Those delicate fingers. Those tiny toes. Those curious eyes.
Growth. It is a natural process. A change. And just like any other change, this one is hard to accept too.
The girls are growing. Taller and sharper. And with them is growing that never-ending fear inside this mother.
At times when I sit down and think about the future, what worries me more is the thought that what will the future hold for our children. Bouts of anxiety I experience quite often. Call me a cry baby or anything else, but that’s how it is.
Like most girls around the world, I have experienced those deliberate pushes inside buses, those hidden pinches on my tender bosom, those ugly thighs rubbing against yours, those whistles, those paper balls and pebbles, those dirty comments, those filthy eyes and the list is endless. It doesn’t matter if you are a six year-old or sixty year-old, you’re always and always subjected to one of these at any given point in time. I have never understood the psychology behind this. And since it only increases my already terrible migraine, I choose not to try to understand it.
The family loves travelling. It is a bonding, sharing and learning time for all of us. But of late I have started getting this butterfly kind of feeling inside me every time someone passes by the girls. Every time I see them sharing a seat with a stranger. Every time I notice someone staring at them for longer than usual. And this fear spoils all the happiness of those precious moments.
I always thought my mother was an over-protective one. But now that I’m going through the same phase in life, I understand her much better. She slapped me the instant I returned from my only school trip to Jaipur because the bus reached 4-5 hours later than was expected. I didn’t understand her reaction because I was brought home by my friend and her parents which meant I was in safe hands. Nevertheless, I never asked her permission for any further trips.
Anu is going to be ten next month and every time I look at her I feel worried about the changes she’ll soon be undergoing as a young adult. And it also makes me want to prepare her for all the uncomfortable experiences she might have to face during her adolescence period. And thus I try to sit and talk to her. I go on walks with her. Though she knows most of the biological process, I felt that she is yet to understand the graveness of my lectures on eve-teasing and other stuff. It pains me when she looks at me with her innocent questioning eyes as to why it is she who should be careful all the time. I wish I could tell her otherwise.
I shared my fears with the husband who comforts me saying,
“We will cross the bridge when we get there.”
I totally agree. But in the depth of my heart I know I am not convinced.
I know the kind of fear that creeps in when you experience some stranger touching you in the wrong way for the very first time. I have experienced it at the age of eight in a crowded train compartment. He tickled my not-so-tiny feet that wore a pair of silver anklets gifted lovingly by my grandmother. It was night and we were travelling alone with Amma. All lights were off and only a few people were talking in different coupe. We had to cover another two days in the same compartment with the same man. Only I know how dreadful that entire journey was. His winking eyes are still afresh in my memories.
And when I am at the peak of this fear, I hear an inner voice which tells me,
“They’ll be all right. They’ll handle it better than me. They are mature enough.”
I know they will have to learn to fight for themselves. I know they will have to learn their lessons all by themselves. But that little child in me wants to share it all with them and protect them from all evil. I want to hang myself like an evil eye to ward off all evil from their path. I wish I could.
No. I don’t talk to them about my fears, my insecurities, my apprehensions. I don’t cry in front of them. I don’t give up in front of them. I don’t tell them that the world has monsters too. I want them to remember my face and feel strong, not weak. I want them to still believe that the world is a beautiful place and together they can make it a paradise.