Thursday, May 12, 2011


I came across this article last night:
The mother's attitude is disturbing. I find it even more disturbing because it made me question what I had done a few years ago.

One time, I was in charge of a little girl, Joyce, who was making sand castles on Juhu beach. A boy, not much older than her, came by and kicked down the castle. I held him back and he started laughing loudly. Joyce, I suppose, thought that it was part of some game and chortled too. The boy's parents were eating roasted peanuts close by and smiled benignly. I didn't like what had happened but since no-one was hurt and Joyce was happy, I thought it was all okay.

The children started playing together. I went back to my book and the other parents, to their conversation. A second later, I saw that boy hitting Joyce again. Hard. I ran up to him, held back his hand and asked his parents to intervene. His father laughed and said that he was just being a boisterous boy. Joyce looked at me confused.

For a while, they played separately. Then they got back together again. The boy had found a deflated balloon and he wanted to share the treasure with his new friend. By now, I had realized that going back to the book was not an option. This boy could do some serious damage. I was already so angry that I'd decided that if the boy hit Joyce again, I would go up and slap his father. Three years ago, I was capable of that kind of anger.

Sure enough, the boy had started getting restless. The parents were laughing and egging him on to dig the sand faster or something. I think the kids were competing on who'd dig a bigger hole. There was only one spade and for some reason, niether child was using it. I knew that it was a matter of time before Joyce would reach for it. Maybe the boy would hit her again then.

So I went up to her, looked at her and the boy's parents and said loudly, "If he hits you again, you hit him back." There was something in the way I'd spoken that was so menacing. I didn't even recognize my own voice then. Joyce looked at me, blank. The boy hadn't heard me. But the boy's parents had finally sensed something. They stopped chatting and laughing and kept looking at me. I could have deflected the situation right there. I could have smiled and laughed it off. I could have said, "Just joking..." But I didn't. I kept staring at them.

Just then, the boy started yelling that he wanted to take the spade. His parents, simply got up, dusted off sand from their seats and dragged their son away.

Many times I have wondered if my reaction was not excessive. I wondered if at moment, had I not taught Joyce, a three and a half year old, to get defensive.

Years ago, I had a friend who worked in a small ad agency. His office was a small, pokey room near Bandra station, but they did some great work there. One day, he took me in to watch a social ad campaign against domestic violence.

The ad is set in a classroom with lots of little boys, around six or seven years old. It's recess and everybody's tucking into their tiffins. A group of them is pelting each other with paper balls. In the corner of this class, we see a boy eating by himself. One of these crumpled paper balls hits him. He stops eating and walks up to his 'offender'. He flicks his tie back so that it doesn't get in the way. Then he drags the other boy down and punches him fully in the face - again and again. There are tight close-ups of him hitting and I remember feeling cold at the kind of rage this child had registered. We see the other child get a bloody nose and a split lip. We see the punches continuing to rain, interspersed with the aggressor's face. Then the screen goes blank with the message: 'He's just another boy...who wants to be like his father when he grows up.'

I often wonder whether I did the right thing at the beach. But I was scared then. You never know who your child will have to protect herself against. It's best if they start young.


suneeta patnayak said...

You write exceptionally well...

mygalaxy said...

Slipped by chance into your territory, but the fmiliarity of ideas and thoughts kept me glued to it..........
what you did, many want to do but either the time slips away like a fish or the words coagulate.