. They hung around the mess and cafeteria for a while, continuing to seek acquaintance and conversation with other parents, until the incessant glorification of their respective offspring by rival fathers and mothers exasperated them. They, then, returned to their guest house rooms.
After lunch, Dad and Mom rushed, together with all the other fathers and mothers, to the convocation hall, desperate to find seating places near where all the action would be. Dad and Mom, by virtue of their having reached the arena an hour before the scheduled start of the ceremony, found seats in the row closest to the stage. A sizeable number was bereft of similar foresight and fortune.
The ceremony began, on time, with the long procession of faculty members followed by the graduating students entering the hall from the end opposite the stage, in the typically orchestrated fashion that gives away the rehearsals done on previous days. Dad and Mom stood up on their toes, continuously shifted their heads to find gaps between the constantly swaying mass of shoulders and bodies that were doing the same, and strained their eyes to take a peek at Son. Those parents who were able to spot their sons and daughters in the crowd announced their success to the rest by screaming their names at the top of their voices, raising their hands in the air and waving frantically at the student to gain attention. The consequent commotion ensured that nobody recognized nobody.
The next hour was spent listening attentively to the inconsequential and utterly disgusting speeches made by the institute’s Director, the Chief Guest and a couple of other important people whom nobody knew. They talked about how the institute was among the best to be found in the country, why the 300 graduating students and some 3000 others before them had the unique distinction of being the best brains on the planet and how they were going to change the way the world did business.
The giving away of the certificate was undertaken in alphabetical order. Each student walked up on stage, walked the few paces it took to travel a distance of ten meters, bowed graciously to the dignitaries, collected their certificate from the chief guest, who mouthed ‘Well Done X’ and promptly forgot X, looked around expectantly for media personnel to click a few times, and on finding none thus inclined, returned to his/her respective seat, beaming away at anything and everything.
While all this happened, the fathers and mothers kept looking in the direction of their respective sons and daughters, noted every movement in microscopic detail and relayed it to their partners in the event that they had not been attentive enough. Every once in a while, a familiar name was announced on stage - a student they had met that morning, and they looked towards the stage, smiled and applauded. Sometimes, they were nudged by occupants of adjacent seats who pointed towards the stage and excitedly mouthed “Our son!” “Our daughter!” On such occasions, they momentarily diverted their gaze towards the stage and, obviously annoyed but too civilized to complain, smiled sheepishly at the parents and said “Nice.”