Kissing hands

Right in the middle

Curled up in a white floral bed sheet, my daughter and I were playing the last game of the day. While the final seconds of the game were ticking away, she dropped her toy and covered my wrist in her tiny pocket of fingers. I looked at her curiously when she said to me, “This is mumma’s hands” and kissed them. And pulling her doll from the edge of the bed, she said, “This is my baby’s hands” and slapped it.

I reached out to her, hauled her into my arms and kissed the centre of her palm. And to shore up the damaged fence of my parenting, I reassured her that hands were only meant for kissing: a gesture indicating courtesy, politeness, respect and admiration. She gave a swift nod to show she understood. However, I’m not sure she did.

Next morning as I was travelling to my new workplace in Thane, I saw infinite number of people in Andheri station rushing in every direction to catch a Mumbai local. I was a bit relieved to see that I was not the only one who seemed to be playing the real life train maze. But what I saw in one corner of a corridor put a stumbling block in my way. I saw a boy slapping a girl. He then pushed her violently back, tugged her hair and shook her. She was crying miserably but she silently acquiesced. When she gave up, I continued to run in the maze. This often left me bitter and angry for the rest of the day.

The very next week I travelled to Belagavi. One evening I decided to meet my aunt who is also our neighbour. With the nine-year-old nephew and the seven-year-old niece and two-year-old daughter in my arms – the mini-militia paraded to the neighbourhood with amusement and impediment of an innocent fighting force.

Little did I realise that when you assemble a regiment of militia, there’s always a war calling. My aunt’s husband, now 60, known for his aggressive behaviour, came out of the room and slapped my seven-year-old niece.

He did so because my niece and his granddaughter hit each other while playing. What I cannot fathom is why elders need to act like a referee? And even if we want to resolve, why are we abusing children ?

Not just my niece, even my daughter came running to me, with tears streaming down her cheek. One more time, my parenting fence was torn apart — that the hands were only meant for showering love and respect and not to hurt, abuse and fight. Isn’t it time to give the “kissing hands of patriarchy” a kiss of love?

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