The blog post is in homage to any abuse victims and more directly to parents and children being separated by policies formed by a Government whose chief is supposed to be ‘The leader of the free world’. I sat on the blog post for almost a week even though I got it proof-read by two women, Miss S and Miss K to see if there is or was anything wrongful about the post. Both the women gave me their blessings as it’s something to be shared.
I am writing this blog post writing from my house in a safe environment, having chai (tea), listening to some of my favorite songs, far from trauma some children are going through.
I have been disturbed by the news of families and especially young children being separated from their own families because of state policy. I was pretty hesitant to write this post as we are told to only share our strengths and not our weaknesses or traumas of the past. I partly want to share so people who might be on the fence of whether separating families is a good idea or not might have something more to ponder over. The blog post is not limited to the ongoing and proposed U.S. Policy called Separations but all and any situations involving young children and abuse.
The first experience was when my cousin sister and her family came to visit me and mum. We often do not get relatives or entertain them due to water shortage issues. It’s such a common such issue all over India that nobody bats an eye over, we will probably talk about it in some other blog post if need be.
The sister who came, she has two daughters. The older one knew me and mum and knew that both of us have a penchant for pulling legs but at the same time like to spoil Didi and her. All of us are foodies so we have a grand time. The younger one though was unknown and I were unknown to her. In playfulness, we said we would keep the bigger sister with us and she was afraid. She clung to her sister like anything. Even though we tried to pacify her but she wasn’t free with us till the time she was safely tucked in with her sister in the family car along with her mum and dad.
While this is a small incident, it triggered a memory kept hidden over 35+ years back. I was perhaps 4-5 years old. I was being bought up by a separated working mum who had a typical government 9-5 job. My grandparents were (mother’s side) used to try and run the household in her absence, my grandmother doing all household chores, my grandfather helping here and there, while all outside responsibilities were his.
In this, there was a task to put me in school. Mum probably talked to some of her colleagues or somebody or the other suggested St. Francis, a Catholic missionary school named after one of the many saints named Saint Francis. It is and was a school nearby. There was a young man who used to do odd-jobs around the house and was trusted by all who was a fan of ( Amitabh Bachchan) and who is/was responsible for my love for first-day first shows of his movies. A genuinely nice elderly brother kind of person with whom I have had lot of beautiful memories of childhood.
Anyways, his job was to transport me back and fro to the school which he did without fail. The trouble started for me in school, I do not know the reason till date, maybe I was a bawler or whatever, I was kept in a dark, dank toilet for a year (minus the holidays). The first time I went to the dark, foreboding place, I probably shat and vomited for which I was beaten quite a bit. I learnt that if I were sent to the dark room, I had to put my knickers somewhere top where they wouldn’t get dirty so I would not get beaten. Sometimes I was also made to clean my vomit or shit which made the whole thing more worse. I would be sent to the room regularly and sometimes beaten. The only nice remembrance I had were the last hour before school used to be over as I was taken out of the toilet, made presentable and was made to sit near the window-sill from where I could see trains running by. I dunno whether it was just the smell of free, fresh air plus seeing trains and freedom got somehow mixed and a train-lover was born.
I don’t know why I didn’t ever tell my mum or anybody else about the abuse happening with me. Most probably because the teacher may have threatened me with something or the other. Somehow the year ended and I was failed. The only thing probably mother and my grandparents saw and felt that I had grown a bit thinner.
Either due to mother’s intuition or because I had failed I was made to change schools. While I was terrified of the change because I thought there was something wrong with me and things will be worse, it was actually the opposite. While corporal punishment was still the norm, there wasn’t any abuse unlike in the school before. In the eleven years I spent in the school, there was only one time that I was given toilet duty and that too because I had done something naughty like pulling a girl’s hair or something like that, and it was one or two students next to me. Rather than clean the toilets we ended up playing with water.
I told part of my experience to mum about a year, year and half after I was in the new school half-expecting something untoward to happen as the teacher has said. The only thing I remember from that conversation was shock registering on her face. I didn’t tell her about the vomit and shit part as I was embarrassed about it. I had nightmares about it till I was in my teens when with treks and everything I understood that even darkness can be a friend, just like light is.
For the next 13 odd years till I asked her to stop checking on me, she used to come to school every few months, talk to teachers and talk with class-mates. The same happened in college till I asked her to stop checking as I used to feel embarrassed when other class-mates gossiped.
It was only years after when I began working I understood what she was doing all along. She was just making sure I was ok.
The fact that it took me 30+ years to share this story/experience with the world at large also tells that somewhere I still feel a bit scarred, on the soul.
If you are feeling any sympathy or empathy towards me, while I’m thankful for it. It would be much better served to direct it towards those who are in a precarious vulnerable situation like I was. It doesn’t matter what politics you believe in or peddle in, separating children from their parents is immoral as a being forget even a human being. Even in the animal world, we see how predators only attack those young whose fathers and mothers are not around to protect them.
As in any story/experience/tale there are lessons or takeaways that I hope most parents teach their young ones, especially Indian or Asiatic parents at large –
1. Change the rule of ‘Respect all elders and obey them no matter what’ to ‘Respect everybody including yourself’ should be taught from parents to their children. This will boost their self-confidence a bit and also be share any issues that happen with them.
2. If somebody threatens you or threatens family immediately inform us (i.e. the parents).
3. The third one is perhaps the most difficult ‘telling the truth without worrying about consequences’. In Indian families we learn about ‘secrets’ and ‘modifying truth’ from our parents and elders. That needs to somehow change.
4. Few years ago, Aamir Khan (a film actor) with people specializing in working with children talked and shared about ‘Good touch, bad touch’ as a prevention method, maybe somebody could also do something similar for such kinds of violence.