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Intolerance for anything is the buzzword now, of any private or public behaviour, of others’ choices, even of an innocent baby crying in a public place.
One Monday evening, we were in a pharmacy in Pune to buy some medicines for my daughter. She was suffering from cough since last two weeks.
On that day, the coughing had been extreme due to which she had been sleep deprived and cranky since morning. I had taken her to her paediatrician, and while coming back home, we had stopped at the pharmacy to get her medicines. It took a while before I could talk to the salesman there, and my daughter already irritated with the crowd, started crying loudly.
I tried to calm her down, and also took her out for some time. She was almost going to stop when there was this one man – in his late forties may be – who had listened to my daughter’s wails just for a couple of minutes. He got up abruptly from the chair he was sitting on and then covered his ears with his palms. Then in a voice clearly meant for me to hear, said loudly in Marathi, “Kay hey? Lokancha kahi vicharach nahi!” (What nonsense is this? No thought for other people!)
I was really surprised at this remark. The man looked well educated, and just moments ago was chatting continuously in a loud enough tone that all the people around could hear. Yet, when it came to tolerating others – that too ill children – he was nowhere.
I just said “Kaka, lahan mule kadhitari radanarach.” (Uncle. Small children. They will cry sometime, obviously.)
But he replied with “Ho amhala kalte te. Pan amhala tras hoto naa?” (Yeah. We understand it. But what about the inconvenience we have to face?)”
My daughter had again started crying. I left the pharmacy without buying medicines. There was no point in stretching it further. I eventually got the medicines and once inside the cab, my daughter also calmed down after a while, but this incident badly hurt the mother in me.
On one side, we talk endlessly about respecting elders, senior citizens and about being sympathetic to their needs. We also talk about treating children with utmost care, as they are emotionally extremely sensitive to external stimuli, and also the future citizens. But when it comes to actually practicing it, we are nowhere.
I am not saying it because of this one uncle or this one incident. But because of numerous times I have experienced this in the past. Be it at airports, in the plane, in the restaurants, at cinema theatres, malls – I have lost the count of times when I have received irritated, hostile and rude stares and comments from complete strangers – just because my daughter was doing something completely normal for her age but for which people around had absolutely minuscule levels of tolerance.
This time I reached a breaking point, probably because the uncle was extremely insensitive even when he could see my daughter was ill.
And this is not at all rare, in fact it is extremely common, and people do it blatantly without having even a slightest concern that they might be hurting others with their attitude.
One of my friends shared her harrowing experience when she was made to leave the waiting room of a hospital when her daughter didn’t stop crying. And moreover, the receptionist was extremely rigid about the whole thing, and was not ready to budge. I could just imagine what my friend might have gone through.
I have never forced or scolded my daughter to stop crying (except in some really important situations). But I am not sure if I can continue to let her be once my daughter starts understanding other people’s reactions. She might feel embarrassed, scared, resentful. She might even feel forced to hide her true emotions. Or worse – she might herself look at other children crying as a nuisance and become insensitive.
And again, it’s not about just crying, it’s about several other things – things which people today might think are wrong but are important for growing up normally. Things like walking barefoot on the road, shouting and cheering while playing, digging up soil and dirtying clothes, plucking fruits from the neighbors’ garden, and once in a while breaking the window. I think these are all moments from a healthy and normal childhood. But today, with the number of cynics and irritable people around, I feel scared if my daughter would ever experience all this – or worse would be judged for doing all this.
How do we deal with such situations and still let our children express themselves in a natural and normal way? How do we tell children to be open and sensitive when a majority of others look at it as something abnormal or wrong?
We are a country with the 2nd largest population density in the world and limited resources. Already it’s extremely difficult to find basic infrastructure for children in public places. We don’t have proper spaces for breastfeeding mothers, we don’t have toilets, we don’t have enough paediatric wards in hospitals. We don’t have enough paediatricians in smaller towns, but somehow we have made our peace with it.
But the things which we actually can have – like empathy, concern and sensitivity for children – let us please have them. These things will have a much bigger impact than the best and most expensive facilities can ever have. Isn’t it?
Published first on the author’s Facebook page.
Image source: shutterstock
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