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Think before you speak to children please

Life&More August 3, 2017
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Rajkumari Sharma Tankha

This time while travelling in Delhi Metro, I came across two interesting women. Why I only talk about women in Metro, you may ask. Well, that’s because I travel only in women coaches. It is only some rare times when I have entered any other coach.

Coming back to the two women I came across this time. The first woman, let’s call her A was travelling with her son, about 7 years of age. The second woman was solo traveler, I will call her B.

Now A was sitting with her son. No, not sitting, but sprawling on the seat. With her two huge bags, she occupied more than her fair share of space. And she had a fidgety son who couldn’t  sit quietly. Half the time the boy was banging against his co-passenger, a young girl, who just smiled in response and moved a little further away, giving more space to the duo.

For most part of the travel, the mother was busy chatting with her sister over the phone, who she was visiting for the weekend (arre ghar jaake baat kar lena, wahin to ja rahi ho, I thought). People, you see, just don’t know how to behave in public. Everyone has got a smartphone these days, but manners? That’s another thing.

After she has had finished gossiping about each member of her in-laws family, A finally turned to her son and reprimanded him for being so fidgety, in her broken English. Then as if, to announce it to us all, she said, “kya Karen, iske school main talking in Hindi is not allowed. My son doesn’t understand Hindi.” I almost missed a breath. I wanted to say something really mean, but stopped myself.

That is the time when B stepped in. She too was till now chatting on the phone, almost as loudly as A, and was perhaps waiting for chance a strike a conversation with the boy. B ended her phone conversation and turned to the little boy.

B: Which school do you go to?
Child: Mum

B: Why didn’t you go to school today?
Child: Mum

B: Bunking school is not a good thing. Are you a bad boy or good boy?
Child: Mum

At this point, A jumped in. She took the name of a big public school and said
“Today they have Sa Re Ga Ma Pa auditions so I didn’t send him to school. We are going to my sister’s home,” she said.

B gave a royal ignore to A, and continued with the boy.
“All the more reason that you should have gone to school. Maasi is not important. You should have participated in singing. Had you got selected, you would have come on TV , and then you would have made so many girl friends,” she said.

If I was upset at A’s remark on her son’s language of conversation, I felt real pity at the thought process of B.

But B didn’t stop here. “How old are you,” she asked the child. Like before, the boy remained mum, he refused to answer her, which offended her a bit.

B: Why don’t you reply? Don’t you understand what I’m saying?
Child: Mum

Now a mother’s protective instincts take over A. And she decided to talk directly.

A: Oh, he is a shy baby…..
B: So what, he must speak when spoken to. My son goes to Nursery and he can easily strike a conversation with people. You need to work more on him.

Saying so, B moved ahead in the Metro, leaving a dumbfounded A behind.

I started thinking, may be the boy is bewildered. Mother has, in a way, forbidden him from speaking in Hindi, and English is something perhaps he is not comfortable talking in.

But, three simply-said sentences that scared, hurt, angered and worried me in equal proportion were:

Talking in Hindi is not allowed

Maasi is not important

You would have made many girl friends

These sentences show the kind of adults our children will turn into tomorrow.

They will abhor their mother tongue, and in the process slowly lose their culture and heritage. We have already lost so much by making Sanskrit an optional subject.
Adults of tomorrow will not value their relations. They will be more concerned about their career goals and materialistic achievements, and lose the warmth and happiness that comes from being in touch with people.
And third, they will equate a girl friend with status symbol.
At this point, my thoughts go back to sometime in 2012, when one of our NRI relatives had proudly claimed that her son (a four-year-old boy then) had many girl friends in school. “He only talks to girls,” she told me, with a mischievous glint in her eyes. I had dismissed this as a ‘foreign’ phenomenon. I am sad that this has come to my country too. Globalisation.

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