“Dear Daddy, I will be born a girl”: A Cautionary Tale From An Unborn Child To Her Daddy

This post was first published in Women’s Web.

#Dear Daddy is a moving video created by Care Norway, the Norwegian branch of charity Care International that will shake you from within. It highlights how casual sexist jokes, remarks and name-calling by men contributes exponentially to the culture of violence against women.

This video is a call out to all dads and would-be dads to address disrespectful behaviour towards women by their children and peers.

According to the World Health Organisation, it is estimated that 1 in 3 women worldwide experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime and this is what is highlighted in this video.

The five-minute film is a powerful narration by an unborn daughter to her daddy about the harsh realities of life that she would be facing when she grows up. From the so-called ‘harmless cat-calls’ to ‘sexual innuendos’ to ‘rape’ and ‘domestic violence’, the video lists all the possible and horrific things that women endure throughout their lifetime at the hands of men.

The video calls out to all men around the world to bring in a systemic change and nip misogynist culture in the bud. And that change should start with not accepting any kind of abuse towards women, whether physical or verbal or just an assuming “joke” with friends.

Image: You Tube

Goodbye Scoobs

scooby

“I used to believe in forever but forever is too good to be true”

Animals know better than most that the best things in life really are free and Scooby or Scoobs (I loved to call him by that name) was no different.

Today Scoobs was put to sleep. He was very old and had been suffering from a malignant brain tumour for quite sometime now. Given his old age it was inoperable and hence incurable.

The last time we went to India, we could see how sick he was with the tumour growing by the day resulting in a complete shut down of his left eye. As the devil grew it slowly took control of the other eye too.

Today our Scooby was relieved of all the pain that he had to endure. He was put to sleep. Baba said he was calm, didn’t budge a bit as the needle pierced into him. He passed away in his sleep, contended.

He is buried in the back garden. A lovely red rose plant planted on top of him.

If you own a dog or any pet, for that matter, you have to accept that you will outlive them. It hurts, but you have to let them go.

We will miss you Scoobs everyday of our lives. Yet in spite of the void that has been left behind, we are glad that you are no more in pain.

Rest In Peace.

 

“Because The Rolling Stone Gather’s No Moss”

I loathed even the thought of going to the hospital. The air always rife with the stench of antiseptics, people with grim and sombre faces moving around in a state of being stretched tight mentally. It gave me the perpetual creeps. But the top contender of hereditary ailments passed down generations in ‘S’s family had struck one fine evening. I had witnessed many of his relatives go down battling their way against this faceless monster. It felt as though an ominous bank of dark clouds had suddenly gripped my unsuspecting mind when ‘S’ complained of a pain on the left side of his chest. The feeling was quite stifling and I didn’t want to take any chances. So the next day we booked an appointment with the GP and headed straight to meet our health commitments.

We had barely made it into the reception area when a beaming young nurse in her spotless light blue hospital uniform barged in and called out ‘S’s’ name. As ‘S’ foundered clumsily to raise his hand up in the air in acknowledgement, I threw him a weary look and let out a sigh of disappointment cursing him silently under the breath. He is always late for appointments especially the ones that are medical in nature. The nurse immediately gestured him to follow suit, and ushered him into the ‘Doctor’s Room’.

As I watched ‘S’ wading through the jam packed reception area and disappear behind the doors of the ‘Doctor’s Room’, I digged into my bag; pulled out the earphones and the e-reader, slid a bit forward on the chair, made a comfortable trajectory with the back rest and started reading.

Half way into my book, I looked up to scan through the ever increasing crowd around me. Howsoever I detested a visit to the hospital, a congregation of people always fascinated me. These are excellent places to pick characters and dialogues for your stories especially if you are an aspiring writer. So I closed my e-reader and started looking at the people around me; observing them; eavesdropping on their conversations and trying to spot characters for the story that I intended to finish for quite some time now.

There is something about a wait, it seems endless. People try all sorts of positions, shift places, check their watches every minute, in an attempt to shorten it, yet the wait goes on, unperturbed and seamless. It’s amusing to see how in our oh-so-ever busy lives, just stopping for a while makes us so restless; even if that stopping means gallons for our own health.

I watched her as she slowly tried to make her way through the sea of impatient people. Her hands were shaking, legs trembling and there was an unfading forlorn look on her face. She meandered slowly through the crowd to the reception bay which read ‘Hjerte Patient Afdeling’ in bright red. Her walking aid would occasionally clamber up on someone’s ankle or bump into someone’s posterior. She would apologise immediately for her mistake, flashing a warm sunny smile.

She finally made it to the desk, where a lady with blonde hair and wheatish skin, flaunting a sparkling silver ‘Christiain Dior’ sports watch sat, busy talking to someone on the phone. Must be an angry enquirer on the other side for her face was all flushed up!

As the ‘lady behind the desk’ finally placed the receiver back, ‘my old lady’ murmured her query; her frail voice lost amidst the swelling voices of the crowd. I watched her as she repeated her question. The ‘lady behind the desk’ heard her this time, answered it and gestured her to take a seat handing over the token.

She turned around to find herself a place to sit. My eyes scanned in toto. Unfortunately the place was teeming with so many people that you should consider yourself lucky to find a place to stand, leave alone a place to sit. I watched her as she looked around once more in desperation and suddenly the waves of guilt drowned me. Although I was reluctant to let go of my chair because the sole electricity points that matched the pins on my charger were right behind it; but somewhere my conscience beckoned me and I obliged.

She saw me get up, smiled in gratification and budged towards me. With my place taken and ‘S’ nowhere to be seen, I assumed that it will be a long wait. So I sat down beside the old lady, re-plugged my earphones and resumed my read.

Through the corner of my eye I could see two hands frantically criss-crossing. As I followed the hands I saw that it was the old lady who was making futile attempts in catching my attention. So I quickly removed my ear-phones.

“I am sorry I took your place,” she said in her frail voice.

Her apology drowned me in shame, once more.

“Never mind,” I said. “I am sorry; I shouldn’t have taken the seat in the first place. But my mobile phone had conked off and I wanted to charge it a bit.”

We chatted for some-time. She was particularly curious of my presence in the ‘Cardiology Department’ since I was young. I told her that I had accompanied my husband for a cardio check-up because he had a family history of heart diseases and he was complaining of a chest pain last evening.

“Even I have a daughter,” her voice pepping up as I told her about mine.

She told me that her daughter works in the Danish Labour Market; and her office was in Copenhagen where she lived with her husband and a 5 year old daughter. The old lady had lost her husband 2 years ago following which she had shifted to a senior citizen home, about 3 hours from Copenhagen.

“Why don’t you live with your daughter and her family?” I enquired curiously.

“Oh no-no,” she said her face flushed in exasperation on my proposal. “She has her own life and her own family. They come to visit me every month though. Moreover I can very much live on my own and fend for my living. I have worked for most of my life and the pension money sustains my daily needs,” she said proudly.

Realising that my honest concern might have offended her amour propre, I immediately swung to the damage control mode.

“I am sorry if I have offended you which definitely wasn’t my intention at all,” I said. “I come from a country where taking care of your aging parents comes naturally,” I continued. “We don’t wait for our parents to ring us and tell us to come over; we do it anyway. Most of our parents are financially independent; they can take care of themselves and might not be dependent on their children. However, the presence of the children when they are in the hospital is a moral reinforcement for them if not anything else. It doesn’t matter who pays the bills finally, the presence is what matters.”

She seemed to comprehend the point I was trying to make here. “Copenhagen is too far dear and I have to visit the hospital atleast twice a week for a check-up,” she said.

“But isn’t it her duty to take the day off and accompany you to the GP?” I retorted.

“I like it this way dear,” she said. “I like doing my own chores, doing my doctor’s visits, carrying my own groceries, sending my mails and helping myself to a glass of red-wine once in 3 days. It gives me the feeling of empowerment as well as spares me the guilt of becoming a burden on someone. My husband was bedridden for 7 years before he passed away and there wasn’t a day when he didn’t regret it and felt sorry for me. He was an athlete all his life, a national level triathlons champion, never skipped a day of run in the hope of remaining fit throughout his life. Yet he became paralysed waist down following a lethal stroke and was completely dependent on me. I know I won’t be able to continue for long on my own this way but I want to carry on, and enjoy my independence for as long as I can because ‘A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss’”, she finally said and got up.

Her token number was still flashing on the overhead display as I caught ‘S’ finally emerging out from behind the ‘Doctor’s Room’ doors as ‘my old lady’ dissapeared behind the same, with the beaming nurse in tow and her final words still ringing in my ears.

Life’s Scars

Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.

—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

When little James walked into the huge gymnasium of his school little did he know what laid ahead of him; an experience so traumatising and a personality so daunting and intimidating that he would not be able to speak about it for years. What he also didn’t know is that he wasn’t the only one who would be put through this hell; many before him and scores after him will lead a similar life; lives that are scarred for a lifetime.

Sexual Exploitation is the most heinous crime in the entire criminology list and when it comes to physically abusing and mentally torturing a child, the crime attains a whole new level. A young fragile mind is put through a process where it does not know what it is going through, and then constantly manipulated by the molester for not speaking about it and thus being complicit in the abuse. Child abuse and women molestation are heterogeneous in form but homogenous in nature; in both the cases the abuser torments the victims with his reprehensible actions and the victims are scarred for life, both physically and mentally.

As children and people who have been exploited and abused sexually as a child have decided to break open the cocoon of shame and secrecy, there has been a tsunami of child abuse cases that have bubbled to the surface. As the lid is taken off we witness how endemic the disease is; a disease whose roots are not limited to a particular country, region, ethnicity or religion. In Britain alone an estimated of 70,000 cases of child abuse has been registered; an increase of nearly 88%. There are places in the UK where little underage girls are hoarded into the sex trade by force, deception and manipulation. For them it is a one way ticket; exit is not an option. In the city of Thane in India 141 cases of child abuse were reported in the month of June alone. In the state of Kerala, 1375 cases of child abuse were registered in the year 2014. The national capital, New Delhi, has been dubbed as the most vulnerable place for child abuse in the country. Approximately 8 cases are reported every day in the city in the last two years and about 6816 cases were registered cases from November 2012 till March 2015. In New Zealand, Children Homes which are meant to provide safe heaven and shelter for the innocent souls are the breeding grounds infested with the opportunistic vultures ready to pounce on the most vulnerable ones.

The weeding problem is now in the open. More cases are being reported and more people are shedding the blanket of shame and coming out in the open to speak about it. Yet although there has been a significant increase in the number of registered child abuse cases from all over the world, so has been the increase in the incidents. The reporting of the cases has not proved as a deterrent for the pedophilic men at work hawking and targeting potential vulnerable victims for abuse. These savages are seldom caught and if they are then they have an abysmal conviction rate. The reason for this deplorable conviction rate lies in the manner in which this crime is committed. Often the abuser traumatises the puerile mind when it is not in a position to contemplate what is happening to the body. More often than not the abuser is someone who is known to the victim. So when the pedophiles say to their victims, as they all do in one form or another, “If you ever speak about this, unimaginably bad things will happen to you”, what they are doing is perhaps on one level even worse than the physical act of abuse itself. They are manipulating their victims into being complicit in the abuse; forcing the victim to take responsibility for protecting the abuser. This means that every time you smile, shake hands, speak with and act normally in front of the abuser; as you must, because he is your teacher, father, uncle, brother, friend or priest; you become a little bit more complicit. It is the most toxic and vile form of manipulation possible. And adding to the misery is that ingrained and very real fear that ‘if you speak out, then the world will end’ takes hold of you at a cellular level and rarely, if ever, leaves.

The little James is now James Rhodes, a renowned concert pianist based out of London. Very recently he wrote a book, ‘Instrumental’, based on his tormenting memorabilia of sexual exploitation in the hands of his gym teacher. He narrates in the book how his teacher molested him as a pre-pubescent boy relentlessly over a period of five years; and how good he was in ensuring that little James doesn’t speak about it for years. There was even a stage where James wanted to commit suicide because of his constant abuse and his inability to say anything to anyone about his incessant agony. He slipped into depression and tried to commit suicide multiple times. He was hospitalised a number of times and the hospital authorities ensured that nothing which might be of potential danger to his life would be there in his room. Then one day a close friend of James smuggled an IPod Nano for him. That day James found refuge in music. As he listened to the melody by Glenn Gould, a renowned Canadian pianist who interpreted the keyboard music of Johann Sebastian Bach, James realised that if something so good does exists in the world then is death the only option left for him to grab. So when the ghosts of the past tormented James, James found sanctuary in the 88 keys of the piano, letting the voices and the time disappear. It was the period of solace where he could just switch off and float with the music.

The question now arises how do we protect our children from these scavengers? A recent video on You Tube showed how despite constant tutoring, monitoring and educating small children how quickly they can be molded into undressing in front of complete strangers; how gullible and innocent their minds are; how easily they trust people; people who might tarnish the way they look at the world through their unsuspecting eyes. As parents we might be successful in protecting our kids from predators outside our homes; but we hit the wall when it comes to protecting them from predators who are present inside our homes; people whom we know, people whom our children know; that unguarded beast to whom our children are the most vulnerable. The best way is definitely sensitisation to good and bad touch. But again this isn’t the fool proof method. I think listening to your child when he/she is trying to say something about someone, whether in school or at home, is the best plausible solution. Yes most of the times they won’t understand what is happening to them but I think one thing they do understand is whether they like what is happening to them or with them or they dislike it. Talking to your child instead of dismissing him/her under the pretext of childish behaviour will be like pushing him further into the rabbit’s hole. Trusting your child is the key to his/her safety. We have to deal with this problem piece by piece before it is too late. Shunning the blanket of secrecy and talking about it is the only way to get to the root of this heinous crime; simply being heard is one of the most effective ways of diminishing the shame and allowing the victim to move on.