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Showing posts from 2017

NEVER TOO EARLY TO START THE CONVERSATION

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Awareness is the first step to preventing and responding proactively to sexual abuse.
The last week of school at Shanti Bhavan before Christmas break is always abuzz with activity -- from wrapping up with semester exams to preparing for Santa’s arrival. While the children excitedly discuss how they plan to spend time with their families, the grown-ups have more serious thoughts on their minds.
Their concern is translated into long chats with the children, first individually and then as a group in the school assembly on matters concerning personal safety, staying hygienic and how best to handle difficult family situations like alcoholism, death of a relative, and violence.
“We feel nervous to have the children away from us but they need to be with their parents and siblings. They cannot lose touch with their families,” says Ms. Raji who juggles dual roles as head matron and class teacher for the pre-school. While there is plenty of anxiety in letting the children out of their sight and…

Reflections on 'Daughters of Destiny'

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The outpour of love and support my friends and I have received from many viewers around the world since the release of the Netflix docu-series, Daughters of Destiny, has been indeed humbling. Many seem to be interested in learning more about our lives, and in interacting with them I often find myself reflecting on all that shaped us to be daughters of destiny.
In 2011, I was in the midst of preparing for my final national exams which were to determine the kind of college I could join when I first met the film director, Vanessa Roth. Little did I know then that she was going to be an integral part of my life for the next seven years, silently observing all the happenings in the school through the lens of her camera and with her story-teller’s instinct. I was then seventeen years old and full of questions starting with my own immediate life.
In the beginning, I interacted with Vanessa as one would treat a guest, friendly but careful to give her a good impression. But it didn’t take long…

How I Came to Find My Father

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Others often ask me about my father. Those who have read my book seem puzzled by the amalgam of his contrasting personality traits: kind and cunning; loving and hurtful; aggressive and submissive; hopeful and fatalistic; selfless and selfish. He is all of these and more. He changes his ‘colour’ with the situation, just like a chameleon.
I still remember how his observant eyes closely scanned the foliage around us as we spoke during those afternoons we spent in the woods just by ourselves. I was sixteen then and deeply troubled by how little I knew about the man I called ‘father”. Acts of violence, deceit, emotional abuse and unfaithfulness to his wife that defined him were told to me by my grandmother and mother when I was growing up. Those tales ensured that I kept a distance from him and relegated him to the role of the oppressor, not considering the fact he too was at the receiving end of oppression from his short-tempered father, money-lenders and the police.

In the woods, while hi…

New Beginnings; Old Memories

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Anyone who visits the new pre-schoolers is met with the same question, “When will my parents come to take me home?” followed by the earnest plea, “Please ask my mother and father to take me back.” With comforting words, residential caretakers calm down the bawling four year olds when they burst into a loud chorus of cries. They work with clever answers, false promises, and ultimately, tempting chocolates.

This afternoon, as I moved from cot to cot trying to cajole the newcomers into taking a nap, I couldn’t help reminiscing on my own early days at the school back in 1997.  My first night was quite an event. Instead of the cold dung-coated floor of my hut, I slept on a warm cot; my mother’s presence by my side was replaced by a soft stuffed doll. But the elevated height of the cot scared me and the pretty stuffed doll was an empty comfort. I cried myself to sleep that night.

But over time, like the other children in my class, thoughts of home grew less painful as my mind was taken over b…

Grandmother's Red Can

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It’s an ordinary day in my village.
I’m waiting out the scorching afternoon heat, trying to take a nap on the cool cement floor of my grandmother’s house. The stillness all around has lulled my two-year old cousin sister to sleep in the sari cradle that hangs from the wooden rafter in the centre of the room.
But suddenly, the little girl lets out a wail as her peaceful slumber is broken by the loud, urgent cry of the scrap dealer passing by. “Old steel vessels. Paper. Broken parts,” he repeatedly calls out in a sing song manner that is strangely pleasing to the ear.
“Tell him to wait,” my grandmother instructs my brother and hurries to the rear of the house where a pile of discarded materials is heaped.
I eagerly follow her and help rummage through the dusty collection of odd items -- a deflated cycle tyre, a dented coffee pot, a broken ladle, my uncle’s rusty shaving kit, several of my used notebooks from college, and a pair of torn rubber slippers. “He weighs the paper in kilos. Some…

Last Day of Another School Year for Keerthika

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It's the last day of school for the elementary grades.
I fill my steel cup with hot tea and walk over to the tables where the little kindergarteners and first- graders are seated in the dining hall. From the satisfied looks on their faces I can tell that they're thoroughly enjoying the fresh slices of cucumber that they're having for their evening snack.

"So are you excited to go home tomorrow?" I ask, settling into the empty chair at the corner of the table. Heads nod in answer and I receive a chorus of a loud, happy 'yes.' But five year old, Keerthika, takes me completely by surprise when she comes over to me and says in her usual soft voice, "I don't want to go home."

The inquisitive psychologist in me immediately grows alert. I place an arm around her waist and ask her in a gentle yet concerned tone, "Why don't you want to go home, darling?" I fear I already know what her answer might be.
I am only too aware of what life is …

Hola Friends!

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Hi everyone! I’m really excited to return to blogging. A lot has happened since I last wrote and I look forward to sharing all the news on my life back here in India.

After an enrichening journey through college for the past two years, I’m finally in the last semester of my Master’s program in Psychological Counseling and will graduate this May. The friendships and bonds I’ve built at Montfort are a great source of joy. 
I’ve found my sense of purpose working with children in distress. I wish to specialize in child and adolescent couseling because of the importance of early intervention in addressing psychological problems.
Apart from academics, I spend a lot of time at Shanti Bhavan with my peers and caretakers who are family to me. They constantly encourage me to try harder at the things I set out to do.While on campus, I love reading bedtime stories for the little pre-schoolers and passing on my knowledge of psychology to the residential caretakers who play the role of surrogate par…