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Baby Sat-Her-Day

27

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.

“You Madrasi’s are clever”

Madrasi

It was a warm January afternoon in Colaba, Mumbai in 2012. I had to catch a flight back home and waved at a taxi which was a yellow/black rickety model of Premier Padmini. I fixed the fare beforehand so that I take my mind off the Taxi Meter and enjoy the ride. I was relishing the sights and sounds of a noisy Mumbai when the driver broke into my opera. “Sir! Which flight?” he asked in Hindi. I told him its to Bangalore to which he remarked “Madrasi?” (colonial reference to a person from South India) and I chuckled that the jargon ‘Madrasi’ is still in existence.

He said that he too had once taken a flight to Lucknow during a family emergency. Slowly the conversation started flowing into a torrent of topics like village v/s city, education, traffic, ‘secular’ politics in UP(it was still ‘secular’ politics back in 2012). The conversation torrent in contrast to the traffic snarling outside the car window. He also mentioned that he had stopped studying after high school and started driving cars. But after being in Mumbai for past 15 years he is making sure that both his kids get a good English education in a private school. Living in Mumbai, it had dawned upon him that education is what matters most to get ahead in life and he made sure that his kids don’t miss out like he did. 

Then he made the comment “You Madrasi’s are clever sir!”. I was stumped at the same time curious about his remark. I asked him “Why do you say so?”. To which he answered “20-30 years ago your parents realized the importance of education and that’s the reason you are sitting at the back and my parents didn’t hence I am in the front“.