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What your children remember about 2013 can teach you a lot

December 26, 2013 11:55 IST

What your children remember about 2013 can teach you a lot

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Vaihayasi Pande Daniel

'We live in India and anything can happen. Every day you read about stuff happening to girls, a child, women.' Vaihayasi Pande Daniel's daughters discuss the year that has gone by as their mother listens in.

Wife. Daughter. Sister. Aunt. Mother. Colleague. Friend. Employee. Neighbour. I might think I am all of these things. Yes. And no.

Nothing defines you, or is more important, than the unexpected honour of being a mother (or father) to your children. In my case, two teenage daughters.

It is an honour that happens accidentally, really. When you have kids, you are not especially aware of the onerous role ahead of you. Initially, it is just the child-like, self-indulgent joy of having your own little, living, breathing doll to bring home, call your own, protect and smother with affection.

As you grow mentally, with your child -- or imagine you do -- your grasp of what is actually ahead of you becomes slowly, mildly clearer. And also more startling.

You are meant to teach by example, and be the unlikely fount of all wisdom for your child. In everything. From her knowledge/lack of knowledge of god, money sense, codes of gentleness-humility-modesty-kindness, whether to seek the narcissism of success, to how to make better choices, be it colleges, careers, friends, boyfriends, the books they read, the knowledge they seek, skirt lengths, whatever.

If that is not enough, the tougher trial is to bring up your child to have the capacity, nay, curiosity, to look for the 'right' and broader views on life.

I mostly catch up with my teenagers over dinner. A few days ago I was talking to them about the Supreme Court's Arushi Talwar murder verdict. And my sadness with it. My daughters both jerked their heads up from their soup bowls, fiercely, and said: "Good. They deserve it."

I was taken back, and asked them where they got this view. They mentioned hearing about the case from friends, and cited newspaper articles.

My younger said: "They killed her because she had sex with her servant. That is her choice. Nothing wrong with that."

My elder said she could believe the parents had committed murder: "We live in India and anything can happen. Every day you read about stuff happening to girls, a child, women."

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Image: Dr Nupur Talwar and her husband Dr Rajesh Talwar
Photographs: Reuters

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We still battle apartheid as bad as Mandela did, with less courage

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Vaihayasi Pande Daniel

Through the year, when I read the newspapers, I often stop to re-read them from my daughters's view. Some days I feel like hiding the newspaper and tipping the television -- which is not usually on -- out of the window.

Not because I don't want them to know how the rest of the world lives. It is more about the bizarre injustices that exist -- which are pretty much unpalatable to anyone -- that I would rather they did not know about.

They disagree. They say they would rather hear about all kinds of news, even the worst stuff. It does not shock them.

My elder daughter, who talks little, adds: "We should know. It is information. We have to know the Other People."

That label -- the ominously emphasised Other -- is for those, whose views/take on life/actions she does not understand.

So what are my daughters going to take away from this up-and-down, capricious year that has scurried past in obnoxious haste?

I realise there are two streams of consciousness running parallel here, but finally turning away from each other. There is -- in a pedantic, pompously parental fashion -- what I want them to take away and file in their memory for 2013 as historic.

And there's what they will take away anyway, regardless of how I interpret the year for them.

I would like them to know about the death of South African leader Nelson Mandela. A noble man who sacrificed his life to fighting inequalities.

More importantly I want them to know that, even as we in India solemnly marked Mandela's passing -- by sending leaders to his funeral in Johannesburg and bringing our flags down half mast -- we still battle apartheid as bad as Mandela did, with less courage.

Battles that are not being won. Or even fought for.

Section 377. Caste. Faith. Race. Skin. Language. Region. Or what about the everyday, conveniently overlooked, but no less cruel apartheid, with which we, the educated classes, treat the people who labour for us?

You have to only read the deleted comments of readers on our site to understand the entrenched levels of intolerance that exist.

I need my daughters to know about the intolerance they are growing up amidst.

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Image: In India, homosexuality is a crime!
Photographs: Arko Datta/Reuters

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My daughters should know about the superhuman heroics before Cyclone Phailin hit Odisha

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Vaihayasi Pande Daniel

2013 began with the sorrowful lull following the death, on December 29, 2012, of the young Delhi girl who was brutally attacked by six men. Please don't compare them to animals.

Through the year, news organisations did a better, marginally more sensitive job -- compared to earlier years -- of tracking and reporting the hundreds of crimes and slurs against women and young girls that took place in villages, slums, behind closed expensive doors, in city streets, judge chambers, hotels, ashrams of lecherous babas.

They also occasionally highlighted crimes of earlier years, like incidents in Manipur, Kashmir or Jharkhand.

My daughters need to know about the fights and brutality women face all over this country. It might help them become stronger, more courageous women.

I would like them to understand the import of the Arushi Talwar verdict. About the tragedy that can befall a happy-go-lucky 14-year-old and her family; a family that had everything going for it. They need to read about what seems to be a miscarriage of justice. And know about the sudden treacherous sideswipes life hits you with.

I wish them to know who Umesh Krushna Parvate was. This 31-year-old Mumbai fireman lost his life trying to rescue a crow entangled in cable wires in Wadi Bundar, central Mumbai.

They should know about the careless human damage that contributed to the Uttarakhand floods and the superhuman heroics responsible for the success of the Cyclone Phailin evacuation in Odisha and the superstorm-sized misfortune that befell Tacloban in the Philippines.

I want them to know about the peculiar, hushed-up, accident that happened in the middle of the night on Peddar Road, in south Mumbai, with an Aston Martin.

But my daughters understand that. One of my younger daughter's school friends, now a best friend, was seriously wounded in, but miraculously survived, a hit and run accident.

It happened in front of my daughter. She knows that there is scum out there who can run over a 12-year-old and not go back to see if the girl even survived.

When I asked each of my girls what they remembered the year for, I got some surprising answers and different perspectives.

My younger daughter -- who is at that nasty, irreverent selfies-Snapchat-gadget-Lungi Dance-Kim Kardashian-Kanye West-obsessed stage of her life -- says she will remember 2013 for Chennai Express and the release of The Siege: The Attack on the Taj by journalists Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark.

We live close to Chabad House and the Taj hotel. When the 26/11 terrorist attacks on Mumbai happened, my younger daughter was just 8. She has hazy memories of how frightening it was for her -- the sound of the bombs and bullets, the Rapid Action Force men patrolling our street, a burning Taj visible from the back window, commandos dropping out of the sky.

I was out covering it, and a few of her friends/schoolmates/teachers lost their parents or lives. The book, she says, was very "informative" for her and showed her pictures of all the terrorists (apart from Ajmal Kasab) and is about all the "horror no one knew about".

She will also remember 2013 for the Talwar case and the Shakti Mills rape case ("Mumbai is not safe anymore"). And for a few bizarre murder cases. "Like the guy who cut up his wife and put the pieces in the fridge. It is just the kind of thing you remember. Or the businessman who was pushed off the building. That investigation was different."

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Image: Villagers return to their villages after Cyclone Phailin hit Girisola town in Ganjam district in Odisha.
Photographs: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

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'People just talk. They don't do anything about it'

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Vaihayasi Pande Daniel

Tarun Tejpal was the most talked about subject among her college peers, says my elder daughter. Partially because the television and newspapers were flooded with articles and news about the case, she believes. But more because the most shattering aspect, she says, was: "She knew him. Still he did it."

The Shakti Mills rape ("because it was like the Delhi case, initially"), the fiery death of actor Paul Walker (which she asked, after it happened, if it could be a hoax or a stunt he pulled and could still be alive), the Spain train accident (the images were disturbing and remained in her head), the Kenya Westgate mall attack ("too much like 26/11"), the Uttarakhand floods, the Boston blasts ("That guy" -- the bomber -- "was my age!"), the death of Mandela (which she learned about from someone's RIP Nelson Mandela WhatsApp status) and Section 377 ("It is so stupid, there are much more important things to be done in this country than illegalise gay rights") are what she is going to remember 2013 for.

Apart from random stuff like Miley Cyrus's twerking episodes, William and Kate's baby, and the heart-warming frame of the Pope being hugged by a little child in Rome. And the poisoning of a faithful, stray dog in a street in south Mumbai.

For my elder, the most shocking incident of 2013 was the attack on a woman in a Bangalore ATM. "All she was doing was taking out money." Did it bother her to hear about the attack on television? "Yes, because people just talk about it and don't do anything about it."

Have I, with appropriate, parental gravitas, taught my daughters anything about the year gone by?

Or is there is a joke here somewhere and it is on me?

Have I more to learn from their young perspectives of a year gone by?


Image: The woman bank official, who was brutally attacked at an unguarded ATM kiosk in Bangalore, was discharged from the hospital on December 21 after undergoing treatment for more than a month.


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