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Thought and Reason Short story Poem Incidents MommySpeak

Chup, bad girl

******

‘Bad uncle...’ the child whispers, shifting uneasily.

Mother glances at Neighbour – kind and respectable. No, he wouldn’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 month theme run by the Chennai Bloggers Club.

* ‘chup’ – ‘quiet’ or ‘shut up’

Categories
Incidents Thought and Reason

Satyameva Jayate or SMS Jayate?

Picture this scene – A picture-perfect dutiful daughter-in-law decked in all her finery, casting pensive looks, while trying to outwit her wicked mother-in-law and bhabi-sa’s plots to entangle her in controversy. Add to it a jilted lover, a current husband (usually categorically abusive or passive and lovey-dovey!) and a motley collection of uncles/aunties, not to forget the endless fights and tears – Voila! You have an Indian television soap that is bound to rake in TRPs and some moolah for the next couple of years.

Now what hits Indian television with a breath of fresh air, nay, a powerful gust of wind is Aamir Khan‘s new programme ‘Satyameva Jayate‘ (meaning ‘Truth alone triumphs’). I don’t remember being ‘hooked onto’ television in a really long time. The last programme I watched religiously was ‘Hum Paanch‘! So one can imagine what a huge TV-serial-fan I am.

However, after hearing rave reviews on Facebook about ‘Satyameva Jayate’ and reading this particularly intriguing post by Raamesh, curiosity got the better of me, and I tuned into good ol’ Youtube to catch the first episode, that talked about female foeticide.

First of all, let’s give credit where it is due. Aamir and team have done a great job of

* Researching the topic on hand, gathering verified statistics about the gravity of the problem, and highlighting facts that hit you in the gut! For example, the fact that in some parts of India where female foeticide/infanticide has resulted in a very low sex ratio, women are being ‘bought’ to be wives and are being ‘shared’ and treated like a commodity by the men in the family!

* Getting real-life witnesses on board to come and share their experiences. Like Harish Iyer for example (who also featured in the very impactful and gut-wrenching CSA Campaign last year) who shared his painful past about child-abuse.

* And quite literally, doing a pious job of ‘trying’ to spread awareness about topics that are rarely discussed and often swept under the carpet. Yes, we are all quite aware of these issues (like female foeticide and child sexual abuse), but it is not a topic of everyday conversation. Neither do we take any aggressive action against it!

Edited to add: Take a look at this article that talks about the national child helpline being flooded with calls seeking help against abuse!

Kudos to the Satyameva Jayate team! I would any day have this on my TV, as compared to the barage of nonsense in the form of ‘family soaps’!

But what I found rather unsatisfactory about the programme was the ‘action items’.

The first two episodes have followed identical patterns. Aamir writes a petition to the government, Invites people to send SMSes to support the cause (proceeds go to charity), he solicits charitable contributions (again, this is matched by a big corporate, who ultimately get more publicity through the show!) And ofcourse, leaves us with an impactful dialogue about ‘change has to begin with YOU this MOMENT!’ 

I think this is a great start. But having said that, doesn’t this seem too lame and Bollywood-ish?

For instance, will the written petitions TRULY impact government policy? If yes, then Aamir and team, please – take a bow!

But if not, then it becomes a farcical piling on people’s collective emotions (more of guilt than of anything else!) and meagre monetary contribution that could easily be achieved from alternate means! For example, the Rs.3 crore that Aamir is rumoured to be charging per episode! Or perhaps a portion of the money that Reliance has pumped into IPL!!

The show makes it very easy for people to ‘contribute’ by sending an SMS. ‘Female foeticide’ / ‘child abuse’ –  no problem! One little SMS saying ‘YES’, and we have done our bit! We are also rid of guilt! Guilt of what crime??! Nobody knows. 🙄 Simply send that SMS and get back to party-ing!

I’m intrigued by this new wave of ‘SMS-Charity’ culture. To be fair, it is ‘some’ contribution to society in place of ‘nothing’. Not too bad, actually. But Imho, a barrage of SMSes may not successfully bring about social change! I think we need more solid action!

Also, it will be very interesting to find out if the money raised after each show is MEASURABLE?

On another note, I have no clue why Sri Devi gets a ‘standing ovation’ from the audience???!!! She is an actress, for God’s sake! Not a humanitarian!!! If anybody deserves a standing ovation, it is the ‘victims’ who dare to come out in the open and speak about their very painful experiences!!!

Ok, I am in technically no position to criticise the show. I haven’t sent that SMS saying ‘YES’ yet. And neither have I donated any money online.

But tell you what? These are my 2 cents on how one could make this show more impactful.

1) Get those Criminals!

Don’t interview only the victims. Get hold of the perpetrators of the crime! Instead of asking the victim to describe the abuse/his emotions, focus on the abuser instead. If he refuses to appear on the show, try to catch him in a separate sting operation. And no discreet black masks for the abusers, please! Question and shame him in front of the country, so that neither he nor abusers like him continue this horrendous crime of child abuse! Talk to convicted criminals and show what sort of punishment is meted out for such crimes. Instil Fear (in the minds of potential criminals) and Hope (in the minds of victims/their families). And if the punishment isn’t sufficient, then interview the Judge who issued the ruling and find out WHY he/she did not think such gross crimes deserved more severe punishment. In short, SHAME the criminals, NOT the victims.

I have written about this in my earlier post on Aruna Shanbaug. We (media and masses) insist on shaming the victims and making their life hell, instead of grabbing the criminals and ensuring they don’t repeat their crime!

Some really strong action like this would take the show from a lame-Bollywood-entertainer to serious investigative journalism and an agent of social change!

2) Bollywood-crazy country!

We are a cricket and Bollywood-crazy nation, and we have no qualms about it! I’m sure Sri Devi increases TRPs of the show, and the organizers must need it, so the show makes complete business sense (in addition to social sense!) But for heaven’s sake, rope in some useful people on the show – police, politicians, judiciary .. invite a top Judge for example. Someone who is in a position to actually influence change in the country! Or if inviting a Bollywood celebrity, atleast get him/her to contribute say, a portion of the crores of rupees from his/her next film, to the same charity that the show is patronising!

3) Charity begins at Home!

Sending one little SMS and raising money for charity is quite creative. But honestly, charity begins at home. I would rather have Aamir try to influence the minds of the immediate audience, so they commit to something small but local, for example, sponsoring private education of their maid’s child! Or perhaps, teaching their servant-maid to read/write English. You see, these are the little things that will help our country grow.

4) Replace lifeless writ petitions with real-life commitments!

Instead of merely writing a petition to the Government, invite senior politicians to the show and hand over the petition in front of the country. In short, try to get any form of commitment in front of the public eye! It may or may not manifest in public policy change. But hey! Its worth a shot!

So people, enough of my criticism and rant. I honestly feel that the show is a great initiative, and at the risk of sounding repetitive, I would any day have this show on my TV.

But having said that, please feel free to share – what YOU would do, if YOU were producing ‘Satyameva Jayate’?

Categories
Incidents MommySpeak Thought and Reason

Reverend Father

Rev. Father

The Principal of a boys only school. He was jovial, old and respectable. The boys loved him. The parents respected him immensely. He was after all, ‘Reverend Father’.

He was kind to the boys, and insisted on meeting the friends and relatives of the boys. So every fun-fair day, or ‘fancy fete’ day, as it was called in those times, the boys would take their sisters and their friends to show them around the school. Rev. Father would call them into his room. Brightly-lit, spacious room, the shelves respectably lined with thick volumes. The children loved the room. It was, after all, the safe haven that belonged to ‘Reverend Father’.

Rev. Father would always offer the children lollipops. While the boys sat on the chair opposite the huge teak wood table, Rev.Father would call the girl over to his side. One hand would go protectively around the back of the little 6 or 7 year old child, drawing her close to him. The huge table almost hiding her, so her brother/friend could only see her neck and above. Rev.Father would stoop to the child’s level, and ask normal questions very kindly, ‘What is your name, my child?’ ‘What does your daddy do?’. You know, the sort of questions any caring, elderly person would ask!

While in the meanwhile, his right hand would creep up the little child’s thighs, get into her panty, and fiddle away, until the barrage of questions stopped. Usually, the child would remain silent. WHAT DOES A 6 YEAR OLD KNOW OR UNDERSTAND?

* First, the child is taken aback.

Second, the child is confused.

Third, the child has no escape!!

Once her turn was over, he would give her more lollipops, and wait serenely for the next child.

So this went on, until one of the kids realised SOMETHING WAS WRONG, and complained to her mother. The mother was SHOCKED. She questioned the other children’s parents. Then, she was FURIOUS.

Reverend Father had molested several little girls who had entered his room. Sadly, some of the boys even KNEW ABOUT IT, and despite that, they went ahead and brought their unsuspecting friends to him.

And then what?

Well, what do you expect? A Bolly-wood style Morcha? A protest or a people’s movement against the sick Rev.Father? A formal complaint against him, after which he was thrown out from his post, or probably even imprisoned and punished?

Ha! HA! HA!

Nothing happened.

It was best to keep quiet. Nobody would believe it. Nobody would talk about it. He was above all this. It was a respectable colony. A respectable school. A calm and wonderful neighbourhood. All that was not to be sullied. It was best to keep quiet, and avoid the sleazy old man.

He was, afterall, ‘REVEREND FATHER’. 

IF YOU THINK SOMETHING IS WRONG , FIGHT IT

This happened two decades ago.

I wonder, had this happened today, will our reaction be any different?

Will we fight child abuse? Will we take up the issue with other parents, will we protest against such molestors? Will we put any effort to get such perverts punished?

Or will we, as always, simply ‘hush’ it?!!!!

To read more about Child Abuse Awareness, please head over here.

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55-er Short story

Sparkling eyes – 55 word fiction

Pick-up time. The children chattered excitedly, as rains lashed.

A little girl quietly waited for Nanny.

‘Sofia!’

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….

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Incidents MommySpeak Thought and Reason

A song – grab some tissues please!

This is one song you simply CANNOT watch without crying your heart out!!

‘Maa’ from ‘Taare Zameen Par’ is one of the BEST songs ever, and this movie itself is a GEM!! Kudos to Aamir for making this. Who said Bollywood is about sex and violence only?! One cannot sing this without a quiver in his/her voice. One cannot even listen to the entire song without the eyes getting filled 🙂

Heard this a thousand times, but this song NEVER EVER fails to wrench my heart.

I feel so sorry for mother who has to send her child away to a boarding school. I was never a mushy-mushy person, children would never run to me, and I had no clue as to how to cuddle / pamper little babies/toddlers. But after my Brat arrived, it has quite changed. I am still very ‘touch-me-not’ but my Life lives outside me now 🙂 So for a mother, having to separate from her child is really the most challenging thing ever!

I feel worse for that innocent and vulnerable little boy who is sent away from his family. I can imagine the insecurity and sorrow of the child, who must think ‘he is to blame’ or ‘there’s a problem with HIM’ when in reality it is the family who is not able to help him enough while keeping him with them! Lucky, that this child lived in Bollywood. Where there IS a happy ending. God help all those kids who live in the REAL world.

I am glad my parents never had thoughts of sending me to a boarding school. All the same, I am equally grateful they allowed me to fly away to hostel when I was old enough.

So for everything they have done, and not done… here’s to my wonderful parents 🙂

(And to my younger Sis too, as she will kill me if she doesn’t see her name here 😉 )

Btw, I also like this video, where real life mums and children get emotional after hearing the song. And I have to say Aditya looks darn cute with those glasses 😉

And if any of you is feeling senti or sad after watching the above videos, then take a look at this and perk up 🙂

Cheers..

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55-er MommySpeak Short story

Un-forgiven (55-er)

‘Why do you hate her, Sumi?’

My new bride kept silent.

‘Did she abuse you in any way?’

She looked down.

‘What IS the problem with your mum?’

A tear drop rolled off her beautiful kohl-lined eyes.

‘Problem is…

Same spirit, same zest, same frustrations…

I see myself in her.

And I cannot stand it!’

Categories
Incidents Thought and Reason

Change our National song

Firstly, for those of you who think ‘Jana Gana Mana…’ is India’s national song – ‘No, it is not. That is our national anthem!’. Our national song is ‘Vande Mataram’. 

Today, I was trying to teach my son ‘Vande Mataram’. I am rather embarassed that I didn’t know the full text myself, so I played it from Youtube. It sounded so beautiful.

Then, I looked up the translation from Wiki. It was astounding too. Just pasting the first stanza here:

My obeisance to Mother India!
With flowing beneficial waters

Filled with choicest fruits
With Sandal scented winds
Green with the harvest
O mother! My obeisance to you!
Ecstatic moonlit nights
The plants blooming with flowers
Sweet speaker of sweet languages
Fount of blessings,
Mother, I salute you!

Isn’t this beautiful? I mean, a beautiful bunch of words? This is poetry at its best. It made me weep. Weep, BECAUSE THIS IS NOT THE INDIA OF TODAY. Our national song only rings HOLLOW.

India is not rich, not beautiful, not pristine, not amazing.

India does not have flowing, beneficial waters. We only have fights between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka over common waters.

India does not have sandal scented winds. We only had a solitary Veerappan hiding in the sandal forests, while goons disguised as politicians loot our country.

Ecstatic moonlit nights indeed – a two-year old girl gets raped at night. Well done!

Sweet speaker of sweet languages – Of course. The kerala chief minister uses the choicest of languages while talking about a martry’s family.

Mother, I salute you – Sure! We salute you, and we molest your more modern daughters.

This is the India of today. A country, full of perverts, morons and fanatics.

We cannot change our country. But we can change our national song, right?

We need a song that resounds with themes like child abuse, sexual assault, ethnic clashes, political quagmires, poverty, inequality.

Perhaps a westernised Bollywood song like the one from Slumdog Millionarie would do the trick. Portray the real India, and show a bleak ray of hope for the future.

Mebbe we should make ‘Jai Ho’ our national song.  Mebbe comedians like Raj Thackeray and Nirmala Venkatesh could replace Dev Patel and Frieda Pinto, to give it a more realistic and authentic touch.

Jai Ho!!