That Night in Chittappa’s House

Radhika (11) and Rajani (7) were on a 10-day vacation to their maternal aunt Bhavani’s place in Pune. Bhavani Chitta’s husband Magesh was a senior supervisor in an automobile manufacturing plant. Thus they were staying inside the plant in the official accommodation provided to them. Aditya was their two-year old son. Radhika and Rajani had a wonderful time playing with their young brother.

Magesh was a very religious man and one would always find him reciting shlokas if he is not in his office. A sandalwood tilaka with a kumkum dot in the center of his forehead was one of his traits. He was very helpful to one and all and thus people respected him a lot.

One of those nights, Radhika and Rajani were fast asleep on a mat on the drawing room floor. Radhika felt a touch on her leg which slowly moved upwards. It then pulled her skirt up and reached her thighs. This was it. She knew this was getting dirty. She pulled her skirt down and moved a bit making the man know that she was half awake. His hands then went onto Rajani’s leg and same thing started happening. Radhika who was aware that it was Magesh was now scared for her little sister. She sat up and asked, “Chittappa, why are you not sleeping? If Chitta is awake we want to go and sleep with her. It is scary here.” She didn’t know from where she gathered the courage to say that much. Magesh without saying anything, went out of the room and Radhika bolted the door. As soon as she sat down, Rajani hugged her and started weeping. “Akka, I was scared. Chittappa is bad. He is very bad.

They were to stay for a few more days with their uncle and aunt before they could go back to their parents. Telephone was available but Chitta was always around and for some reason Radhika was not interested in informing Chitta. She just told Chitta that they were scared to sleep alone and that they wanted to sleep with her in her room. Chitta agreed. The next few days in that house seemed the most torturous for those little souls.

Once home, though they wanted to tell their parents about what had happened, they did not. They only spoke about it between themselves and they found solace in each other without disturbing the existing relationship between the families. After that incident there were many occasions when they had to face Magesh. The girls stood together and ignored him as best as possible. But Magesh by now had gained more confidence knowing very well that the girls had not disclosed the incident to anyone. There were a few more attempts made by him, but the girls escaped with each other’s help.

During her college years Radhika experienced an eve-teasing incident which happened in front of their mother Vaidehi. While Vaidehi was telling Radhika and Rajani how to deal with such incidents and how to inform concerned people about it, Radhika informed her mother about the childhood incident in Pune in the presence of Rajani. Vaidehi immediately rubbished them saying it was just a figment of their imagination and that Magesh could never do something like that. She went on to tell the kids that he would have just tried to give them a slight massage. She also told them that it was a sin to blame innocent God-fearing people.

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This was a fictional account to explain issues related to Child Sexual Abuse (CSA).

A few questions:

  • Do you think what Radhika did was the best in her capacity?
  • Do you blame Radhika and Rajani for not raising an alarm?
  • Do you blame Radhika and Rajani for not telling their mother the details well on time?
  • What according to you was Vaidehi supposed to do once she was informed?
  • Was Vaidehi’s stand right?

CSA1

1 out of 7 children are abused. How many do you know? 

1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse.

One out of every three girls will be sexually assaulted by the age of 18.

A third of sexually abused children are keeping a family secret. 

Child Sexual Abuse is hard to talk about for little children. Most children won’t. So we have to.

First and foremost, be a good listener. Let the child know that you trust him/her and that they are your priority. Help the child communicate with you with ease and trust. The child needs to be told that in case any such thing happens, it is not their fault. They don’t have to feel bad or dirty or sinful. It is the abuser who is wrong and who should be punished. Support them to overcome the grief and get over the incident. Remember CSA has long term affects on the personality of a child. 

Tell you child that anything that anyone tells them or does to them saying they should not inform their parents is something that they must inform immediately.  

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Here is a list of things you need to teach your child(ren) at early age:

  1. Warn your girl child never to sit on anyone’s laps no matter the situation including uncles.
  2. Avoid getting dressed in front of your child once he/she is 2 years old. Learn to excuse them or yourself.
  3. Never allow any adult refer to your child as ‘my wife’ or ‘my husband’
  4. Whenever your child goes out to play with friends make sure you look for a way to find out what kind of play they do, because young people now sexually abuse themselves.
  5. Never force your child to visit any adult he or she is not comfortable with and also be observant if your child becomes too fond of a particular adult.
  6. Once a very lively child suddenly becomes withdrawn you may need to patiently ask lots of questions from your child.
  7. Carefully educate your grown-ups about the right values of sex . If you don’t, the society will teach them the wrong values.
  8. It is always advisable you go through any new Material like cartoons you just bought for them before they start seeing it themselves.
  9. Ensure you activate parental controls on your cable networks and advice your friends especially those your child(ren) visit(s) often.
  10. Teach your 3-year old how to wash their private parts properly and warn them never to allow anyone touch those areas and that includes you (remember, charity begins from home
    and with you).
  11. Blacklist some materials/associates you think could threaten the sanity of your child (this includes music, movies and even friends and families).
  12. Let your child(ren) understand the value of standing out of the crowd.
  13. Once your child complains about a particular person, don’t keep quiet about it. Take up the case and show them you can defend them.
  14. Show them this following animated film ‘KOMAL‘ (an initiative by Child Line), which explains Safe Touch and Unsafe Touch in an easy to understand manner.
Hindi Version
English Version

 

It only takes one question, one conversation, one moment to make a positive change in the life of a sexually abused child. Know the signs (Child Sexual Abuse Warning signs). Ask questions. Get help.

 

Remember, we are either parents or parents-to-be.

Care for your Child…Please pass on!

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A beautiful poem by हरिवंशराय बच्चन

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Must read – A beautiful poem by – हरिवंशराय बच्चन

बैठ जाता हूं मिट्टी पे अक्सर…
क्योंकि मुझे अपनी औकात अच्छी लगती है..

मैंने समंदर से सीखा है जीने का सलीक़ा,
चुपचाप से बहना और अपनी मौज में रहना ।।

ऐसा नहीं है कि मुझमें कोई ऐब नहीं है पर सच कहता हूँ मुझमे कोई फरेब नहीं है

जल जाते हैं मेरे अंदाज़ से मेरे दुश्मन क्यूंकि एक मुद्दत से मैंने
न मोहब्बत बदली और न दोस्त बदले .!!.
एक घड़ी ख़रीदकर हाथ मे क्या बाँध ली..
वक़्त पीछे ही पड़ गया मेरे..!!

सोचा था घर बना कर बैठुंगा सुकून से..
पर घर की ज़रूरतों ने मुसाफ़िर बना डाला !!!

सुकून की बात मत कर ऐ ग़ालिब….
बचपन वाला ‘इतवार’ अब नहीं आता |

शौक तो माँ-बाप के पैसो से पूरे होते हैं,
अपने पैसो से तो बस ज़रूरतें ही पूरी हो पाती हैं..

जीवन की भाग-दौड़ में -
क्यूँ वक़्त के साथ रंगत खो जाती है ?
हँसती-खेलती ज़िन्दगी भी आम हो जाती है..

एक सवेरा था जब हँस कर उठते थे हम
और
आज कई बार
बिना मुस्कुराये ही शाम हो जाती है..

कितने दूर निकल गए,
रिश्तो को निभाते निभाते..
खुद को खो दिया हमने,
अपनों को पाते पाते..

लोग कहते है हम मुस्कुराते बहोत है,
और हम थक गए दर्द छुपाते छुपाते..

“खुश हूँ और सबको खुश रखता हूँ,
लापरवाह हूँ फिर भी सबकी परवाह
करता हूँ..

मालूम है कोई मोल नहीं मेरा,
फिर भी,
कुछ अनमोल लोगो से
रिश्ता रखता हूँ…!

–हरिवंशराय बच्चन

Posted from WordPress for Android

The Curse of the Snake God

Sarpa_Kavu_By_Manojk

Picture Courtesy: Google Image Search

Stories, mythological, moral or tales of valor have always been an integral part of everyone’s childhood.

We had Champak, Gokulam, Tinkle, Chandamama, Chacha Choudary, Amar Chitra Katha, Lotpot, Balarama, Kallikudukka, TinTin, Nancy Drew, Enid Blyton and so on for our company during childhood. I also read the Phantom and Indrajal comics that Dad had left behind while leaving for the Mid East. During our summer vacations, we adored the stories of Krishna, Ramayana, Bhagavatha, Manjula of the Guruvayoor Manjulaal fame, Kuroor Amma, Maariamma, Poonthanam and so on that were told by Ammamma (grandmother) and Mema (Mom’s sister). Mom never told us any stories. She grew up in an English convent and I guess that kept her aloof from all of these stories or maybe she thought she wasn’t a good story-teller.

Being from a highly conservative and orthodox Nair family from the Palakkad district in Kerala, our household followed lots of religious rituals and traditions. First Friday (Muppettu Velliyazcha) of every new month according to the Malayalam calendar, we would have a Mahalakshmi Pooja at home performed by my Ammavan (Mom’s brother). Noorum Paalum offered to Nagaraja, Nagayakshi, Brahmarakshassu and Paambumaar in the Paambu Kaavu (Abode of Snakes) situated within the compound of the house on every Aayilyam Nakshatram (one of the 27 nakshatras or stars). Naivedyam to be offered to Lord Shiva on Mondays and Krishna on Thursdays. Manjal (Turmeric) bath offered to Goddess Parvathi quite a few times in the month. And Vaavu bali (offering made to ancestors) and so on. The front yard of the house was smeared with cow-dung paste for shhudi on auspicious days. We would be seen running around the compound plucking flowers, thulasi (basil) leaves or koovalam (bel or wood apple) leaves. Other small chores for us included removing chaff from popped rice, cutting banana leaves and cleaning them, washing the brass lamps and other items of the temple.  In short, my summer vacations revolved around this house, the temple, the rituals and the traditions.

I attained puberty as soon as I celebrated my eleventh birthday. Too young everyone said. My Mom wrote urgent letters to my grandparents and made few frantic calls to friends and relatives. New clothes were bought for me and I was adorned with all the gold jewellery that she had at the moment. My relatives, uncles and aunts rushed in with new clothes, sweets and gifts to meet a fully dressed up girl. Some of them smiled at me in a strange manner. My innocent brain could not comprehend those smiles and couldn’t understand the reason for the celebration as it was not my birthday and neither was it an Onam celebration or Vishu Sadya. I was told that I should not go out as birds should not fly over my head. Now how could one tell birds not to fly over our building as I was inside and menstruating? Hadh hai!

From then on my life changed drastically. I remember Mom asking me to stay away from boys and men of all ages, including Dad. I hated her for saying that last part because I was my Dad’s darling always. But looking at the newspapers and listening to the radio headlines these days I completely understand why she said what she said. The only trouble, I was too young to comprehend. The first summer vacation after this grand celebration and like always we were there at our grandparents place. Everything remained the same till my monthly periods started. I was suddenly isolated. A corner in the verandah of the house was where I was made to live for the next four days. A mat, a blanket, a plate and a glass were given to me and I was asked not to enter the main house and the kitchen. The plate and glass had to be washed outside the house. I had to take bath in the pond along with the mat, clothes and utensils that I used (or of people who touched me by mistake) even while I didn’t know swimming. The tap water which was the same water from the pond  pumped up into the water tank supposedly could not make me pure. If it was not for Mom who helped me with the dipping in the pond part, I would have drowned the very first time.  Our backyard was full of snakes and other creepy crawlies and I had to use the toilet which was outside the house. It had a separate bucket and mug for menstruating females of the house. Detailed story of the toilet here in this post: Do you know how necessary sanitation is? Suddenly I hated them all because I was being punished for no fault of mine.

One afternoon while everyone was taking a nap, I wandered through the backyard and went much closer to the Snake Shrine. I was always curious about going inside the shrine and taking a closer look at the stone idols but I was also scared as I had spotted cobras and other varieties there. I picked up a stone playfully and threw it inside the shrine. Ammamma had just woken up and was at the back-door closer to the shrine. She furiously asked me to get into the verandah. She told me a story about the curse of the Snake God and told me that if menstruating girls entered the snake shrine, they would never be able to bear children. The very next day the temple priest was summoned and some shudhi pooja was performed.

Years later, when I got married to a Garhwali and entered a completely different household with different rituals and traditions I had difficulty accepting them. It started off with adding a small piece of chappati in the tiffin box in addition to the three I had already packed for hubby because eating three chappatis was not considered shubh. The first monthly periods in that house was another shocker. I was told by my mother-in-law to light the pooja lamp. I refused citing my periods. She told me in their household men are not informed of such things and so I should light the lamp and pray as usual. Imagine my plight! I kept cursing myself every time I committed that ‘sin’.

Few years down the line, I had trouble conceiving and I remembered these episodes. The innocent young girl I was then, I honestly believed that I was being punished for that stone that I threw during my childhood and the many times I have lighted the lamp while I was impure. Only later did I come to know that it was nothing but a gynecological disorder which was treated.

I am now thirty-four and have access to so much information and views of so many people from around the world. I now understand that most of these rituals and traditions are baseless or their true meanings and needs have been misconstrued over the years. And the day my eldest daughter was born in February 2006, I promised myself that she’ll not go through what I have been through. I’ll empower her with all the necessary information that she needs to know. I’ll tell her that the Krishna that her mother prays daily is just an idol that helps her mom concentrate and meditate. The Krishna that her mother lights a lamp daily for only provides her some peace and sanity. He can show you the different ways because He resides within you or rather He is your own soul, but you have to choose the path for yourself. I’ll tell her that He will not punish her if she utters his name while menstruating. He’ll not punish her if she chants a mantra during those four-five days. Even Draupadi had called Krishna for help when Dushasana tried to disrobe her. It is mentioned in the religious texts that she was menstruating at that point in time. If Krishna could punish people for their sins He would have come down long back and punished sinners like the rapists of that 6-year old innocent child in Bangalore before punishing mere mortals like us for such silly matters.

I do pray. I do chant my mantras before sleeping. All this for my peace. Honestly I do not visit a temple during those days. Not because I’m scared of His punishment, but because I’m not interested in becoming an issue for the believers. My relationship with God is purely mine. It is not bound by any ritual or tradition or visit to a temple. My temple is my home.

And menses or periods is nothing but a biological occurrence, nature’s way of helping your body mature and be ready for reproduction. In short, it simply means you’re healthy.

A big thanks to Gayatri Aptekar for helping me pour out all of this after reading her honest post, I pray, do you?

And Sakshi Nanda, thanks for that nudge.

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Linking this post to Project 365‘s prompt today:

Flip flop: Think of a topic or issue about which you’ve switched your
opinion. Why the change?”

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