‘Bad uncle...’ the child whispers, shifting uneasily.
Mother glances at Neighbour – kind and respectable. No, hewouldn’t!!
She nudges her 6-year old irritably, ‘Chup*… Bad girl!‘
(An attempt to tell a story in Haiku form)
Innumerable cases of child abuse are not stopped simply because we do not believe our children enough. We brush their fears aside, thinking they are baseless. They aren’t. They never are. If a child feels that there is ‘something wrong’ or ‘something bad’ – a touch, a comment, or even a look… that just makes him/her feel uncomfortable, but is unable to express it, it is our damn duty to take up the matter seriously and investigate, and protect our children.
This post has been written for the Child Sexual abuse awareness monththeme run by the Chennai Bloggers Club.
I tossed around in my bed, sweating profusely despite it being winter! I was only 6, and looking for my favourite toy. Only, I couldn’t remember what it was! I searched every shelf, every cupboard.
I wish I knew what it was that I was looking for. I wish I had someone to tell me. Daddy? Grandma? My friends? I looked around. They stared at me with a blank , almost confused expression. When I could bear it no more, I burst into tears. Or was I crying already? I couldn’t make out.
It was then that a hand touched my hot forehead, smoothening out my non-existent wrinkles ever so gently. I knew who it was. Only, I could not remember what she looked like. I looked all over my room – a photograph? A souvenir from a holiday maybe?! I just couldn’t remember. I tossed in my bed, kicking away imaginary demons!I
The hand gently caressed my forehead, lovingly touching my cheeks, tapping the tip of my nose. Just like when I was a baby. I smiled, relaxed and in peace.
And a soft, gentle voice said ‘Darling, It’s OK to forget’. I nodded, and reached out to kiss the hand. It was gone. ‘Yes, Mum’ I whispered, my eyes still closed. A tear rolled down my cheek.
This happened a couple of months ago, and I only remembered to write about it now (thanks to my friends on an online community).
Remember the innovative ‘Blogsplash’ conducted by Fiona Robyn (author of ‘The Most Beautiful Thing’)? My contribution to the Blogsplash was a little story about a touching incident that took place on my last trip to India. I’m very glad to say that of all the entries, mine was chosen as the top entry!
Every now and then, something beautiful comes my way to show me that Life is the greatest humbler!
For instance, all of you (my regular readers) know I have been in India during the Easter break. I usually carry bundles of old clothes (in great condition) to give away to maids/helpers back home. This time again, I took a box of clothes and my mum distributed it among some regular helpers. One particular shirt was slightly over-sized and hardly used, and we decided to give it to our fruit-seller for one of his three sons. He accepted it with his usual quiet demeanour and left without saying a word. I wondered if he even appreciated that it was still a good shirt and would use it for his child, or quickly sell if off for a few rupees on the footpath the next day!!
Let me quickly clarify that I was NOT looking for ‘gratitude’ as people sometimes do. My belief is that people who receive things from me are actually doing me a favour by helping de-clutter my house and in turn, my life! So there was no question of gratitude. Only, a subconscious wish for some sign of ‘acknowledgement’.
Anyway, a few days passed, and the incident had completely vanished from memory.
Late one hot summer evening, the door bell rang. Mum answered it, and was surprised to see none other than the fruit-seller. He simply stood there, quiet as he always was, looking looking tired in a crumpled brownish-yellow shirt that was once probably white.
Mum was surprised, because it wasn’t the time to buy/sell fruits! She opened the door anyway, not knowing what to expect! Usually, helpers who visit late in the evening, are looking for some help, usually in the form of money. We waited to see what he would say/ask for.
To our surprise, the fruit-seller just passed his hand around the half-open iron-grill-gate and handed over a bag overflowing with fresh peanuts (monkeynuts). And walked away without a word.
We stared at each other – dumbstruck, tears brimming our eyes. A big bag of nuts. It would have probably made an excellent snack for three hungry children that were waiting for him back home. Yet, he chose to give it to us. In his own quiet, humble way, he had shown us that to give something, one only needs a big heart!!
The magnanimity of the poor fruit-seller left us utterly humbled!!
I don’t think I have words enough to explain the lesson in humility that I learnt that day. It was certainly one of the most beautiful incidents ever.
I wish we had more of such people around. They certainly make the world a better place!
Pick-up time. The children chattered excitedly, as rains lashed.
A little girl quietly waited for Nanny.
She looked up, surprised. Her eyes sparkled.
She ran and hugged the woman.
The woman pushed her away.
‘I only came because its raining. Can’t come everyday Ok?’ she snapped.
‘Yes Mummy’ Sofia nodded.
The sparkle had disappeared.
PS: I actually witnessed this incident when I went to collect my son from school this evening (names have been changed.. rather, assumed). One moment, the little girl was so excited. The next moment, it was all gone. Like a balloon had been deflated.
I wonder how many times we behave like that Mother. Not realising that the absence of a smile, or a hug, can dampen the spirit of our beautiful precious children? Don’t mean to be preachy, but I do hope, we will more consciously try, to reciprocate the wonderful and endless love that our children shower on us….
This post is published as an entry for the KING AND QUEEN OF 55F CONTEST – The first ever unique, challenge for the coveted title in micro fiction category. To catch the crowning moments and also be part of future editions and other contests, visit and register at Cafe GingerChai
Rules of the contest:
You have to write a set of three 55F.
The first two sets should be a story on its own.
The two stories should climax / conclude / inter-twine in the third set of 55F.
The story could be of any genre i.e, love, crime, mystery or thriller etc.
He lay sprawled in usual drunken stupor. She stared unseeingly at the tea boiling in the pan. Fifteen years of abuse flashed before her. Last night however, he had stooped too low.
‘Bloody pimp’, she swore, but smiled harshly.
She did not need him anymore! A cup of tea (and some poison, perhaps) would suffice.
Sunlight momentarily blinded her. She picked up her torn dupatta, wound it tightly around her bruised shoulders, and entered Amma’s kitchen.
Their eyes met. Cold, vacant, almost chilling.
The young girl lowered her gaze. Ashamed.
‘Go now. Wash yourself. Come fresh and clean, for tea’
‘Clean? I’ll never be clean again…’ hot tears rolled, unrestrained.
Laila scrubbed herself until her skin burned.
‘Beauty!’, father’s ‘friend’ had grunted as he ravaged her last night.
Amma had been livid. Until, she had seen the money.
Trembling, Laila brought the scalding tea to her lips.
It wasn’t until late December that I found the envelope. It was addressed to no one. It bore the seal of ‘Vrindavan Home for the Aged’. That is how I realised it (perhaps) belonged to my father.
Before you stand on high moral ground and fire me for having sent away my old (and ailing!) Dad to the Home, do try to understand, and if possible, even believe that I truly did not want to send him there. At sixty, he was fit as a fiddle. We used to fight over the TV every evening, and would both finally lose to my son, who decided that Ben Ten was the right programme for us. So we, the boys of the house, would sprawl on the sofas and watched the inane aliens fight gory wars.
I digress. Like I said, the envelope, slightly yellowed and crushed, was addressed to no one in particular. It just bore my address. I assume my Dad had written it for me! Which made me curious, as he was not the sort of person who would write letters! If my memory serves me right, he was particularly not fond of reading or writing. So this was special. I didn’t quite want to open it. The last two months had been rather painful. First, the agony of losing him. Second, the fact that I had left him to die alone. I can never get over it. Ever. And third (perhaps, the most important reason) – I was afraid… of what the letter might contain!!
It was my birthday. In no mood to celebrate, I decided I would open the letter after all…
You know how much I hate to write!
Bang on! This was definitely from Dad!! My lips curved into a smile.
I want to let you know something… its been on my mind ever since you left me.
I stiffened. It was not like I left him! It was HE who decided to leave us. Vidya and I pleaded. So did little Prithvi. But he had made up his mind.
I like this place they call ‘Home’. Its spacious, airy, the nurses take care of me. I have no complaints.
I visited him almost every Saturday. I would take his favourite food. Sometimes, Vidya and Prithvi came along, at other times, they didn’t. Dad would always recognize Prithvi, no matter what! The moment he saw his chubby little grandson, his wizened face would break into a smile. I felt relived that he liked the Home.
But you know… I want to write this before I can forget everything.. before my traitor of memory fails me. Sometimes I cannot even remember your face. At other times, I feel like you are standing right next to me. I know you are there. Its just, I don’t remember who exactly you are .. or at times, who I myself am!! I have to confess that part is a little scary.
So that was why he wrote the letter!! When he was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it had come as a brutal shock to all of us.
On most days, he was very normal. The same old Dad who steadily picked his nose as he sat in his oversized armchair, watching children play cricket on the street! On other days, he would turn into a complete stranger. He would just stare at the ceiling. At times, he would simply grab the nearest object and smash it into the wall. He would walk down the street, to buy a packet of chicory, and wouldn’t return home until dark, when one of us would go in search of him, only to find him sitting on a broken bench, looking dazed and confused.
Finally it was he who suggested being moved to the Home. We wanted him around. He, however, was adamant. He left a day after Prithvi’s fifth birthday. We had a great party. He joined in the fun. I almost called the Home to cancel the move. But the next morning, he woke very early, bathed, and packed a little holdall with a couple of shirts and bare necessities. He did not give us any opportunity to try and persuade him against going. Before he left that morning, he blessed us with wishes for a ‘long and happy married life’, and said, very simply, and as a matter-of-fact, ‘Tell Prithvi I love him the most!’
When Prithvi returned from school that afternoon, he searched for Dad in every room of the house! And when he didn’t find him there, he cried himself to sleep.
There’s one little person I always seem to remember. A lovely cherubic little boy. Let me try to recall.. Preetham.. or was it Prithvi? Yes, I think it is Prithvi. My darling little angel. He visits me often. I can’t often remember his name, but I know that he is part of my soul.
I fought hard to blink back the tears. Dad wouldn’t be kind to anybody who cried at the drop of a hat!!
So, my dearest, I had better finish this letter quickly, as I might just not remember about it in some time.
Very often, nurses wipe tears rolling off my cheeks. Sometimes, they say ‘tut..tut..’ and walk away, cursing (in a rather filmy style!) my ‘supposedly wicked’ son who they think has left me here.
Little do they know, that these, in fact, are tears of joy.
Joy at a life well lived. This is the happiness of a husband, who found a good and loving wife. The pride of a father, who raised a strong and caring son. And also, the yearning of a grandfather. Whose only (albeit greedy) wish was that he had a few more years to spend with his grandson, frolicking in the park, or sneaking away from the watchful and loving eyes of his Mummy, to lick an ice-cream cone. But then, I’m just being ungrateful.
I could have lived with our children. But you know, much as I hate to boast, I think our son adores me! So does Prithvi. I want them to remember me as their Hero. Not as a senile patient who couldn’t recognize them! No. That wouldn’t work for me.
So, this is my big secret. I want you to know, my dearest, that every time I remember us, and cry, it is only to say that I have lived a very happy life.
I think I will see you soon.
Dad’s last letter. It had not been written for me. Or for Prithvi. But for Mum. I was stunned, at how Dad never let us see how much he missed her. I hoped they were together again.
To me, the letter had a cathartic effect. I don’t know if I can ever stop feeling guilty, but this day, I felt a little better. He knew what he was doing. And he did it not just for me, but also for himself.
I guess he was right afterall. When I think of Dad, I only recall a tall, strong man, who would throw Prithvi up into mid-air and catch him as he fell squealing with delight. I remember him as a level-headed counsellor, who simply declared that every workplace had its share of politics, and it was upto me to handle it or steer clear! Vidya remembers him as a loving father, who would make her a cup of ‘straang filter kaapi’ when she returned home from work every evening.
And Prithvi.. well, he does not remember much of him. When we happen to mention Dad, he perks up, curious to know more about his childhood friend. We cite him examples of how Dad used to pretend to be his Horse and ‘giddy up’ as Prithvi ordered him to! Prithvi chuckles shyly when we mention such incidents.
Often, he walks into Dad’s old room (that has now been converted into a Study) as if looking for something.
Sometimes, I follow him, and find him gazing at a picture of Dad’s. At other times, I find him dozing in the big arm-chair.
Well, whatever it is he is doing (or not doing!), I get the feeling this room is his favourite haunt. He seems happy here.
As for the letter, I placed it back in its envelope, labelled it as ‘First Letter Written’and tucked it far, far away inside my wardrobe. I could perhaps give it to Prithvi when he is grown up enough to be deceived by ‘Success’ manifesting itself in the form of money or fame?! Will it make any sense to him, I wonder…
Or perhaps, I will simply start writing a letter of my own…. hoping that I too, can be a Hero to my son, as Dad is to me.
Posting this on behalf of Baisali Chatterjee, who is in charge of the ‘Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul: Celebrating Brothers & Sisters’ publication.
Publishing house: Westland
Try and state specific episodes as to why you think that the person you are writing about deserves to be in the Chicken soup series.
Please send your stories to: email@example.com
Last dates for accepting submissions: November 15th 2010. But do try and send your stories ASAP as I will close as soon as I have selected my 101 stories for the same.
The write-ups will carry the contributor’s name. Westland pays Rs 1000 per story and two copies of the book. We carry a 3-4 line profile on all contributing authors. We accept blogged and published work too provided the authors get the reprint permissions. The copyright of the stories stay with the author.
Inviting stories for Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul: Celebrating Brothers & Sisters
Recipe for a winning “Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul” story:
A Chicken Soup for the Soul® story is an inspirational, true story about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. They are personal and often filled with emotion and drama.
Chicken Soup stories have a beginning, middle and an ending that often closes with a punch, creating emotion rather than simply talking about it. A story that causes tears, laughter, goose bumps or any combination of these. A good story covers the range of human emotions. The most powerful stories are about people extending themselves, or performing an act of love, service or courage for another person.
1. Tell an exciting, sad or funny story about something that has happened to you or someone you know. Make sure that you introduce the character(s).
2. Tell your story in a way that will make the reader cry, laugh or get goose bumps (the good kind!) Don’t leave anything out — how did you feel?
3. The story should start with action; it should include a problem, issue or situation. It should include dialogue and the character should express their feelings though the conflict or situation. It should end in a result, such as a lesson learned, a positive change or pay-off.
4. Above all, let it come from your HEART! Your story is important!
1) Stories should be non-fiction, ranging in length between 300-1200 words.
• The Brotherly Bond : about brothers and special moments shared with them; Raksha Bandhan stories, etc.
• Soul Sisters : about sisters and everything they do and mean to us
• Cool Cousins : stories about cousins and their impact on our lives
• From Other Mothers: stories about that ‘brother/sister’ who may not be related by blood, but by feelings of the heart
• Sibling Rivalry, Sibling Love : stories and observations written by parents/grandparents
• Saying Goodbye: stories about losing a beloved sibling
P.S Please do not send PDF attachments or Zip files; either type the story in the e-mail or send as a Word doc. Kindly forward this mail to friends and family who are interested in submitting stories!