“There are certain chapters in everybody’s life that one doesn’t read out loud. I have mine too and what would be the best moment to recollect them other than a long train journey, alone? I was deeply engrossed in my thoughts, smiling within, when a cute squeak a baby’s slippers woke me up.
The train I was travelling that night was sparsely occupied and more so was the two-tier AC compartment in which I was sitting. This sudden cute sound made me look up and I found a little toddler sitting before me, on the opposite seat. With her was her mother and grandparents. As it was time for the train to start, the grandparents alighted and her mother went to see them off near the door of the compartment.
The child had a small water bottle around it’s neck and could see that she was proud to carry her water bottle all by herself. She had worn a mono-colour frock and white baby socks. Owe it to me being a single child, sans siblings, I always loved kids; specially girls, for they are generally silent and it’s fun to play and pamper them unlike brat-toddler boys. So, here was this cute child before me with a friendly smile on her face, that the fatherly emotion in me started ticking.
I, as a matter of fact, carry a few bar chocolates when I go on long Journeys. These are branded ones and freshly purchased from any high-end supermarket. Moreover, am very particular about the shelf-life of such producuts that I double-check the details before adding it to my bill.
Now, since I found the kid cute and also because of the fatherly-urge, I opened a packet of the bar chocolate and broke a small piece, before giving it to the child. I expected some resistance, but, innocence of the child reigned better and she took the piece and immediately put it into her mouth. Seeing her liking for it, I gave the baby an additional piece. She got that too and before she could swallow that, her mother came. The mother saw a piece of chocolate in the child’s hand and ere I could wink, the lady gave a tight slap on the baby’s face before forcibly throwing away the chocolate from it’s hand. The lady also drove a verbal message deep into the child’s head-” Haven’t I told you to not to accept anything from strangers”. She also made sure that she stressed on the word “Strangers”.
I was taken aback for a moment. The child gave me fleeting glance, before crying. That glance still haunts me and I vividly remember it. The incident was embarrassing to the core. I felt both angry and sad at the same instance. A part of me was hurt as the lady’s action questioned my character indirectly. It felt worse, when my “fatherly affection” was misidentified with nefarious intentions. The pangs of worries were deeper, considering the fact that I was solely responsible for the way the child was treated that evening and the mental-physical pain it had to go through for no mistake of it.
Many thoughts raced through my mind. The first thing was introduce myself to the lady and give her a piece-of-my-mind on parenting. The other option was to apologise to her for what I did and specially to the child. But after sometime, as providence would have it, I decided to ignore the family and the incident and go to sleep.
Alas! Sleep was elusive and I was not able to forget the incident. I then started pondering on what would’ve forced the lady to react the way she did? Obviously, it was the love she had for her daughter. It might also be the continuous safety announcements made by Indian Railways on platform TVs. But, there was a reason deeper to it.
This world is becoming more and more materialistic and man-to-man relationship along with certain levels of mutual-trust, love and compassion are turning out to be the biggest casualties. May be tomorrow when I marry and become a father I would also react in a similar manner, no idea!
That night made me take two important decisions in my life. Foremost, never share your food with others, specially children, during travel. Secondly, parenting is an art and there are better ways to package important messages other than beatings/slaps.”
Submitted By – Harsha Raghunath
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