Saturday, July 21, 2007


O Rose ,thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night
In the howling storm,
Has found out thy bed
of crimson joy
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy

William Blake

Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) as defined by the US Dept of Health Education and Welfare , consists of contact or interaction between a child and an adult when the child is being used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or another person.

It is not solely restricted to physical contact ; such abuse could include noncontact abuse such as exposure , voyeurism an child pornography. Abuse could be physical , psychological, emotional and ritualistic. (Ritualistic abuse is defined as child physical torture, hurt, or forcing the child to do somehing sexual during some sort of ritual meeting, cult gathering , or religious activity of forcung a child to watch any of the above to happen to someone else.

CSA takes place in almost all cultures, races and in all strata of society. Most of the reported cases and personal interviews reveal the fact that girls are more victimised than boys and the abusers are mostly men and not women.But this does not necessarily imply that the victims are mostly girls alone and that women never come in the garb of the perpetrator.

And friends, who are the perpetrators? You think that they are the typical movie- villain type strangers with a dirty sneer on their lips and a sinister-looking scar across their faces? No, my friend.He/she knows your child and your child knows him/her. Researches show that 70% of the perpetrators are known to the victims intimately.They come either as a friend , a cousin, an uncle, or saddest of all. as the step father or even father.

The mere mention of a child brings to ur mind a pair of wide eyes filled with innocence, curiosity ,and yes, trust. But ironically it is these very traits in the child that act against them.

Children are the most vulnerable , gullible lot among human beings. They can be talked into anything the adult wants to get done because their guileless minds cannot comprehend the enormity of the mistake they are about to commit. They are curious about every leaf that rustles in the wind...and more so when the adult presents it before them with an air of mystery and secrecy.

Kids look up to the adults and and trust them blindly. So it is easy to manipulate and exploit them.But when this trust is shattered , the child is totally lost and the emotional havoc it creats stays for a whole life-time. Children become easy preys because they are relatively powerless. This unbalanced power equation is very important here.The abuser is an adult who commands a very powerful equation in the family and the children are taught to repect and obey the powerful adult. The perpetrator plays on this sense of powerlessness of the kid.

CSA is either under-reported or it goes totally unreported , , mainly because of the stigma attached to it As said earlier , most of the abusers are intrafamilial and so the family's reputation is threatened. However , the matter is hushed up and the child is either asked to shut up or his/her disclosure is totally ignored. Children on their part, most of the time, fail to communicate their problem properly to another adult member of the family.

The fear, anxiety and guilt experienced by them make them incapable of proper comunication and as a result , they are not understood and believed. All the while, the perpetrator sits smugly in the knowledge that his/her secret is safe.
It is saddening to note that family, which is supposed to be the very source of safety and security turns out to be the place where the child is victimised both physically and emotionally . In our eagerness to cover up the issue and to preserve the so-called strong familial ties, we ignore the trauma experienced by the children. The way the abuse is handled when the disclosure is made, has a lot to do with its subsequent impact.

Researchers have found that the experience of sexual abuse can have a negative impact on the child that often persists to adulthood. It colours the individual's life in a negative manner and robs the survivor of many of the finer aspects of life. This aspect of CSA will be discussed in detail later.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Do ye hear the children weeping
O my brother,
Ere the sorrow comes with years?

-Elizabeth Barrett Browning

She began in a low voice...groping for words, looking at the faces around her,searching for understanding,reassurance.

Father (who incidentally is her stepfather) would give nice gifts
to us kids,play hide and seek with us...

It was in Kannada. Anju sitting next to me doing the job of the interpreter , was whispering the words in English into my ears.

With every present, he would hug me, kiss me, press me tightly to him,
make me sit on his lap...

She stopped, looking at her mother for a moment , moving closer to her.

I was his favourite,he would tell me. Then he started to teach me
these secret games which somehow made me feel bad. I was scared...

Her lips trembled, voice faltered.

He hurt me often, said I must not talk about it to anyone.
One day there was no else at home...

From there it was a torrent of words. With wild gesticulations intermingled with sobs, she came to the climax of her narration.Terror in her eyes and tears on her cheeks. somehow along the line I could hear Anju's voice faltering. But I couldnt take my eyes away from the horror that was being enacted infront of my eyes. The poor child was reliving every painful moment of the horrible experience. I wanted to ask her to stop, but felt powerless to move. Anju had stopped her interpretation. But I didnt need to be told what the kid was trying to say. i knew what it was- the horror, the pain. Oh God, didnt I?

Then eveything came to an end. the child stopped talking, her head buried in the sympathetic , reassuring, strong bosom of asha, the heart and soul of the NGO who was helping such unfortunate children to pick up their shattered lives.

I looked around me and was surprised to find that most of the eyes around me were moist , some of them even had their faces covered in their kerchieves. But all the women sitting in the small room had given me the impression of belonging quite confidently to the 21st century - the new "successful" women who could juggle a responsible job, and demanding family with quiet ease.

The look in the eyes of the gentleman sitting next to me caught my attention.He had a desolate expression on his face...that look of a small boywho had lost his way. Then I realised that ,that was what we all were deep inside - small kids , terribly insecure, feeling lost and lets admit it, feeling dirty,soiled and ashamed of ourselves - ashamed of something which we had not done.

Do we ever come out of this? Will we ever be able to make it in life? This journey from the victim to the survivor is not an easy one. But life has to go on. Ofcourse we will learn to overcome this. but how do we save our children from these horrid nightmares? Are we capable of building up a better world for them?

Let us move on...we have to

Sunday, November 12, 2006


We arrived there at 12.30.Somehow the huge wall that surrounded the wilderness always reminded me of a prison house rather than an old-age home.My heart was dark with heaviness unnamed.

It has been 12 years since I started coming here on a regular basis and this place always manages to bring all my spirits down with a thud. As the big gate slowly parted to give way, I noticed that this time it was the security officer that opened the gate. So what happened to that squint eyed man-boy whose mouth always drooled itself into an eternal smile of glee! My silly heart missed a beat .I didnt even know his name , I didnt even know how old he was.His hair and gait said he was a septuagenarian , but his face expressed the unadulterated happiness that you found only in kids.As the car stopped in front of the office, my eyes again went in search of that old friend whose name I never bithered to ask (infact I had somehow in my arrogance dismissed all possibilities of a name for any single inmate of that place.)

Slowly one by one they started coming to the dining hall.Most of the women had their hair cropped close to the scalp.One came near us , smiled a toothless smile.And asked something. I was shocked. For her mouth perfectly formed "evidunnaa(from where?)". But no sound came out. I answered her. And she went on asking and complaining till the manager came. The moment she saw him approach, the lady startled me by a loud "saarrooo". Ajayan smiled and said, "This is the way she is, only air comes out when she talks to outsiders. With us she is all sound and fury. The funny thing is, most of these people lose their memory soon after they are dumped here. we are specialising in taking care of the demented brains."

Among the faces I kept searching for that dear face and warm smile that we lost 12 years ago. Achan!

He had said , "you know that I dont care for these meaningless rituals and rites that normally children do to ensure a seat for their parent's soul in the heaven.Give my body to the medical college and let my doc do whatever he deems necessary to do with my eyes.Let him give them to whoever comes first.But thats it.No holy rivers , no mediation of a priest who has a hotline to god..."

We would laugh him off saying , "aaahhh say whatever you want to, but we will do what is normally expected of us by the faith.Anyway,it wouldnt bother you since a communist doesnt have a soul to see how disobedient his children has been after his death." Achan would smile into our eyes, hugging us closer to him and say, " Well, its not about the state of my soul after my death, darlings, its only about the spirit that I have instilled in my girls with my life"

True to your words, we never did any of those things that u never wanted us o do. But come here every year, like pilgrims. Wishing that we could ask you a hundred questions as we used to do .Have we failed you?

The lady kept mouthing words into the thin air without articulating any.As the gates closed behind us, I wished for that convenient blanket of fotgetfulness. If only...

Monday, June 26, 2006

An Epistle to A Friend

Dearest Aveesh,
Last month also I went to your house. Why? It was your birthday, you silly.No I didnt go to the house where achan and amma are staying.Somehow I get stuck at the house in the front portion of the large plot. The house where I knew our favourite lady, that sweet grandmother of urs and Saju's ...mine also ,would be waiting for me...with jars filled with chocolates and chips.

The 3 of u know very well that I wont fail to come , right? Well, so there she was , sitting pretty in her old age room the smell of sandalwood wafting around.

She gave me a tight hug that I had been missing so badly, a kiss on my forehead ,and said in her trembling voice ,"Oh dear, you have gone thinner!" I could almost see u brothers glance at each other, trying to stifle your smiles. (Honestly Aveesh, Im yet to find a more dazzling , more soul-filled smile than yours from a man)

"Probably she is on a diet", came the voice of Ranjini Ammaayi. Just as I was about to turn my head towards her, a pair of thin arms hugged me from behind.I turned my smile to a pair of lovely bright eyes. Gee Aveesh , Chithra is growing up into a real beauty.
Amaayi, as usual , was eager to tell and receive news from all our friends. But Ammoomma had only one person in her mind ,"Hows that tall doctor guy ?Is he still in America?"

Aaaahhhh... that tall doc guy, you ,and I...and Ammoomma...Those countless evenings that we spent in perfect harmony. Right from our highscool days till the time when we had to go our separate ways. Evenings filled with laughter, tears, fears and hopes.

Evenings of long walks together , me from my dance class and you from the library. You would point to the big orange sun at the end of M G Road and say, "See, who sid the sun needs a whole sea to set? He will happily settle for a clump of trees behind the collectorate.Even before its time for him to set"

As I took leave from your house, Ammomma told me that she would turn 94 that sunday. Her eyes were misty. She had a question in them and I turned my eyes away.What shall I tell her?
Cant write more.Hope you two are happy there.
Love...lots and lots...(wish I had the guts to say this louder early as well)


PS: Ha ha strange isnt it? Ammomma is turning 94, and Chithrakkutti will be 15.And you, Aveesh, you will always be 26 while I step into my forties without any excitement.

(Below is a poem written by the Malayalam poet Atuur Ravivarmma in memory of Aveesh, his brother Sajush,and Swaminthan, another boy who ,like the other two, decided to set very early)

ആറ്റൂര്‍ രവിവര്‍മ്മ

ഒരു മുത്തശ്ശി തൃ
ശ്ശിവപുരം , അതിന്‍
നടുമച്ചില്‍ നിന്നും
വരിയായി മൂന്നു

ഒരു കവിതയോ

ഇവരെ പൂക്കളാല്‍
അലങ്കരിച്ചു നാം,
ഇവരില്‍ നാം ശുഭാ-
ശുഭങ്ങളെ കേട്ടു,

ഇവരെ നമ്മുടെ
നിലനില്‍പ്പു കാക്കും
കുമാരന്മാരയ്‌ നാ-
മടയാള്‍ം കണ്ടു

പുലരിതന്‍ മക-
നൊരാള്‍ ; വെയിലിന്റെ

ഇവരെ നാം കണ്ടു
നടകളില്‍ മരങ്ങള്‍
തന്‍ കടത്തണല്‍കളില്‍
നഗര നന്മത-
വിധിയെന്നോ , വാഴ്‌വ്‌ ,
പിരികള്‍ തെറ്റിയ
പഴയ മൂടികള്‍-

മറവി പോലെന്നും
ഉറക്കം പോലെന്നും
തരിച്ച പോലെന്നും
ഒരു ചെറുപൂവോ
ഒരു തുള്ളി മഞ്ഞോ
പിളരും മിന്നലോ
ഉപമ കൊണ്ടു നാ-
മളന്നു നോക്കുന്നു
കളരിയില്‍ നിന്നു-
ചുവടുകള്‍ വെച്ചു
യരങ്ങു വീണല്ലോ.

മുറിവുകള്‍ വിട്ട
യിരുന്നെന്നു നമ്മോ-
ടുരിയാടും ഒഴി-
ഇനിയിനി നിങ്ങള്‍!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Summer other words ,Winter has set in!

Another academic year coming to a close. I had been cursing myself for getting a bit too involved with this job ( I find it impossible to leave my college shoes outside the doors of my home).

I would curse the nuns for making a mule of me, curse the kids for writing all sorts of crap in their answer sheets, and making me worry over them ...

Then again I would curse God for making me what I am now, and not someone more wonderful,

oh some one like a great scientist who, after spending hours on end in his lab , comes out victorious with a very significant invention that would change the future of mankind,
or someone like a philosopher or a great writer , who only have to look into empty space with vacant eyes,to come out with great words reverberating with the wisdom and knowledge of all times ,
or someone like my sweet sister , the real home-maker ,who somehow manages to look beautiful and fresh even when she comes out of the kitchen after a day's hardwork there(Oh how I hate those men who , when asked what their wives did, would give a very casual, Ha nothing much she is a mere housewife!) ,

or some great artist , who with a few strokes of his mighty brush would give birth to a new creation just as Millaise has painted my Fav Ophelia. Oh dear ! I really am ashamed of this, but I do admit that Im a total disaster when it comes to painting / drawing. If I draw an elephant, its sure to resemble a frog. Ok , so that solves the problem, you might think! I only have to meditate upon an elephant to draw a perfect Prince Frog ! No darlings! My elephant- metamorphosed -into-frog would turn out to be a mere tadpole .

Thus I find myself stuck in this dirthole of a college , serves me right, though!

But today, I watched the last of them leave the college with all their books and notes, turning back to wave, throwing a kiss my way , making sure that none of the nuns are watching,still going ahead. Away from the college, but surely not away from me?

I wanted to kick my arrogant mean little mind , for being so blind to them all this while . I wanted to call them back .I couldnt , for I knew that their paths lay ahead.

So here I am , back home. Wondering what a fool I have been all these years ,kidding myself into thinking that I had some great lessons to teach them. Me the know-it -all on the big pedestal , ready to dispense with knowledge to these lesser beings sitting infront of me,ready to lap up whatever meagre trickle I had to pour from my vast reservoire! baaaaaah ! What a fake I am.

My girls ! Hardly have they stepped into their own houses ,than I have started missing them badly.

Their shining eyes, sometimes filled with cuiosity, sometimes sheer mirth,confusion now, hurt at other times,disdain at some other moments , and love when I dont necessarily have to be "Teacher" to them. What all have we shared !

I always say that Im consantly working among Markandeyaas ( Markandeya as per Indian Mythology, was blessed with ever - youth , always 16...)Though the names and faces of the kids infront of me change , as every year passes by, the student community as such possessed one psyche. My kids, ranging from agegroup 18 to 22, as a single body, would always show the peculiar characteristics of their age and the times in which they were living. Or atleast thats what I used to boast knowledgeably to my friends.

But how wrong I had been ! Each of them every single one of them were distinct , independent individuals.And just now when I am about to say to myself , " Here you go darlings, I have explained every single possible word in your text book, given all possible meanings of the word, even some which even good old Shakespeare wouldn't have thought of while he wrote the piece, and all possible, Essay/ Short/ annotation questions that might come for the exams. Keep all that arranged in tidy packages in the shelves of your minds ", then you turn back and give me that sweeping wave of your hand and shout back , "MarakandaaTTO ( Dont forget)..."

Now what is this! Why am I taken aback? Ofcourse they were asking me not to forget their names, their faces.What else could be there ? Nothing else, nothing at all! Obviously they wouldnt have expected me to remember something that THEY had taught me. Or was there something that I had overlooked in my cock-sure arrogance?

As if in answer to my query someone closes my eyes from behind.I know from the giggle that its my Cheethu or ChiruthEyi who is Sreedevi in the College records. She is going home from the hostel , with her Amma. The sweet lady tells me, "Ma'm make sure that u dont give too long a rope to this one.She can be quite naughty ." Then one more round of farewells and they are off.

Now I know...when Chiruthey closed my eyes, somehow the world seemed to appear more clear.

The ever-sweet Sreedevi, whose crutches , we never even notice, for her chirpiness and exhuberance make up for her wobbly steps.And at the GanameLa, while all of us are dancing , me, doing a rickety-dickety waltz with her, since Ihave to be both her partner and her crutches, she stumbles. And I suggest that I be a Rajnikanth to her Sreedevi so that we could do any dance in an eternal slow motion! This seems to work better. At the end of the second dance she collapses intio a chair , gasping in pain , gives me a tight hug and also a slap across my face with :"Oh Miss! This cancer sure is a lousy disease to have, it wont even let you dance !" Then I knew that the brightness in her huge eyes was due to the unshed tears stashed away for private moments.

Then the dreamy-eyed Luba , whose distracted look caught my attention the very first day I went to their class.At first I thought, Oh the age for dreams...
5 minutes later it became , may be it IS the age for dreams, but the place?Surely she has a better place then my class! 5 more minutes ,and,I knew that I had to make the girl acknowledge Bernnard Shaw if not her teacher. The whole class was responding beautifully to the cheeky statements of Shaw but not my saucer-eyed dreamer.Then I made some outrageous statement just to shock the girl out of her wonderland. The whole class stared at me in disbelief , but not my target! I dont know what gave me the first inkling that something was wrong here ! Perhaps the troubled countenance of the other girls did give me a warning. I sat opposite to her , in the bench infront of her , and faced her.She gave me a confused look and a tentative smile.I smiled back into her eyes which were curiously devoid of any guile . Then the girl sitting next to her whispered something in my ears. She didnt have to whisper.For Luba was mostly deaf and she couldnt speak properly.May be that was what her friend was trying to tell me through her whispers , but Luba had a better , a more effective way of communicating. She just started talking to me as I sat shocked, unable to move , or say something.She was gesticulating wildly, almost desperately, strange sounds emanating from her young ,helpless throat .I wanted to ask her to stop ,to go back to her reveries to wherever it took her. I later found that the girl couldnt read lips, nor could she make use of any sign language. But she wrote beautiful English.She was always in that silent island of hers,where sometimes some of us were allowed. Someone who didnt know the whole story would rand us a pack of madcaps , for our sessions were all a big cacophony of meaningless sounds of all sorts. Meaningless to the outsider. But to us, who have learnt Luba's tongue by now , every single note makes perfect sense.

God ! How many of them, and how many more to come!I number them all, though I dont call them by their names,in thuis post of mine,. A pathetic attempt at capturing reatness with mere words .Hope you read the punctuations of silence more.Blessed am I , to be given a chance to be with such great ladies !

Thanks my darlings,for teaching me the wonderful lesson called Life!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

A Bird's View

( Just came across one of my old note books and found this. Written atleast 25 years ago,it should sound childish, out-dated and silly to some. But to me, it still makes sense.Strange, but not so strange after all! Here it is , once again, without any editing. i dont want to spoil a little girl's water colour)

Oh I saw the photograph the other day
Of the beautiful earth along the milky way

Taken by a spaceship
That was on a scientific trip.

Is this what you see from up there?
Is this the view you get of the sphere?
Is this what the birds see by day?
Is this really my earth that looks so gray?

Oh if only, if only I could be a bird
So that I could devour the beautiful world!

So what if I get shot down by the hunter
Dont we all have to burn into cinder.

Ah My hunter would be the best marksman
None but the best would break my talisman

And who knows!
My fall may even cause
A poet on his way to pause ,
And thus inspire an epic
Which might become more than a relic

Come to think of it,
Isnt that death of that bird
More honourable than the life of the girl
Unseen hunters at every corner
Fear in mind,
Bitterness in mouth
Eternally bleeding between the thighs
And a bleeding heart trembling with sighs

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A MOment of Silence

A MOment of Silence

by Emmanuel Ortiz (9.11.02)

Before I start this poem, I'd like to ask you to join me in a moment of silence in honour of those who died in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon last September 11th.

I would also like to ask you to offer up a moment of silence for all those who have been harassed, imprisoned, disappeared, tortured, raped, or killed in retalliation for those strikes , for the victims in both Afghanistan and the U.S.

And if I could just add one more thing...

A full day of silence for the tens of thousands of Palestinians who have died at the hands of U.S-backed Israeli forces over decades of occupation.

Six months of silence for the million-and-a-half Iraqi people, mostly children, who have died of malnourishment or starvation as a result of an 11-year U.S.embargo against the country

Before I begin this poem , two months of silence for the Blacks under Apartheid in South Africa , where homeland security made them aliens in their own country.

Nine months of silence for the dead in Hiroshima and Nagasaki , where death rained down and pealed back every layer of concrete , steel, earth and skin and the survivors went on as if alive.

A year of silence for the millions of dead in Viet Nam - a people , not a war, for those who know a thing or two about the scent of burning fuel , their relatives' bones buried in it,their babies born of it.

A year of silence for the dead in Cambodia and Laos, victims of a secret war....sssssshhhhhh....say nothing... we dont want them to learn that they are dead.

Two months of silence for the decades of dead in Columbia , whose names, like the corpses they once represented , have piled up and slipped off our tongues.

Before I begin this poem,
An hour of silence for El Salvador...
An afternoon of silence for Nicaragua...
Two days of silence for the Guetmaltecos...
None of whom ever knew a moment of peace in their living years.

45 second of silence for the 45 dead at Acteal, Chiapas
25 years of silence for the hundred million Africans who found their graves far deeper in the ocean than any building could poke into the sky.
There will be no DNA testing or dental records to identify their remains.

And for those who were strung and swung from the heights of sycamore trees in the south, the north, the east, the west...100 years of silence...

For the hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples from this half of right here,
Whose lands and lives were stolen,
In post-card perfect plots like Pine Ridge, Wounded Knee, Sand Creek, Fallen Timbers , or the Trail of Tears.

Names now reduced to innocuous magnetic poetry on the refrigerator of our consciousness...

So you want a moment of silence?
And we are all left speechless
Our tongues snatched from our mouths
Our eyes stapled shut

A moment of silence
And the poets have all been laid to rest
The drums disintegrating into dust

Before I begin this poem,
You want a moment of silence
You mourn now as if the world will never be the same

And the rest of us hope to hell it wont be.
Not like it always has been

Because this is not a 9-1-1 poem
This is a 9/10 poem,
It is a 9/9 poem,
A 9/8 poem,
A 9/7 poem.
This is a 1492 poem.
This is a poem about what causes poems like this to be written

And if this is a 9/11 poem, then
This is a September 11th poem for Chile, 197
This is a September 12th poem for Steven Biko an South Africa, 1977
This is a September 13th poem for the brothers at Attica Prison , New York 197.
This is a September 14th poem for Somalia, 1992.
This is a poem for every date that falls to the ground in ashes
This is a poem for the 110 stories that were never told
The 110 stories that history chose not to write in textbooks
The 110 stories that CNN, BBC, The New York Times,and Newsweek ignored

This is a poem for interrupting this programme.

And still u want a moment of silence for your dead?
We could give you lifetimes of empty :
The unmarked graves
The lost languages
The uprooted trees and histories
The dead stares on the faces of nameless children

Before I start this poem we could be silent forever
Or just long enough to hunger, For the dust to bury us
And you would still ask us
For more of your silence.

If you want a moment of silence
then stop the oil pumps
Turn off the engines and televisions
Sink the cruise ships
Crash the stock markets
Unplug the marquee lights,
Delete the instant messages,
Derail the trains, the light rail transit
If you want a moment of silence,
put a brick through the window of Taco Bell,
And pay the workers for wages lost
Tear down the liquor stores,
The townhouses, the White Houses, the jailhouses, the Penthouses and the Playboys.

If you want a moment of silence ,
Then take it
On Super Bowl Sunday,
The fourth of July
During Dayton's 13 hour sale
Or the next time your white guilt fills the room where my beautiful people have gathered.

You want a moment of silence
Then take it
Now, Before this poem begins.
Here, in the echo of my voice,
In the pause between goosesteps of the second hand
In the space between bodies in embrace,
Here is your silence
Take it.
But take it all
Dont cut in line.
Let your silence begin at the beginning of crime.

But we,
Tonight we will keep right on singing
For our dead.