Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Mother Dangles Her Child Over a Railing - Is This Responsible Parenting?

Deepti recounts a horrific incident at a mall in Bangalore where a mother dangled her child over the railing so the child could grab a tassle,

We were on our way down the escalator when we saw the mother dip the kid out once, twice and then by the third time the kid nearly grabbed the tassel and we had our hearts in our mouths. If you want to imagine the scene, think of the 'Michael Jackson fiasco' at close range.

Deepti and her husband exchange strong words with the parents of the child and come to near fisticuffs.
One would expect a mother to be always thinking of things that can go wrong. Parenting two active children has meant a constant flurry of keeping sharp pencils away and walking with the child on the 'safe' side of the road, besides a constant 'what-if' mode of risk assessment. The fear of heights is an atavistic instinct, and 'safe hands' do not make a reckless act any more tolerable.

And those who stood by and watched the circus were no less. It all happened in a crowded mall with lots of witnesses but we were the only ones who objected. A child could have died but no one seemed to care.
Enough to send chills down your spine.

There are many things that you shake your head at: two-wheelers with three kids, sometimes fast asleep in the back with their arms around the rider, ten kids jammed into an autorickshaw meant for three people, small kids riding in the front seats of cars, parents not knowing where their kids have gone off to play, kids running on the streets unsupervised, kids in the park not with their parents, but with their ayahs (and not because the parents are otherwise meaningfully occupied, mind you) ...

But you look at all this and no matter how much you rationalize, you get the sinking feeling sometimes that kids are in these situations not because their parents have no alternative, but because their parents have not spared a thought for the well-being and safety of their kids. If a family can afford only a bike, fine, but then can't they have an adult ride in the back to hold the child at least? Can't they postpone the journey until someone can? Is it too much to ask that the parents know where their kids are at a given point in time? Was it too much for the parents of little Sridevi to anticipate that at that hour in the morning, dogs would be roaming around and she would have trouble navigating the streets? It is not as if it was the first time that the dogs had attacked pedestrians in that area.

Sure, it is inconvenient and sometimes impractical to be there for your kids all the time, and I'll agree that it's stifling. Unfortunately, however, that is what parents sign up for when they have kids. Parenting is nothing if it's not relentless. As Deepti so eloquently rants,
Just because one can get society's stamp of marriage, get fucked and then produce does not make people parents.
I can't help but feel that life comes cheap and there is an apathy when it comes to protecting and nurturing these little lives. There is less of nurturing and more of a sense of ownership over the children. And as Deepti's experience proved, lack of parenting skills knows no educational or financial barrier.



Blow said...

Suj, here in our village I have seen little ones no more than a year old loitering in the streets half naked and most look pretty sick because of the cold.

My maid lost her child due to acute dysentery a couple of months back since going to the doctor in the middle of the night was inconvenient for them.

This blatant negligence gets to me. In America I would have called 911 and the social services on the spot but in India even the cops would not have cared.

remainconnected said...

Had read the post by Deepti in DC.

A similar incident happened with me,a few days back. In the B'lore airport,just near to the entry gate cab stand,I saw a lady carrying a baby in the busy belt,the cute one cuddled in the mom's chest.She had another child,who would be around 4+ years and that kid was standing near to the luggage. What pissed me off was that lady,took out a cigarette stick and started smoking with the cute little hardly a few centimeters away,resting in the belt.

After waiting for 2 minutes,with a double mind,should I go and tell her not to do that or leave it,I finally made my way and told
"If you don't mind,can you give me the baby and you can go to a distance and finish your smoke."

I guess that pissed her off and she said "Mind your own business" . Few other people around saw this and were staring at me as if I did a crime.

Later on that kept me thinking in my flight as it was a short fly to Hyd and I made this post.

There are few things which can't be changed in India so easily,and the reaction is negative if you suggest something. Well often you feel helpless, as you see what is happening is wrong but then you don't have the wizard's magic stick to go and change all in one shot..So it aptly goes "Chalta Hai" here.

the mad momma said...

Well, I wouldnt do it to my child.. yet I know that parents mean no harm when they do it. In India children are treated very differently. I can imagine the terror of seeing a child dangling over a railing, but I still dont subscribe to the foreign way of reporting in parents etc. I dont think any parent knowingly harms their own child. And we often shock outsiders with the things we do. My brother has only been abroad two years and yet comes back and fusses if my son sits in the front seat. I tell him often, sorry, but this is India and this is what we do here. Doesnt mean we love our children any less.

Sujatha Bagal said...

MM, I agree, parents don't knowingly harm their children except in extreme cases. But that's a very low threshold for parenting. Of course, danger is in the eye of the beholder, but there are obvious cases such as holding a child over a railing or letting a child hang off of the rider's seat on a bike that are patently dangerous. Moreover, what is the necessity, really, of doing such a thing?