I had the most loving, happy-go-lucky, jovial parents till I was 12-13 years, but thereafter things began to change. When I turned 12, I did not want to be accompanied by my mother when I went cycling in the lane behind our house in Kolkata but I was not allowed alone. I wanted to walk the short distance from home to Ballygunge Phari with my friends, but I was not allowed. If I went playing with friends and came home five minutes late, my parents acted like an earthquake had hit the city and I hadn’t reached home yet. Their worry translated into frequent scolding that made me angry. I just kept thinking; what are they so worried about?
At 14, when I wanted to walk the seven-minute distance from my home to South Point School, alone, I was greeted with a negative shake of head from my father. By then I had become so adamant that I put my foot down and said I was not going to school if my mom came along. They came to a compromise. They allowed me only if I went and came back with two of my female friends. They claimed they were concerned for me. I kept thinking I was a responsible girl, what were they so concerned about?
After school I wanted to join Presidency College but my father was keen on me going to the nearby girls’ college, Lady Brabourne. My father was the happiest when I took admission there, but the happiness did not last long when the admission test results were out in Presidency College. I had got through and I had my sights set on that college. My father was livid. Going to Presidency meant taking a public bus ride for almost an hour and going to a part of the city, which he felt was not at all familiar to me and also not too safe for women. My mother, however, stood by my decision and I joined Presidency College. But my mother had no clue that my joining the college would add to her stressful existence of being the mother of a daughter. Thanks to the traffic, political processions, college functions or fests, I was perpetually reaching home late. And she claimed her hair was turning grey while she waited for me on the balcony. I just did not understand what all the fuss was about as I was a grown up girl now.
Then, when I graduated from college and started going to parties my dad drummed into my head not to accept any kind of drink from anybody at any party, “Beware, it might be spiked” was his refrain. When I went to the disco, my parents worried about the men all of whom they believed had ill intent. “If anything untoward happens what will we do?” was what they always asked me. I would say, “What nonsense, can’t I take care of myself?”
Now when I look back I think they were justified in their worry. They were prudent to know about all the beasts that lurk in every nook and cranny of our country, our city, our own homes. They knew girls in India – no matter what their age, status, class or caste – are never safe.
I wonder what my mom’s reaction has been to this news today http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/Five-year-old-girls-rape-case-Accused-arrested-in-Bihar/articleshow/19643044.cms
I am sure the paranoia she experienced in my growing-up years came back to haunt her but she’s probably glad that she doesn’t have a daughter growing up in these times.