There’s so much to love, so much to hate,
The satisfaction from beaches, scorching sunshine and Coke….. guess the State?
Stubby little fingers feeding pigeons perched on a loft beneath the window sill.
The rotund pushing the frail aside; how she wished she could feed them all.
Her mother calls and she scurries, across the terrace that singed her bare feet.
She plows into a massive form and yet she cannot wait or stall.
Mother hands a note that says ‘pint of milk’ with a rupee and sends her off.
Papers dancing in trifling whirl winds, open drains with paper boats.
Cycle skidding in the dust, hawker selling sullied ice cream cones,
And when a scarce car whooshes by,
The urchins race across to break their bones.
The counter-top at general store is too high;
The peddler smiles at enormous eyes and knows their name.
He hands the change and while she gawks;
At neat stacks of jars with soggy biscuits and lollipops;
He wonders if she ever talks.
She flits back home, she hands the change.
Twenty years subsequent, she gazes at buildings with a hundred floors, watching the sun skim windows on building tops.
Still haunted by native dust and smelly alleys, lazy street dogs and broken kites;
Insufferably longing for soggy biscuits and lollipops.
Neil – Is there anything edible in here? I’m bored and can’t go near the fridge, mom is writing this blog on healthy eating.
Avi – Yep you don’t wanna get caught…just eat some popcorn that’s under the couch.
Neil – The roaches have got to that.
Avi – How about the muffin behind the TV?
Neil – Nah..the rat stole it.
Avi – Eat my chocolate cake.
Neil – You do know there are ants in that, right? What else can I do?
Avi – You can do one thing…. call pest control.
Neil – That’s it, I’m going to steal something from fridge. If I get caught I’ll say I’m helping finish all the junk food before we start our healthy eating program.
If you want to feel good on a lousy day, pull up an old album with pictures from when you looked like you were choking on a bone while wearing your grandma’s drapes. “Wow didn’t I turn into a butterfly!” you think….see it works every time. Better yet, look at your siblings and then get them on the phone to make fun of how dorky they looked back then.
Thanks to a 10/10 tailor shop called “Perfact Darzi” (Perfect Tailor) owned by a 100 year old guy, we wore dresses that lasted 10 years. At the awkward age of 11 when store bought frocks stopped fitting, my mother started insisting I should wear tailor-made dresses. “But I don’t wanna grow up” I scream. She dragged me to Parfact Darzi anyway.
Now for the nightmare. Time for the fitting. The tailor brought his tape and asked me to stand straight with my arms raised. I cursed him in my mind. There were 10 other people gawking at me from the shop front. He hastily read out some measures to his assistant. He was not supposed to touch me so the inches he read were off by 2. The skirt was 4 inches below the knee. “I want it shorter” I yell. “No baby girl, good girls must wear this long” he calmly retorts. The cloth that was turning into my dress was a piece of 100 yard wallpaper print fabric that is going to be shared by all my siblings and cousins. And it gets better- we will take a family photograph that I will look at after 20 years and get a good laugh.
Hey at least the 2 inches plus on the bust line was flattering for the benefit of the audience at the tailor shop.
I did not get to say NO, does that mean I wanted it. I did not know how to understand what happened, does that mean it did not happen, or that I am misunderstood.
Society has come a long way since my generation was younger. I am not here to blog on how molesters, especially child molesters are not getting enough punishment. There are thousands of advocates for that I am sure. I am here to talk to the good people. The ones that are sick are not getting cured by reading a blog.
I have come a long way from a small town I grew up in India. Long way to freedom, stability and security….however, I know there are thousands of stories of little girls and boys that are untold. Stories of unwanted touching in trains, buses, homes. Stories that resonate with victims who went unnoticed for the sheer fear of stigma. What is this stigma, in the mind of a 9-year old?
The stigma of having rattled an adult, of having rocked a boat, of declaring themselves as a sex object. There is an inherent bias in society that decent kids are not meant to know, express and communicate about sexuality. It is considered modest to not publicly display affection. Social media is considered the savage here, not the neighbor, or the cousin living right under the parents’ noses.
How do you make these kids speak up? Guardians, please teach your kids that it is ok to talk about sexuality, abuse and other uncomfortable topics. That their feeling of guilt is misplaced.
Now, let’s get to what happens when a victim does speak up. Responses such as – “The child has a very active imagination.” “Just look at the short top she wore, it wouldn’t have happened but for that” are ignorant and totally unfair. Girls are stowed away at home and sent out only in the company of a male protector, just like jewelry is put in a safe. For parents who dare to give freedom to their children, there is a constant, nagging fear. How many predators are they going to protect them from? And why is this problem not getting fixed in India?
Do you really think people in countries, with lesser crime rates are all born as better human beings? Not really. People behave when they fear the law, when victims speak up, when there is an awareness in the society. Not to forget to mention the other end of the spectrum, where women abuse the laws that are already skewed in their favor. This makes the necessity of proof vital. Thereby, the onus on the real victims of such crimes is manifold. The wrong escapes by complicating the system with red tape and corruption. The right gets buried under the burden of scrutiny.
Let us not raise children, who grew up strong healing from their traumas, but those that are brave enough to fight their demons, right when they face them.