A little soul chose to incarnate in the pretty body of a Kolkata Indian. She has evolved and grown up in this belly so benevolent, so comfortable and so loving.
This soul became “Baby”, a baby pampered, warm hearted who heard the voice of her mother, who knew all her deeds, which was really one with her. And then one day in November 1977, in this huge city of Kolkata, the baby decides to live another adventure, to go see outside, that to finally see the face of the one who gave her life.
Yes because I finally could see how beautiful my mother is, and I already know that I will love it with all my heart and especially for life!
On the other hand, I did not know that in India, it was not necessary to be born girl, I did not know that the sex of the child is more important than the love, I did not know that the honour of an Indian family was more important than the life of a newborn.
So I was born in this hospital, I felt your love but as a girl, I also felt your pain and your doubts. This event, which should have been a joy, suddenly turned into mourning. You thought first with your heart, you pressed me very hard against you, you talked to me a lot and together we probably cried.
Well-meaning society did not leave you the choice, you walked through the door of this orphanage, your eyes full of tears and the heart filled with bitterness forever. In France, they say “it’s just a goodbye” and it will be the case, since I’m going to spend the rest of my life looking for you, especially to find you; to tell you simply, “Mom, no, I’m not a girl, I’m YOUR DAUGHTER…”
“You don’t know what people here are like, especially towards someone like you.”
This was one of the first warnings given to me when I arrived in the village. The statement correspondingly led to the meeting of him, my security guard, assigned by the school to ensure my safety for the semester.
Why do I need a security guard? What do they mean someone like me? A teacher? A researcher? An advocate? A musician? A student? A traveller?
A woman. But really, an outsider woman.
I had just moved to a small village in rural Punjab to begin a six month teaching contract in an exclusively female college. I was expected to stay inside the college grounds most of the time, and only leave with the assistance of my security guard.
For the first 2 months I used to pay him to leave me alone, to ‘forget’ to leave the gate unlocked and to develop alibis if anyone asked my location. I paid him for my freedom as I couldn’t surrender to the protocol that was implemented for my benefit. My fierce, independent, over confident, (naïve) 22 year old ego didn’t allow me to be spoken for by a guard.
My ego realised my independence cost 250 rupees and a hot masala chai from the favourite corner side vendor. Those 250 rupees paid for me to travel all over Punjab, being fully immersed in a different culture. I didn’t know it yet that the experience would alter my existence, forever being changed by the stories of the lives I encountered.
Opening up my security guard took three months. I wanted to know him, learn him, understand him. This man who is assigned to be with me every day but I don’t know anything about. Finally by month three he began to talk, and more yet, smile. The rest followed like a montage in a film, supported with a cheesy soundtrack, sepia undertone and laughing audio bites to portray the fast development of our friendship.
He said he considered me as his daughter, and needed me to meet the rest of his family so they could all love me as much as he did. The first visit to his home was where the real initiation process occurred, the bridge transforming this friendship into family. The kindness and warmth was overwhelming, not only did I have a new Indian father but a mother and 2 brothers! He never had a daughter, but always wanted one. I was a blessing, an answering to his prayers, after all these years God had finally answered him. I had never experienced the love and intensity of a Punjabi family. It was like the rewriting of my history, as if I could see the baby pictures of me materialise into their photo albums. I could feel my blood starting to run hot with the blood of a new identity, a Punjabi identity.
A nightly ritual began where I would join Papa Ji for a 7pm chai outside his station near the gate of the college. Each day I looked forward to my 7pm chai’s, like a treat at the end of a long working day where I could replicate the feeling of home. One night I arrived at the gate station and resumed my normal seat like every other day for the past 3 months, but this time Papa Ji told me to bring my chair inside the office. Without a second thought I complied, chai in one hand, chair in the other, mid-sentence debriefing about my day until I heard the door lock behind me. It was then, locked in a gate keeper’s station, did I feel my chai fly out of my hand as I was pinned against the wall with full force.
Then, my Papa Ji, kissed me against my will.
The kiss felt like a knife to my lips slit me open and all the newly acquired Punjabi blood spilled out. The baby pictures unmaterialised, my 5 year old self pixelated before dissipating into nothing. The memories tainted beyond redemption. It was as if my entire Punjabi family entered a car and had a head on collision on the highway, but the one who died was me, as I evaporated out of the delusion I put myself into.
The irony is, he was the one to protect me, he was the one hired purely for the sole reason of my safety, and he was the one who breached it. Not just physically, but emotionally abusing me. It was then I realised this is how every child who goes home to an abusive family member feels. That confusion of what does it mean to be safe? What does it mean to be loved? When my father/mother/uncle/aunt/cousin tells me they love me yet continue to hurt me, is that the definition of love? Why does love feel so bad?
53% of people in India have been sexually abused as a child, and 88% of those abused have been abused by their parent. I, luckily, at the age of 22 knew my rights and my worth to address this problem and take proper steps to deal with it. A child would not know. A child is the emblem of purity and child sexual abuse is a crime against innocence. It is our responsibility as adults to protect our children, and defend that innocence.
Speak up, dare to be fearless.
I had the displeasure of growing up with people who strongly believed that all girls had to behave a certain way. Surprisingly, though I was a child, their worldviews failed to change me. Instead, I found myself wrestling with comments like “She can’t even cook!” or “Watch it! Girls shouldn’t get so angry.”
I am a mother of two children – a boy, 8, and a girl,6. I absolutely love being a mother and I embrace that role whole heartedly. My hope, and my dream for them is that they would grow up to be a man and woman with integrity, values and a sense of responsibility. At the same time, I also fear the world my children are facing and will face by themselves one day. So the question that drives me constantly is – am I equipping and preparing them well to make the right choices in life? Parenting has become even more challenging as we sometimes feel like we’re competing with so many other influences in our children’s lives.
The role of being a mother comes with great responsibilities and fantastic benefits. It’s one of the unique roles of women where we get to mould the life of our children preparing them for life. We as women have the privilege of nurturing our children to be agents of change and bring healing to a broken world especially when we hear of brutal incidents involving women and girls.
[su_quote class=”post-quote”]It is a role that requires highest degree of patience, commitment and consistency.[/su_quote]
Even at a tender age of 6, my daughter already seems to have very specific ideas of standards of beauty simply by exposure to various media. She even prefers a lighter skin colour as a standard of beauty. As a mother, I see these expressions as a great opportunities for teaching. It is in moments like this that I realize the importance of being a mother – I have the opportunity to directly impact my child’s perspective and teach her values that can not only impact her own life but also build her up to be an agent of change.
There is a constant need for attention and intervention – be it caring for a child with cold and fever or sorting out sibling fights at the back seat while trying hard to negotiate traffic on the road, the unending “why” questions, continual demand for help right away and so on. You mothers know what I’m talking about! It is a demanding role that teaches us patience and perseverance. The good news is we are naturally equipped to handle the demands. Each of us are unique and our demands are unique too. Some of us need to manage a full-time job and home. We have different roles and responsibilities that we juggle everyday. How do we manage without compromising on our role as a mother?
Firstly, I think when we realise that we are entrusted with an important role, a sense of pride and responsibility sets in. Unfortunately we shy away from being identified as a mother and are comfortable with titles and identities that our careers give. With this change in perception, we can make our role more meaningful and rewarding.
Secondly, an important piece in enjoying motherhood is working together with our husbands. A positive atmosphere at home with active involvement of the father and the mother together is where the child finds comfort, safety and security, and where preparation for life and learning takes place. This partnership not only models a good example to my children, it also gives me added space to concentrate on other worthwhile pursuits. When the responsibilities of nurturing the children are done in partnership, it is possible to be a great mother and have a fulfilling career at the same time.
We would all agree that being a mother stretches our limits. There are many days that we feel weary and wonder if its all worth our time. In a world where everything is instant, we expect our children to produce instant results. After all we want instant assessment and instant approval of our role as a mother. Only time will show us the results of our investment. It is a role that requires highest degree of patience, commitment and consistency. The struggles are real and so are our emotions when we face difficult times as a mother. Mothers I interact with discuss many of their struggles parenting their children. Times like these can easily bring us down and feel defeated.
However, something that helps me greatly is having a positive support system. These can be a group of stay-at-home moms, working moms or other families who are in the same phase of life as us. This platform gives me time and space to share my struggles and also helps me to encourage other women in the same boat as me.
This mothers day, I would like to encourage women who are feeling less important or facing challenges in fulfilling different roles as women, to realise that we in partnership with our husbands and with each other, have a vital responsibility in making a world of difference to our children’s lives – to help them be the best that they can be. I realise this can be very challenging to many women due to various family circumstances. In such case I would like to recommend that we seek help from our support system or even organisations like Women of worth who exist to help women to rise up to their fullest potential.
Mother’s day is not complete without realising and recognising that there are women who are yet to become mothers or who are aunts, sisters, daughters, who still play a vital role in our children’s lives . Your role as a women is important to make this world a better place for us and generations to come.
Happy Mothers day. Let this mother’s day be a celebration of all mothers, women and girls especially those who are silently fighting battles on their own and who are the true heroes of motherhood.
[su_box title=”About the author” style=”soft” box_color=”#f3f3f3″ title_color=”#000000″ radius=”5″]Fenny Kanagaraj is Partnership Director at WOW and mother of two. She is a networker and bridge creator.[/su_box]
Sunjula Daniel, a Woman Of Worth staff member shares her perspective in this very relatable point of view of a mother.
I first saw 5-year old Sushmitha looking through our compound gate. She didn’t say a word – just kept looking. I began to feel uncomfortable and guilty as I avoided her for a good twenty minutes and then I gave in and we invited her home. She was thrilled and rushed in without telling her parents who it appears were migrant construction labourers working nearby. The girl was smart, well-behaved and highly observant. I enjoyed her broken Tamil and her drama to illustrate how her mother and her brother would do things. She was so cute! She would come home everyday. When she wasn’t at our place, I would see her just roaming the street, chatting with much older men and women, whiling away time.
It is sad that we live in an era that feels like our kids are walking in the wild with predators lurking in the shadows.
She had both parents and a little brother. She also had food, shelter and enough clothes. But did she have safety? Each time I saw her, I kept asking myself “Is she safe? Will she be ok on these streets? What if something untoward happens? What if she is abused? Will she know? Will she ask for help? And if she does, will she be helped? Or will she be shushed?”
Sushmitha and her family have now left our neighbourhood. I often think of her and wonder if she is safe. It’s sad that I worry over her. It is sad that we live in an era that feels like our kids are walking in the wild with predators lurking in the shadows. It is sad that it is possible for a child so cute and lively to be abused!
Childhood is sweet and tender. Let’s give our children a safe childhood. Let’s keep our eyes open for child sexual abuse. Let’s end it.
#endChildSexualAbuse #EndRape #FearlessProject
[su_box title=”About the author” style=”soft” box_color=”#f3f3f3″ title_color=”#000000″ radius=”5″]Sunjula Daniel is Operations Manager at WOW and a mother who is passionate about changing the world. [/su_box]