All is not well in my old-world mosaic-tiled building with the mango tree.
A little while ago, while I was tucking Re in with a lullaby, I heard thumping from downstairs. A few seconds later, I heard a boy sobbing. And soon the sobs got louder and the thumps stronger. I dashed out to my balcony and was horrified by what I saw. A man in my very own building who lived in the ground floor of the opposite wing was beating his son.
I don’t know which half of me was more enraged — the mother or the journalist. I charged downstairs like a Jhansi Ki Rani, ran across to the other wing and still panting, interrupted the bashing with a “What do you think you are doing?” from across his balcony grill.
The man, threw a plastic bat in disgust, missing the boy and slunk in. Someone who evidently was his wife charged out. The boy was still slumped in a corner of the balcony, the sobs now softer, but palpable.
“What is the problem?” she asked.
“You seem to be the problem. You are beating your child!” I managed to say.
“Yes, but we are doing it in our house, in our balcony. What is your problem?, ” she asked.
“My problem is that this is no way to treat a child and that you can be reported.”
“I didn’t know we lived in America. We don’t believe in keeping the child on our head and then getting treated badly when he grows up. And he is not a child. He is nine years old. He was back-answering his father, so he has every right to beat him!”
“I hope you know your child has rights too,” I said.
“O come on, you modern mothers! You have no idea how your children will take advantage of you. All this American philosophy is all nonsense. You just wait and see.”
I left before she finished. I had nothing to say to her. I knew what I had to do. And may be you should too. Because none of us are really exempt from seeing such things around us. You will see it everywhere. At the super market. At the park. At the mall. Sometimes overt. Usually covert. But children still bear the brunt of abusive parents in this day and age.
If you ever see something like this, do call 1098. It’s an NGO called Childline that works for child rights. There will most likely be a branch in your city. They have social workers who intervene. They might initiate counselling or anger management therapies for the parents. But they make sure they do something to make sure the parent doesn’t think this is normal and can get away with it.
Because no child is ever old enough to be beaten. And if that makes me American, well, so be it!