Friday, August 9, 2013

The America-Returned Father

On Chennai Express (whole new overtones now) the other day. A large family travelling from Chennai to Hyderabad. Young NRI couple at the centre of all the attention - more prosperous looking, clothes that are clearly belonging to the travelling America-returned couple - accents and all. Both seemed to be techies, or software engineers, as we know them. They had two kids with them, one barely over a year old, just walking, and the other, about four or five years old. Other kids, desi, were presumably their cousins.
Pic of a hand held close against a camera
I saw the two American kids come over near our cubicle (their accents and clothes gave them away). The younger one was looking for something to play. The older one decided to give her a rubber chappal, some adult's surely, and it looked like a perfectly good thing for the young one to play. They were both quite happy. Also, the fact that they had now distanced themselves from their parents and other restricting adults by about two cubicles length, made the younger one pretty excited and she started crawling further away.

This is when the drama began. The older one disappeared noticing her father's arrival. The father blew in like a hurricane and yelled at the crawling young one. 'You are crawling! You put your hands on the floor? Your hands on the floor?' Slap. Not a gentle one mind you, a sharp, stinging slap that could make you and I cry. And not one. For good measure he gave the child two or three really sharp ones and hauled the child off roughly.

I had the misfortune of seeing that child's face change as she turned to see her father. From sheer bliss one moment of playing and of freedom, it encountered rebuke, shame, pain, bewilderment and perhaps even betrayal. I saw the face change as she cowered under the abuse. So loud were the slaps that everyone was shocked. And then for the next ten minutes, we could hear the mother and father yell and scream and threaten the young ones in their accented English that they better stay put etc etc.

It's not the first time that I saw something like this. Most times the parents are too busy doing something else and when the child wanders away or falls down because of their negligence, they punish the child. What does the poor child know? In fact if anyone has a right to get offended it's the child be cause the parent has not fulfilled his/her responsibility well.

I was even more surprised to see that this gentleman who has been exposed to a society where such behaviors are not tolerated, went to an extreme. Ramaraju who lived in the US for a while told me - they take away the kids in the US if they do things like this there. The sting of the slap was not normal mind you, it was vicious and meant to hurt. It will continue this pattern, of the child being punished for the negligence of the parents, and it will continue this punishment-guilt drama for a lifetime.

It's nice to see that children don't normally get beaten up these days as they were in the olden days. In fact parents are far more expressive in their love for the children these days. But we do see the exception to the rule once in a while. Take it easy parents. It's never the child's fault. If there is someone you feel like punishing, look in the mirror.

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