The 7-year old kid came along with her parents. She hesitantly stepped into the new house. Slowly she started exploring each room, balcony, view and smell the house had and was comparing it to the previous house I lived in. Once in a while, she remarked at a familiar object like ‘Oh I see! you have carried the fridge from the old house’.
It was an unusual Saturday. Unusual cause I had woken up at day break and was preparing for my 7-year old niece to come home. I had readied the art supplies, drawing material and some Tom and Jerry cartoon videos for my niece to be engaged with. Her parents gave her the book and toy bag and waved her good bye. My sister instructed me and my wife, ‘She hasn’t had her breakfast!’. After seeing them off, we were on to the task with Dosa (Indian pancake) in hand to feed my niece. This day it was different. For some reason she was completely conscious of her surrounding and got startled on a few occasions. I was thinking, ‘Something about her has changed. Or had it?’. The circumstances were unusual of course. It had been a month since her new term at school had begun and they had an unscheduled week off due to protests in the school. I tried to deviate her attention to the bird’s nest atop the tree near the balcony but she drew me to the topic that was bothering her.
She told ‘Do you know, a 1st grade student in our school was raped?’
In shock (of a 7-year old asking such a question), I nodded. But I didn’t know what to say to her.
The only words that came out of my mouth were ‘Do you know What’s Rape?’
She said she didn’t understand the word.
But then added that ‘Mom tells me that some teacher forcibly removed the clothes of this kid and fiddled with her body parts’ (she said this in her native tongue which I have translated to the best of my knowledge)
She went on, ‘That’s why Mom and Dad have gone to the school now to protest along with other parents’.
I just didn’t know how to proceed with the conversation and sympathized with the victim and blamed the teacher in question of such a dastard act. We then moved on to talk about other topics and she also drew a parrot in our ‘uncle-niece’ joint activity book.
When she left, the nagging question was bothering me, ‘What world are we creating for the younger generation?’. I don’t have an answer for it. Probably that’s the reason why 4000 people took to the streets on that eventful Saturday. Here’s the picture drawn by my 7-year old niece. Let this be a reminder of the innocence of these kids that we need to preserve and our responsibility as adults to create a safe and fun environment for them.