CHILDHOOD ENACTED

Madhu kept asking questions wanting to make her think, whenever her “Hail Hitler” father was out of sight. The child never spoke of her mother, so mother was a suppressed voice in that home passively supporting this exploitation. Padmini saw Madhu talking to Asha; She knew what Madhu was trying. She seemed to pity Madhu more than Asha for trying to make a dent. She looked at the child pityingly and said “At least my father did not sell me” Why people in pain compared them selves with others in pain, why did that rating scale make them feel better? Does it really matter who slapped first, father, brother, husband, or son?

 ‘I want to go to toilet, don’t touch me like that”  Madhu tried to hold the torn pieces of the petticoat together quickly covering her self, ‘ I touch you because I love you, now if you love me , you should let me touch you wherever I want to like this” he removed that flap covering her, now his mouth was over her body, Madhu was quiet for a few seconds, ‘ This was not right’  , she was ashamed of that growth, her heart was pounding inside,she felt suffocated by the weight on her…….

Sometimes the child sat quietly beside Madhu, she knew she did not need to act cute to be liked by her, it was the ‘childness’ that Madhu liked, not the childishness,  a pretense. When a rape scene was being enacted in a hut, where a helper in Padmini’s house would be attacked by an old client and no one thought that the child should not be watching it. The father was busy watching it; Madhu walked away with the child to a room. The child told her about another film where the mother is raped in front of the child, and she had to show fear. Madhu was speech less; pretended horror could be as scary in child hood as real horror, in that fairy tale world, fantasy often merged with reality.

What effect stories like Snow-white, Sleeping beauty, or Red riding hood have on this little encyclopedia who had seen so much, what could she process and how ?  She seemed to be so wise and sad when she was not pretending. Asha had such beautiful hair, so Madhu sat reciting her the story of “Rapunzel” the child liked a story with no sound effects and she was not expected to retell the story for some scene. Asha did not have even one toy with her, so Madhu gifted her a doll on the last day. Her father was curt, he refused, she has a room full of toys he said, as though Madhu’s gesture was meant to question his affection for his child. Asha wanted that toy Madhu could see that longing, but her father had better toys, he was firm. Shanthala pressed Madhu’s hand indicating to stop forcing a gift.

 

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