A year ago I wrote about the importance of raising a rude child. Of not succumbing to the "disease to please", of our children not worrying "What if Mama or Baba get upset that I have called on their friend/relative/co-worker ". I also wrote about how there is a lot of material out there, (all very necessary and one can never have enough) on how Caregivers Have to be Aware. And Cautious. And Know How to protect the Children Around U). But I still fail to find enough on how one raises children who do not abuse. Or maybe someone needs to point caregivers towards it?
Something happened the other day. I witnessed an interaction between Arhaan and some Big Boys. There is a hillock near the Hauz Khas Jheel, where the children gather most evenings to play; with an old structure, I believe it was a sarai that Arhaan loves darting through. Darting through ruins, yes this something kids who have never watched horror movies can still do (without worrying about the Spirits That Haunt Such Spaces and who will now posess us FOREVER). But this evening there were a group of young men sitting there. They asked Arhaan to come in still. And he just stood there and said no.
So I am watching the scene unfold, a sense of foreboding settling around us. There is a boy, my boy, framed in the doorway. I am sitting on the grass watching.
The young men ask me. "Doesnt he want to play here?".
There is a little girl running in and out of the doorways, shrieking with laughter. And I pause for a minute. And another. Minutes when I had to unlearn all of my "social niceties"( what if woh mind kar jaaye...how I worry still not to upset people), and summon up the guts to say NO.
"But why isnt your boy coming in?". they ask again.
I falter for a minute. again. and then say "For he is scared of you".
"Scared of us", they guffaw.
And I look up and say. "Yes".
The other girl continues to run in and out. Until there is a big laugh from within the building, and the two women who are with the girl, get up and look around. They grab her when she runs out next and make her play near where they are sitting.
I think for a while about the moments when I hesitated to make the call, about how I still lack confidence,
and our strange , strange relationship with our children.
About how children will continue to be abused. Even though we are Aware. And will be Alert. And keep an Eagle Eye.
But there is something flawed with our world.
We still do not take our children seriously enough (bachey hain bhool jayengay, they are children they will forget)
Our grown up world is complicated. We are still to unravel the skeins of Relationships. Not Rocking the Boat. Confronting The Predator. It is still far, far easy to be paranoid about whoever comes in contact with our children and warn each other about them, but we balk when it comes to the perpetrator. And I think about myself, and the protagonist in Monsoon Wedding who might have kept quiet out of a misplaced sense of responsibility, of not complicating the mother's life further. You understand dont you? That the mother, a single mom at that, had enough on her plate as it was; dependent on the goodwill of the extended family.
And I think of the families. Do the perps know of our lihaz, our concern to keep appearances, of telling the child "We Told You Na Not to Go Anywhere When Mama and Baba Are Not With You. Now Dont Talk About This and Stay Close ". And we push and push our children to live in corners. Fearful of the world. For we are scared to take people on.
A long time ago. Yes three years and some months is a long time ago! So a long time ago when I got pregnant, other than worrying about Will the Child Be Healthy. Will There Be Space in The House; I fretted about our world , our cruel cruel world and raising a kid in it. And Oprah was on. Where she speaks with Child Molesters. I made it a point that Baba and me stopped all that we were doing, and worrying about, and watch it . I hope you and your partner watch it too and perhaps it leads to all of you starting some new conversations. Rather than shushing up kids, sheltering them from this world. For that is no life too, of being constantly fearful. Of keeping quiet and stepping aside rather than rock the boat.