Monday, January 07, 2008

Never Safe

I have been thinking about a six month India trip for J - it is probably a desperate bid for cultural immersion before its too late for impressions to be etched. When I first discussed the idea with her grandparents they had a mini panic attack. I had imagined they would be excited - which in all fairness they were but anxiety overshadowed that.

There were concerns about what if she grew homesick and wanted Mommy would I come get her, would they have to drop her off ? What about school ? I could tell there was more than logistics on their mind but was not sure what it was exactly. J for her part was ready to pack her bags for the trip right away when I asked her. She said she would miss me but she could always call and it was only for six months. It was not like she was going away for ever. Her teacher thought it was an excellent idea as long as J and I were able to endure the long separation.

All this reassured the grandparents somewhat but they were still not sure it was a good idea. I was taken aback by what my mother had to say "India is not safe for any woman and J is so strikingly beautiful. It puts a huge responsibility this puts on us - two elderly, helpless people. What if something goes wrong ?"

But she is all of six, Ma I protested. Besides every grandparent in the world thinks their grandchildren are the paragon of beauty and perfection, the rest of the world may not exactly share the sentiment I added. It does not matter. It would not be totally safe she argued. At this point, I felt like I was talking to a wall.

Growing up in India, this whole business about the world outside home not being safe for women started only around the time I hit puberty and actually became a woman. At six, I ran carefree through the paddy fields and woods in the semi-rural town we lived in. The only rule was to come home when the street lights came on.
I at least had the right to be a child and enjoy it.

How has all that changed to the point where a six year old must be protected from lecherous men on the streets and in public places ? I asked my mother. She was not able to give me a good reason besides being completely paranoid about the safety of her grandchild. Things have become much more unsafe and dangerous now. Times have changed she insisted.

When I read the
news of crimes against women in India and how the law does nothing to protect them or even redress their complaints I am not so sure about the paranoia I blame her for.

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