Life Lessons

Life has a funny way of throwing things back in your face.

Remember how I was telling you how I was lucky in the domestic help department? Well, I spoke too soon.

She had been nice, helpful, well-mannered, and apart from a few instances of not turning up on time, she was fine.

She asked me for an advance, and I readily gave her because it was for her child’s education. Soon after I gave her the advance, we discovered money missing. Discussing with others, we realized that she probably had a tendency of taking things. I decided to keep a watch and be extra careful, when my friend who employed her lost some gold. But that could not be proven either because my friend had terminated her and had employed a new help. She had strong reasons to suspect the older help, but it still was just a suspicion.

The final straw was when I caught her with her hands inside my wardrobe, which had my purse in it. Thankfully I caught her before she appropriated something.

I’ve let her go, but its sad to have your trust betrayed. Even more so when I’ve always treated her well, with respect, given her whatever she wants, shared the food I made. Despite all that I’ve given her, she still chose to steal. It breaks my heart, and possibly makes me a little more wary now.

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A life lost in vain

News in general, seems quite sad, but some days, it is absolutely heart breaking. To read about Savita Halappanavar’s death just because doctors in Ireland refused to perform an abortion on a foetus which had already miscarried was just heart breaking.

The sad fact that the woman’s right to life was totally ignored in the belief that the foetus had a right to life. Never mind that she had already miscarried and that the baby had no chance of survival. Makes one wonder about the laws that totally ignore the mother and the conditions that surround the request for an abortion. Makes one wonder how anybody can consider such laws fair. Especially, since Irish women have been campaigning for years to get rid of the archaic laws that control their reproductive freedom. I remember a case of a young girl, who had been pregnant as a result of rape, and had been prevented from travelling to the United Kingdom for an abortion. I don’t remember the details, but I do remember that it had been a while ago. I remember wondering how cruel can the laws be that they were ready to force that girl(a young teenager, if I remember correctly) to go through a pregnancy, which she had been forced into. Today, its so much worse. A young woman had to die – for no reason at all. Can anything justify her death? A woman, who was neither Irish nor Catholic, became a victim of the laws of the religion and the country.

Just another proof, I suppose, of how religion and it’s interpretations can lead, to lives being taken, unnecessarily. All the more proof that personal choice needs to be above religious guidelines or dictats. It never fails to amaze me that pro-choice and abortions are still election issues and debated issues in countries like the US. Why is it such a difficult thing to let the people involved decide whether they want to terminate the pregnancy or not. Health issues or not, why should religion or laws decide whether someone should or not terminate a pregnancy.

All I can say, I guess, that hopefully her death would not in vain. Hopefully, an incident like this would shake up the Irish govt and people in other countries as well, who, in their pro-life propoganda, completely forget about the mothers they might end up killing. Hopefully, one day, women will be in control of their reproductive choices and their own lives.

Doing our bit

This post has been selected for Spicy Saturdays 🙂 Thank you Smita and BlogAdda! And Uma and Shilpa for letting me know 🙂 I missed it completely!

Bangalore has in the news for the wrong reasons lately, rubbish collection being one of them.

To cut a long story short, some of the landfils that used to be used for dumping garbage have been closed and the city now has limited space to dump the garbage. Finally, pushed to a corner, the BBMP, declared that garbage needs to be segregated at source. That brought out groans from some and delight from some(like me).

In our appartment complex, segregation was already being practised. Or atleast, the association has been trying very hard to get the residents to segregate and dispose off their waste in a eco-friendly manner. Not everybody follows them, of course, but at least the processes were in place. So when the government made it mandatory, it felt great, because now, people would have to follow the rules.

But, sadly, despite all this, from the look of it, people seem to be complaining, upset about the ‘extra work’, and trying as far as possible to avoid it. To be honest, I fail to understand that. I’ve been segregating waste for a while now, and not because I was forced to do it, but because I saw the sense in doing it. Admittedly, things were easier in the UK, because the infrastructure provided for such things was better. Just before moving here, we had to throw away so many things. Usable stuff we gave away, others went to the local waste management site, where there were all sorts of bins provided. From non-recyclables, paper, cardboard, construction site waste, electronic waste to garden waste. It was wonderful. I had never thought I would say that of a waste management site, but yes, it was really wonderful. We made countless trips there, carrying loads of carefully segregated material, to be dumped at the relevant bins. And both husband and I felt good, having done what we could do. It was tiring, but fulfilling.

For everyday waste, every house is provided with it’s own non-recyclable waste bin, recyclable bin and garden waste bin, so the process, really is quite simple. I would segregate the waste, and when we step out, just pop them into the relevant bins – which would be picked up by the council, once a week, or monthly, depending on the kind of waste it is.

Despite the ease there, I still knew people who did not feel the need to segregate- because it was too much effort. Who thought that we were crazy to worry about things like landfills and environments.. I guess it is people like that here as well who really refuse to make that extra effort. We might not have fancy facilities, but the truth is that we really don’t need fancy facilities. We just need to plan where to put our waste. Some apparently claim that it is the BBMP’s responsibility to segregate the waste, after they’ve received it – because we pay some garbage tax. That kind of reasoning is beyond me. How can we expect the workers to go through the garbage and then segregate it? We find it so difficult to just put the garbage in the relevant bins, but we expect others to go through the garbage to separate it. Right. Makes so much sense, doesn’t it? And there are some who say,’But not everybody is doing it, so even if I do it, it won’t make a huge difference’. What do you even say to that? It’s funny to see how many reasons we can come up with when we don’t want to do something.

We have a water problem in the place that we live in. Water gets delivered by tankers and the quality is not the greatest. We can’t use the regular water filters, only the ones with reverse osmosis works with this kind of water. I was clueless about the whole working of the filter. After installing I realized that a lot of water gets wasted during the filtration process. I couldn’t stand the thought of letting so much water going to waste, so I catch that water and use it for watering plants, mopping, cleaning the balconies etc. It works, it is a bit of an effort, but I schedule my water filtration in such a way that I am around to catch the water in buckets. I was talking the other day with a lady who was involved with water conservation in the apartment’s association, and she was mentioning that most people just let the water go waste. We don’t have water meters in each apartment, so it’s easy to ignore the water getting wasted – after all everybody’s paying for it – not just me! As another lady said, people refuse to do anything unless everybody is forced to do it.

The concept of ‘Doing our bit’ seems to be non-existent. ‘I will do it only if my neighbour is doing it too’, seems to be the concept in operation.

Is it any surprise that our cities are in the state that they are in? When we refuse to do our bit, but expect that everything else needs to be in perfect order, clearly nothing ever will be. Because it has to start somewhere, doesn’t it? And if not in our own homes, where?

Street smart or just bad mannered..

.. is something that depends on how we view it, is something I’ve come to understand.

I’ve heard people pass judgments on NRI children for numerous faults(perceived and read) of theirs. To be honest, I am yet to meet those NRI kids who seem to be super fussy, or refuse to mix with people in India. Most of our friends kids have a wonderful time in India, just like daughter always did. All the years we lived abroad, we used to make a yearly trip to India, and had never found daughter facing any trouble fitting in. She made friends easily with her cousins, and always had a wonderful time in India. One of the reasons why it was quite easy for us to take the step of moving back to India.

A few days after we came here, we were at the apartment play ground, when some other girls came to play there. Daughter wanted to join them, so I asked her to go ahead, and try saying a ‘Hi’. She did, and much to her surprise, they saw her, heard her, and yet chose to ignore her completely. She was surprised and upset. That incident made her worry if her new school mates would be just as rude. Thankfully, she made friends with other children who had joined at the same time as her, and she was happy. She’s had company and she slowly started making new friends as well. Once in a while, I would hear of children being a little rude- and that I would ask her to ignore. There would be instances of some child telling her that she can’t join the group and other stuff like that. Which I’ve just asked her to ignore and find someone else to play with. Mostly, she’s been happy. Her friends are nice and sweet, and she feels happy around them.

Yesterday, daughter was cycling and I was walking beside her when I overheard a bunch of kids talking. They were almost ragging one of the children. There was this ‘leader’ who was leading in her taunts. She said rather unkind things to this girl, and the others followed suit. Finally, the poor kid, was almost in tears, when they started berating her for crying like a baby. Until then, I wasn’t sure if I should intervene or ignore, but something snapped in me. I couldn’t just watch them. So I walked up to them and asked them what was going on.
Immediately one of them said, ‘She’s crying for no reason’.

So I asked her, ‘Did you say anything to make her cry?’. No, came the answer, she just cries for no reason. So then I told them that I heard everything that they said, and to say the least, they had been very unkind. I also told them that if they don’t want to play with someone, that’s fine, but it is wrong to bully someone like this. I asked them to think how they would feel if someone did the same to them. Thankfully they seemed to understand and they apologized and played nicely with her the whole evening. But it made me sad to see how easily children learn this tricks of picking on people, of creating groups and leaders..

As some one was telling me, people encourage their children to be street smart, mistaking bullying behaviour for assertiveness and smartness. Being assertive is a wonderful trait in any child, but walking over others and bullying is another thing. From what I’ve seen in the few weeks that I have been here, it’s quite a common assumption that a child who is a bully is actually street smart and that is something positive.

Another friend was mentioning how her child(6 year old) was called a ‘Fool’ just because he was playing in a playground in which others were playing as well. The saddest part was that their mothers were right there, and nobody bothered to stop that child. My friend was mentioning that her son is quite sensitive and this sort of things affect him.

It really makes me wonder, just when being bad mannered and uncouth, has become a good thing, and when being street smart meant walking over others. And just as all NRI kids are not bad mannered, all Indian kids are not perfectly well-mannered either.

I’d rather have my daughter grow up gentle, assertive and standing up for the right causes – no matter which part of the world she grows up in. If she is considered non-street-smart, so be it.

Insensitivity..

and double standards..

One of the things that struck me, here, in India was the lack of sensitivity towards domestic help.

A few weeks back, my domestic help(DH) came to my door in tears. At one of the places that she works at, the lady refused to pay her the her full payment. She started the job after agreeing on a particular amount, and at the end of the month, the lady gave her 1/3rd of the amount she owed her. DH did not know what to do, she came to me in tears. I was at a loss too. I couldn’t imagine this sort of a scenario. Finally, she went back there when the husband was home and demanded her money. At that point they gave her some more and said that ‘they did not have enough money to pay her’, and would pay her in a few days. Finally they did pay her, after a few days, when she kept reminding them.

The whole drama left a bad taste in my mouth. I cannot understand well-to-do people trying to save money by not paying their domestic help. How can they even think of doing that. This lady has worked hard the whole month, only to have to fight for what is rightfully hers at the end of the month. Would we be happy if our workplaces told us that they did not have enough money to pay us? And if you can’t afford domestic help, don’t get them. But if you do, you have to pay for their services, right? It’s beyond me. What they stood to gain by not giving a poor woman her due. Saved some interest in the bank, I suppose.

In the same way, she was ill the other day. She called to let me know, so I asked her to rest. The next day, she came in looking very ill – eyes red, and clearly ill. I was shocked and asked to her to go home and rest, and not bother about doing my house. She still couldn’t go home and rest because the other places that she worked at, all wanted her to finish their work. So what if she were ill.

It really feels inhumane to me. How easily the privileges we would demand from our employers, we refuse to give to those we employ..

What the Body Remembers by Shauna Singh Baldwin

Roop, one of Bachan Singh’s two daughters, grows up without her mother. Her father, a respected however not-too-well-off a person in the village, does his best in bringing up his daughters and son.

Roop grows up believing that she is destined to a better life. When Bachan Singh gets a proposal from one of the wealthiest men in the village for his daughter, he is delighted, only to be disappointed when he realizes that it is not for one of the wealthy man’s sons. but for an already married relative of his. However, already in debt after his elder daughter’s wedding, Bachan Singh does not have much of an option but to agree. Bachan Singh might have been heavy hearted but Roop was delighted. She was convinced that she has a wonderful fate in store for her. Even becoming a second wife does not faze her. She believes that she will be a little sister to her older co-wife.

Satya, Sardarji’s wife is sophisticated, the perfect mate to the Oxford educated Sardarji. Perfect, but for the fact that she is barren. She tries hard to fight her fate, hoping that Sardarji will refuse to take a second wife, only to realize that despite his educational credentials, Sardarji is still bound by his roots. Having an heir, a son, is very important to him.

She is hit hard by the fact that the new bride has got handed all her jewellery. Everything that was hers is now Roop’s. Satya tries everything she can to ensure that Sardarji’s second marriage is ruined.

It is a touching story woven through the landscape of political landscape of unrest and eventually India’s Partition into India and Pakistan.

Roop’s initial innocence, trying hard to please everybody, believing that she and Satya would be like sisters, her compliance and her slow metamorphosis into her own person, somebody who understood that she had to fight for her rights in every way she could. She learns the ways of the world to survive, to hold on to her position, as the mother of Sardarji’s children.

Sardarji, again a complex character, educated in England, a civil engineer, outwardly a modern person, but when it came to his inner self, someone who held on to the views of his society. He tries to saddle both his worlds, wining and dining with his English colleagues, while looking down on them(just as they did him), and his life in Indian society.

Satya’s bitterness, her inability to accept her fate, trying everything she could to ensure that Roop is just a baby maker, and not Sardarji’s wife. Satya comes across as a strong person, someone who knows her rights, and tries to fight society in the way she could. A woman who argues with her husband, who refuses to be ‘sweet-sweet’ in front of her husband, a woman who believes that she is her husband’s equal.

The book is also sprinkled with instances of how underprivileged women(and girls) were in those days. At her father’s place, Roop had never tasted meat or fish – that was reserved for her brother, because the whole family’s fortune rested on him. The girls would just be married off. Roop’s unmarried aunt, who keeps planning to leave, but everybody is aware, that she will never leave.  After all, as an unmarried woman, she does not have a house of her own, to go to.

The book also deals with the way political unrest changed life as they knew it. Once Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs lived together in harmony, but with the partition looming closer, things changed, loyalties changed…Life as they knew it changed. It also reflects how Sikhs viewed the partition. While carving out countries keeping in mind the two main communities, Sikhs were the ones who were uprooted from their land and made to migrate into a new, foreign land. One stroke of the pen that made them foreigners in their own land.. A partition when one minority was almost entirely ignored…

A beautifully written story, leaves you moved, saddened, and a lot wiser. A wonderful read.

Culture Comfort Zone

Every so often, in a group here, somebody, while relishing their dinner, will remark, ‘I can’t understand how these Goras eat their bland food. They have no taste. There is nothing like Indian food’.

I call it the ‘Culture Comfort Zone’, where we believe that everything we like, or what we have grown up with is the best. And it happens to the best of us, doesn’t it? For instance, piercing of ears of young children is so common in my culture. We normally have a ceremony on the 28th day after a baby is born and if it is a girl, her ears are pierced. It is said to be easier, because the tissues are softer and apparently the child does not feel the pain, as much(we can never be sure of that, can we?). My mother had her ears pierced at the age of 8 years, and she remembers it vividly, and felt that it is much better to do it at a time when the child is less likely to remember.

Something that is common and totally acceptable in my culture might come across as horrible, and cruel to some others, who believe in letting a child decide when she is older whether or not she wants pierced ears. They might think that we are barbaric to even think of doing it to such a young child. That is again, because of the culture one has grown up in. I am so used to the concept that I did not even have second thoughts about piercing daughter’s ears.

In some cultures, a samosa is a great, delicious treat, while in others it might be fish and chips. And who is to say, that one is tastier than the other? Who is to say that I have better taste than you?

For a vegetarian, it might be unthinkable that someone could relish non-vegetarian food, while for non-vegetarians, vegetarian food might seem so uninteresting.

So many of our likes and dislikes are based on our upbringing, and the influences through our lives. Some of us love to try different cuisines and enjoy it too, while others need that comfort food. What I find difficult to understand is that blanket statement of how ‘my food is better than yours’. Of assuming that other cultures don’t know how to cook.

I know people who like only Indian food, and try to get hold of it where-ever they go, but don’t go around spouting things like, ‘Only Indian food is edible’. They find it difficult to try other cuisines, but don’t try to run them down. That, I think, is perfectly fair. Not everybody can like every cuisine, but surely, that does not mean that other cuisines are not good?

Maybe, if we remember that just as we find somethings in other cultures different, and difficult to accept, there might be things that others find totally unacceptable in our culture, we might not be so judgemental about others?

To become or not – a parent.

Yesterday, I came across this article.

It talks about how many couples seem to be opting not have children – for various reasons. While some viewpoints support the idea, there was one viewpoint that caught my eye.

But how natural or unnatural is it for a couple to not have kids? “It’s not a socio-culturally natural way of living,” says Dr Bhavna Barmi, senior clinical psychologist and marital therapist at Escorts Heart Institute, “as physiologically, the body has a child-bearing capacity which should be optimised.” 

Surely, just because the body has a ‘child-bearing capacity’ it is not necessary to have children? What about the mind? What about not wanting to have children, does that not matter at all? If we have to do everything the body is designed to, then why ‘contraception’?

The article also reminded me of a somebody who was glorifying motherhood on Facebook. She mentioned something to the effect that women will always be ‘greater’ than men because only women can be ‘mothers’. It begged the question, what about women who don’t want to be mothers? Going by this logic, the only redeeming feature women has, is the ability to become a mother!

You hear so many people glorifying motherhood, that it makes me wonder how it makes those feel who have decided for whatever reasons, to not have children. The moment the ‘expected’ amount of time goes by after one is married, the hints, the gentle reminders start on how we need to become parents, on how it is time to have a child. And god forbid, if the child does not make an appearance soon enough to make the society happy! Whether one is ready for it or not,whether one wants to become a parent or not, is besides the point. It makes me wonder how many people decide to have a baby because of these external factors.

Having a baby is treated as a fix-all in so many cases – if your marriage is not working out, have a baby, that will fix it! A friend was lamenting on a friend of hers who was literally asked to leave the house by her husband. It was arranged marriage and her husband was just not interested in being married, apparently. She had supportive parents who supported her fully, yet when she discovered that she was pregnant,  she chose to go back to her husband because she felt that a baby would change things. This despite her parents and her close friends counseling her to think before taking this step. Apparently she strongly believed that a child would make a massive difference.

It also makes me wonder why being in a relationship is considered so important, that she went back into a relationship where she was told that she was ‘unwanted’! Not just that, she even thought that bringing a child into a relationship like this was a good idea.

Haven’t we all heard of irresponsible men, of whom people say, ‘Get him married off, he will get change once responsibility comes upon him’. I don’t understand this. A person who clearly has problems, or is not mature enough to handle his life, will get mature and responsible just because he has entered a new relationship? Does it ever work? Well, it might for some, while for others the poor wife might have to bear the brunt of it.

Any relationship, be it marriage or having a child, after all being a father or a mother is starting off a whole new relationship, isn’t it, needs to thought out. Instead of going by what society dictates, wouldn’t it be wonderful if people decided based on what they wanted from life? If couples are deciding against having babies, well, more power to them. Whatever be the reason. I hear people say, ‘oh all she is bothered about is her career’, or ‘what do they think they will do with all this money’! Surely, that is their lookout. If someone wants to focus on their career – so what? And what of a homemaker, who does not want a child? Surely that is possible. I personally know someone who is a homemaker and they have decided not to have children. I think it is remarkable that they have thought it through, and have decided based on what makes sense to them. If only every child that came into this world came because the parents truly wanted to have a child, not just because that is what is expected – by others.

If couples feel that they are not ready for a child or that they do not feel the need to be parents, I respect them for having that clarity of thought, than having a child, and then feeling cheated or wishing that they had waited more.

Not having children is far better than having a child and then regretting it, or worse, not being in a position to give the child the love and security that makes for happy childhood and a secure, confident adulthood.

Boys, no? They are like that only!

Thanks Blogadda and IHM for the Spicy Pick!

There is this lady who I know. A nice lady, but she has one habit(should I call it a habit, well, whatever), that drives me a little crazy. The title of this post is one of her favourite sentences.

She is a mother of a 1.5 year old, and she keeps talking of how boys are wild, and how boys cannot be disciplined, and how it is muuuuch easier to bring up girls. I wonder on what authority she speaks, given the fact that she does not have one of each.

All this is also tempered with references to how her son is the favourite of his grandparents’ because he is their only son’s only son! That is a another story for another day.

Her husband is no better. He once told us that our daughters(another friend with a daughter was present as well), eat food outside , without any problems – because they are girls, apparently boys do not do that either!

Everything is blamed on the child being a boy. If he refuses to sit in his stroller, which by the way, there are plenty of other reasons for, it is because he is a boy – and more ‘active’!

If the child refuses to share, he is a boy after all, and he has a ‘temper’ if he is forced to do it.

Their attitude  makes me wonder how that child will turn up in a few years time. Right now, he is an adorable little thing, doing stuff which every child his age does – irrespective of gender. One time, he was playing with something, and his mother tried to take it away – and he showed his annoyance at that. I have seen loads of little children doing the same, but in this case, the parents proudly say, ‘My son has a temper!’. They actually sound proud of the fact. It is another thing that he had no temper – it was just the way most children that age would react. Even if a child does behave in an ill-tempered way, at that age(he was 8 or 9 months old), I would just ignore it, and in an older child, would probably explain to the child, that it is rude, rather than proudly gloat over it.

Another parent tells her 4 yr old, that he should not be hitting girls because they are ‘cry-babies’. So it is perfectly fine to hit or bully other children- just not girls, and that too because girls are cry babies! What are we teaching our children? And these are all educated parents. Clearly education has no chance in front of the age old discrimination between girls and boys. And not only do the believe in it, they are ensuring that their little children grow up with ideas like this in their heads. I can’t help wonder how this boy is going to react when grows up and has to work with women or even worse, report to a woman at work?

Every time I see the way some parents handle their children, it just makes me understand why so many little boys are badly behaved – they are just not taught that it is wrong to behave that way. Even when parents do scold them, it is with an indulgent smile saying, ‘how else can you expect boys to behave?’ So as the child grows up, he learns the nuances. He is free to ignore the half-hearted admonishing, because of the tone accompanying it. I feel, that even a young child can understand the tone that we speak in. When we mean business and when we do not. If we are firm, and we show them that we are ready to carry through what we say, they will listen. Maybe , not the first time, but if they get a consistent message every time, it will just be a matter of time before a child(irrespective of gender), learns what is acceptable behaviour, and what is not.

On the other hand, girls, I feel are told to ‘behave’ from the time they are little. There is another family I know who refused to cut their 3 year old’s hair because apparently she needs to know how to have long hair – after all she is a girl. She was just a 3 year old! This was not even about misbehaviour – but acceptable standards for girls! Girls misbehaving is a no-no, but boys – what can we say, they just don’t listen!

If the girls are well behaved – then it is purely because they are girls – their parents’ parenting methods have nothing to do with it, of course! Girls come programmed with good behaviour!

Long back, before we had Poohi, we had been to an party with some of husband’s old colleagues. All the couples except one had girls. The lone boy was being called the ‘Kishan Kanhaiya’ of their group. This boy, I think around 2 years of age, was going around terrorizing(hitting, grabbing toys) all the other children, while his parents looked on, smiling. I was shocked, but nobody else seemed to find that odd. Later, as time passed, I would hear gossip about how naughty that child was. People started avoiding them because their children refused to play with him. His mother had a second child – a girl, and she turned out even naughtier- throwing all their theories of boys being naughtier than girls right out of the window. She surpassed her older brother in naughtiness. She would copy everything her brother did and more. Eventually, when this little boy went to school, he would return with complaints from her teachers every single day. His parents were at their wits end, when suddenly he changed – almost overnight, he became the most well behaved boy. My friend says that people could not believe that it was the same destructive, ill-mannered child! Apparently, when he learnt that good behaviour was rewarded at school, he picked it up. This boy just needed to be guided in the right direction. Clearly, his parents had sent him all the wrong signals, he was never told, properly, about acceptable behaviour. Isn’t it sad, that a child had to learn all this at school and not at home? If you ask me, the parents are doing their children a disservice by not teaching them how to behave. Which child would want to be unpopular at school? Do parents want their children to be avoided by others?

If I had a penny for every time I hear a parent gloatingly complain about their little boy.. Ever wonder why we never hear a parent of a girl gloating about how she refuses to listen? Because I have seen badly behaved girls as well – but have just not hear heard their parents being proud about it! And what of all those well mannered boys? Are we saying that they are not boyish enough if they listen to their parents or do not go about beating people or are taught to share and play well with other children? And there are plenty of beautifully behaved boys!

While I do understand and appreciate that there are some differences in the way girls and boys behave. My little one, with no prompting from me, goes straight to the jewellery section, if she manages to catch sight of it. She loves pink, and is princess-crazy – despite my best efforts. At the same time, she recognizes the make of cars, she loves playing with trains on train track, loves to pretend at being Bob the Builder. I do think all this is a combination of environment, genes and natural aptitude.

There are boisterous boys and girls, just as there are quiet and calm, boys and girls. Why can’t we take each child as he/she is, and not as a sub sect of their gender? Yes, for sure, there are gender differences, but I do think gender has nothing to do with wild behaviour or misbehaviour. Badly behaved children or children who refuse to listen, are the way they are because of their parent’s parenting methods.  Can we please stop blaming the gender of the child for their (bad)behaviour?

When memories turn into nightmares..

Childhood memories for most of us are, cherished, special memories. Memories of a safe, and protected time.

Not so, for some. For some like Dave Pelzer, it was a different memory, the stuff nightmares are made of. I just finished reading, ‘ A man called Dave’, and like all books I read on the subject of Child Abuse, left me sad, and deeply disturbed. The one concept I can never fathom is how parents can abuse their own children, but clearly it happens and it happens much more than we would imagine.

The book itself is quite a positive, hopeful one.  Dave braves a very, very traumatic childhood. He is abused, starved, burnt by his mother in what seemed to be some sort of a ‘game’ for her. His mother used to call him ‘it’, and everything that happened to him was because ‘it’ deserved it.  He escapes when his teachers called in the authorities and he gets fostered. He grows up haunted by what he went through and with the determination to break the cycle. He is determined to never become like his mother, when he learned that children who were abused were more likely to turn into abusers themselves

He, not only overcame everything, he went on to become a wonderful father to his son, and even gave back to the community, by doing volunteer work with abused children and speaking at venues to increase the awareness around child abuse. He tries to be there for his dying father, and even tries to make sense of why his mother did everything she did, all the while, knowing what he never wanted to be.It was a very moving story of a person who overcomes his past, learns from it, and tries his best to ensure that nobody ever has to go through what he went through. He worked through a difficult marriage and when it fell apart, did everything to ensure that his son was not badly impacted by the separation. He talks about how he managed to survive on bare minimum stuff, so that he could save what he could for the times when he had his son with him. He finally finds happiness, love and contentment, a life which is a far cry from his childhood.

The book ends beautifully with a very touching conversation with his son. He talks to Stephen, his son, how things were different in that time. How parents had complete rights over children. He talks about if a parent says ‘Jump’, a child had to ask ‘How High’. Saying ‘no’ was never an option. Reading that it just makes me glad that there is more awareness today. Even if it means that in some countries parents cannot beat/smack their children. Surely disciplining a child can be done in other ways. Just as abuse can happen in so many ways. Mental abuse is just as possible, and just as harmful..and much tougher to prove.

Despite the laws, and the improve awareness, we still hear of cases like this but surely, if the laws were not there, wouldn’t things be much worse? Every time I hear of people who say that these things never happened a few years ago, I can’t help wonder if it were just that we were not aware of it. I hear people, even saying that such stuff never happens in India – how can we be so sure? Apparently we, in India, don’t even have a specific law or guidelines that could tackle child abuse. Another report says that 69% of children in India are victims of abuse, 50% being abused by someone they trust.

It scares me when I read books like this.. All we can really do is try to make our child’s childhood as happy and safe as we can – by making them aware,by letting them know about what constitutes abuse and ensuring that they always know that they can come and confide in us, irrespective of what they want to talk about..