Scars on Young Minds

Scars on Young Minds

It is shocking and unbelievable to hear about the murder of a little seven year old kid in Gurugram for whatever absurd reason that may come forth. Accounts of violence with children and girls just seem to be going up and there doesn’t seem to be anything stopping them. One often wonders as to, how has the society landed itself in this mess? The society is ‘feeding’ on its own children. I thought that only male snakes ate their own eggs. What are we now?

I have often read that it takes a village to raise a child. The wisdom shines in stark contrast to current state of tenuous social fabric which we have created. Regular broadcasting of ugly incidents terrorize the minds of parents, children and the society at large. When you cannot trust a well meaning neighbor, a house staff or worse, school staff which is immediate world around you, the concept of trusting even marginally, a larger set of people is non-existent. We live in these urban jungles which are getting uglier by the day. Young children who have to be more alert (due to parent’s preventive instruction) about people, places, uncles and aunts around them, good touch – bad touch, what will they mature into? Transactional adults?

This is unbelievable. Let me contrast this with one of my very early childhood experiences. When the only thing I feared was darkness which I conquered later.

I might have been in grade two or three, dont remember well. One summer, instead of going to our village for the summer vacation, as was the practice, my grandfather asked my father to let me stay with him for a few days. He worked in state transport department and was posted in a remote town. My father while returning from a family wedding dropped me at the said location. This was a small town though I never saw any houses as maybe he lived on the ourskirts. My grandfather’s office was in the neighboring town but his allotted house was in this town. He was a sincere and honest government servant who later rose to the top job on his merit. He would get up early and rush to work. On day one, he took me along to the food place which was a dhaba. There was a small government bus ticket counter beside the dhabba, just bigger than a pan shop in size. He ate at the dhaba and also took stock of the daily sales. The dhaba served great food and I was excited on the first day. Then he dropped me home and went off to his office in the neighboring town, an hour or so away. After 2-3 days, when I was a little familiar with the place, he would get up and go to office early. You see, work came first. Since, I got up late, I had to go to the dhaba on my own, which meant a 10 min walk from the house. This place was beside a national highway and had trucks going up and down at full speed all day long. I don’t remember any houses or people along the road. I used to get depressed seeing animals hit by these trucks on a daily basis. I would walk slowly to the place, would pick a seat somewhere, sit there quietly, get served, eat my food in silence, sit there for some more time as I had nothing better to do back home and then return back as absentmindedly as possible. Then I would sit out on the steps for the rest of the day and wait for my grandfather to return. I would have done this for a few days and got bored quickly. So to keep me engaged, over the next few days, my grandfather took me along on his inspection trip. We would move from location to location, stop after stop, someone would come up with the account book and he would look them up. As I sat beside him, I looked at them too. They all showed losses, consistently and I used to be horrified. I kept waiting for that one book which would show a profit. Finally, I asked him, “why are you running these buses, they are all making losses”. To which, he smilingly and thoughtfully replied, “how will people travel otherwise”. I didn’t understand the concept of public good then. Since, this was my first time away from the protective fold of my father so all was a little unsettling for me but the images are vivid till now. Finally, it was time to send me home as my school was to reopen soon.

So one afternoon, he handed me over to a conductor with my luggage and asked him to hand me over to my father. This was an overnight bus. I gladly sat in the bus at the thought of going home. I don’t remember much except when it got dark. There were only 4-5 passengers in the bus, mostly at the back, the conductor and the driver. I again wondered, why grandpa was running these empty buses at all. After some time, I must have dozed off. The conductor woke me up in the middle of the night. The bus had stopped for food. He wanted me to get down. I came from a reserved family so we didn’t talk much with people we didn’t know. Instructions, you see. I went out. It must have been a favourite food place for the bus team, otherwise there was no reason to stop there. There was no one there. A few empty benches, a half drowsy man behind the furnace, who put a bowl of rice and fish in front of me. To the conductor’s dismay, I informed him that I did not eat non-veg. He was stressed as there was nothing else. And I was hungry. But I assured him that that he need not worry. “I will eat at home”. Then I went back to the dark bus, illuminated slightly with the little light from the single bulb in the dhaba, waiting for the few people to get back on quickly. I didn’t sleep all night after that because of the darkness. The next thing I remember was, the conductor handing me over to my father. I was happy to be home.

Can today’s children travel and live this fearlessly. Can parents stop overlooking their shoulders? In the current context, people would choose schools more for safety than the quality of education as both dont seem to be running in parallel any more, as a given.

The environments during the growth years shape kids for maybe, their entire life. The current scenario also reminds me of a scene in the movie ‘zakhm’ where the actress tells the protagonist that she feels that the environment wasn’t safe to bring up kids. At that point it time, I found the logic absurd. But it is time to rethink. To take corrective steps in time and to weave a preventive stable web.