I write this post with a heavy heart. I’ve been writing about the Brat’s meekness for years and it just gets worse each time I post. From the first time that he was bitten in the chest by a younger child, to contemporaries bullying him, I’ve always held close the fear that he will end up being the class victim. The one people know they can bully and get away with.
Earlier we lived in a rather tony South Delhi locality and one of the advantages of that was even the maids were rather fancy (tight jeans, tattoos and fancy cellphones) but well-trained. So while kids were naughty, it was more of a pushing-shoving-hitting type of naughtiness. Anything worse and even the maids knew it was not on.
In our particular corner of Gurgaon though, we meet real middle class India. The kind who come out for walks in their nighties and dupattas. And who tell their kids to pee against the club wall instead of sending them home to use the toilet.
I sit out in the sun watching my kids play and I see the Brat climb a tree. Just then a little boy comes by and kicks him. Just like that. For no good reason. Just because he was passing by and the Brat seemed a handy target. I stay out of it and wait for the Brat to say something. The Brat doesn’t. The little boy comes by a little later and starts punching the Brat in the leg because the Brat is now up in the tree and this is the only part he can access. I lose my composure and go over and glare at him – “Why are you hitting this boy? I didn’t see him do anything to you.” He looks ashamed. I ask him where his maid is and he points to a girl sitting in a corner and chatting away, no interest in the child. I walk up to her and ask her if its too much to ask of her to do her job and keep an eye on her ward. She rushes to get him.
Why didn’t you hit or shake that boy off, baby, I ask the Brat. He’s younger than me, shrugs my 5.5 year old. “We shouldn’t hit people younger than us.” The child in question was probably 4.5 – which is an entire year older than the Bean and I wanted to debate the point but there is nothing much you can do to change the Brat’s basic nature.
Five minutes later I am smiling to myself as I watch the Brat pull a plastic cheetah out of his pocket and pretend play by himself. He’s making the animal run up and down the branches. The moment is lost as a stone comes whizzing out of nowhere and hits him on the hand. I look around in horror and I see three little boys with handfuls of stones pelting him. I rush to the Brat and scream at the boys in rage as stones come flying around us.
One of them yells Kutte! (dog). And then goes on to tell his friends in Hindi – “This boy only talks about animals. I don’t like him. He is also an animal – a dog.”
By now I am inching closer to the child, ready to slap the crap out of him. I won’t put down the entire conversation but I basically asked him sternly if his parents knew he was using bad words and if that is what he learnt at home. Told him he need not play with the Brat if he doesn’t want to but if I catch him throwing stones at him anymore, I’m going to catch him and take him home to his parents and scold him in front of them. At this he confesses that the snotty kid next to him has taught him to say kutte.
I looked around for the violent child’s guardian and saw it was a big man, again, househelp or something of that sort, but not a parent. I took one look at his size, gulped in terror and finally bit the bullet. “Bhaiyya, is this little boy with you?”
Yes, didi… is there a problem?
Yes, he is pelting my son with stones, I say.
At this he grabbed the little boy and threatened to slap him while I screamed – oh, oh, don’t hit. No wonder he thinks nothing of violence.” Anyway. That was sorted out.
All this while the little snotty kid is chanting – “I don’t like you either. I will call my mother. She’ll sort you out. You’re dirty too…kutte, kutte… ” I turn and ask him where his didi is and realise that the snotty kid is the son of the maid who works for the family across our flat. I look around for his mother and I don’t see her. He’s out running wild, abusing and throwing stones and there is no control over him. And this is where someone is going to scream – class issue – but yes, the children of the domestic help think nothing of abusing in the filthiest way possible. This is Haryana heartland. Deal with it. I take the Brat away from there and we find another corner where there are a bunch of little kids playing on bikes. I get the Brat settled there and eventually we go home.
Now the kid throwing stones is one of those kids who has ended up getting labelled. None of the other kids play with him because he is rather violent and abusive himself and now the only kids who play with him are the kids of the domestic help. All this gets into very sticky territory because while you want to stick up for your child you don’t want to be pulling rank on someone either.
I pondered over what to do about the abusive snotty kid. I realised that my going over to talk to his mother, the maid would be unfair because she really won’t be in a position to tell me off if she feels like it. I consider telling her employer who I am not friendly with, but am acquainted with. And then I realise she is as usual travelling. A corporate biggie she is mostly abroad and this maid and her husband and child pretty much run her house for her and use it as their own. I also realise that telling her employer is not the best answer – again, it seems like pulling rank. On the other hand, I live in this complex and invest in this community. If I find a child misbehaving with mine, I have every right to complain to their guardians. I slept over it and realised this was it. Mother to mother.
And so next morning as I stuck my head out to pick up the paper, I saw the woman there, walking the employer’s dog. I cleared my throat and asked her if her son had been down to play the last evening. She nodded. So I gently mentioned that he was with a bunch of other kids who were throwing stones at my son. A little pushing and shoving on the playground is expected but abusing and throwing sharps stones is not on. My son could lose an eye.
She looked away.
I asked her who had taken the child down to play.
My sister, she said.
In that case, I said, do ask your sister to keep a stricter eye on him. They’re all only children and will naturally act up. But as parents its our job to ensure they don’t cross the line. She muttered something and rushed off as the lift arrived, saving her from having to give me a real answer.
I was silent for the rest of the day and the OA was grim. After a while he asked me – Is our son weird? Is that why other kids get after him?
I didn’t want to answer. He isn’t weird to me – he’s my pride, my joy, my life. While the Bean is a fiery little warrior, this little son of mine, quiet, self-sufficient, curious about the world around him (Mama, does the Madras Crocodile Farm have a Chinese Alligator?), fascinated by nature (Ma, did you know that a Peregrine Falcon can dive up to 200 km an hour? And Piranhas can eat up a horse in three minutes), sensitive (Don’t scare the grasshopper, we’re giants to him), generous to a fault, openly affectionate (he still kisses me all over the face in public if I ask for a single kiss) and as you can see, I can go on…
This little son of mine is weird because we’re bringing him up with our own strange ideas and perhaps doing very little to help him fit in. He speaks a mix of three languages, he doesn’t play with Ben 10 and all that jazz inspite of now finally being aware of their existence thanks to his old school’s insistence that he be introduced to “Coca-Cola and Ben 10”. On an aside, what kind of idiots would deliberately introduce kids to junk food and rubbish television?
So no, he’s not weird. He’s a dreamer, he’s a nature lover and he’s one of a dying breed. And if I have to guard him with my life, I will do it. Because we’ve seen enough of the perils of technology taking over. There is no point giving our kids iPads and then bemoaning the fact that no one cares about the tiger going extinct. Which of us is making the time to interest our kids in nature? No wonder the poor Brat is in a minority and has no one to chat with about dinosaurs and ocelots and red kneed spiders. I’ll admit that I can take no credit for his love of nature. He was born with it. All we’ve done is encourage what was already there.
Anyhow, this is how things stand. I’ll do a separate post updating you on his school progress. Proud mama moment coming up there.