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“Mommy, where do babies come from?” asked Rishika holding her Barbie doll in one hand. She was just 5 and had just come back with her mother after visiting Manju Aunty and her new born baby in the hospital. Before Rishika’s mother, Tanuja could think of a reply, there came another question “Mommy, why was Manju Aunty on the hospital bed?” Tanuja couldn’t help but smile looking at her 5 year old daughter’s eyes twinkling with curiosity trying to understand the world.
“Do they come from the hospital? Where do doctors get them from? Which hospital did you get me from, Mommy?”
“Take a breath Rishika. First let me look for the keys, I will answer all your questions while driving back home, ok?”
“Ok” replied Rishika and patiently waiting for her mom to hunt for car keys in her bag and unlock the car. She quickly hopped at the front seat, while her mother put on both the seat belts.
“Now tell me, where doctors get the babies from?” said Rishika, not giving up.
“Did you notice how fat Manju Aunty got before she had the baby?” Rishika nodded totally confused. “So, the baby was in Manju Aunty’s tummy and doctor got the baby out of her tummy” Rishika kept staring at her mom for a few seconds, she did not even blink.
“But how did the baby get in there?” Now was Tanuja’s turn to be surprised. She wasn’t expecting this question. And she was confused how to answer this. Before she could think of something, Rishika said, “I guess I know how. Manju Aunty might have eaten the seed that can grow babies and baby grew up in her tummy. Just like we plant the seeds in soil and after few days they become plants. Am I Right, mommy?”
Shocked, Tanuja now pulled over the car. How far can a 5-year old brain think? She looked at Rishika and said, “No, that is not true. Baby was made inside her tummy. A part of Manju Aunty and Ravi Uncle together created the baby which grew for a few months in Manju Aunty’s tummy and when the baby was big enough, doctors removed him from the tummy so that the little baby can grow up like you.”
Rishika still looked perplexed but she bought it. “Oh, is that the reason everybody said that baby’s nose is like Ravi Uncle?”
Tanuja smiled, “Yes, my darling.”
“Was I also made in your tummy and came from there?”
“Is that the reason why I look like Dad, because he and you together created me?”
Tanuja did not know what to say. She did not know how Rishika was taking all this. She replied in affirmation but was confused if she did the right thing by telling her the truth rather than some story about a fairy coming with a baby and giving to the mother.
Tanuja never wanted to tell false stories to her daughter. She felt that it was important to tell kids the truth in a form that is not dirty or revealing, but still the truth. She was quite curious to know what her little head would think of next.
Rishika did not come up with any more questions now. They reached their destination and she hopped out of the car to go play with her best friend in the neighborhood. Tanuja got busy with the household work but she could not stop thinking about Rishika’s questions. She realized that the kids see the world in a totally different light far different from our view of the world. Rishika is very talkative with limitless capacity of words. Sometimes those mean something, sometimes they don’t, sometimes Tanuja listens to her in awe and other times she has to beg Rishika to stop talking.
The other day, Rishika and her friend Tina just came up to the backyard and decided to make artificial wings so that they could also fly like the birds. No matter how much Tanuja tried to explain them they cannot, they simply wouldn’t give it up. They used cardboard and thermocol to make wings and finally lost in vain. Tanuja felt sorry looking at their efforts go in vain, but in no time both the girls were back again on another project which was to make a kennel for the puppies nearby.
A she-dog in the neighborhood had 5 pups around a month old, Rishika was totally enchanted with those small creatures. She wanted to get them home, but of course Mommy wouldn’t allow. Finally Tanuja allowed the dogs to stay in the backyard and thrilled were the girls now. In no time, the girls pulled up a carton box to make a small home for the dogs.
Tanuja was very proud of her little girl. Not only was Rishika intelligent and smart, she was also quite sensitive. When she was even younger, she would feel extremely sorry at the sight of a child beggar on the road. And there would come all sorts of questions raining again and again.
“Mommy, who will take care of that child? He is crying and is also very dirty.”
“Mommy, you have so many coins in your purse. Please give one of them to that child.”
Rishika would totally beg her mother to help these beggars. Then one day Tanuja decided to tell her little girl the reality.
“Rishu, these children do have parents but they don’t do any work because they send their children out to beg and get money. If we keep giving them money, the parents of these children will never work.”
Rishika was quite startled.
“Why would parents send the children to beg on the streets?” She was almost crying now.
“Baby, these parents don’t have money and they have found an easy way to get money from us. So, they don’t work themselves. It is our responsibility to not give them money, so that the parents of kids are forced to do some work, earn money and send the children to school where they rightfully belong. Begging is not good, sweetie and just because we have a lot of coins we should not encourage it either.”
This time she was confused but she looked convinced. There were no more questions from her side, but she became very gloomy after this discussion. Tanuja hated the fact that in her attempt to tell her the reality, she might have put in some negativity in little heart of her daughter.
Rishika missed her dad a lot and would not let a day go by without talking to him on skype. Tanuja’s husband Arun was on an onsite trip to London for an year. Tanuja decided to stay back for the sake of her own career and also because they did not want any disturbance on Rishika’s schooling. Rishika would talk hours and hours on internet even when both mom and dad would get tired, she wouldn’t stop.
A few days later, both mother and daughter decided to visit one the relatives – Tanuja’s sister-in-law, Reena and her husband Abhay. They were a nice family and had helped them a lot during rough times. It was just a general visit with no fixed agenda. Tanuja and Reena were not very close emotionally but they shared a common interest of cooking. So, every time they met, there was a huge discussion on recipes and cooking experience. Rishika obviously used to get bored after watching so much Cartoon Network and would pester her mom to go home in no time. This time Abhay was home for a change and as Tanuja knew he loved kids. And this was quite visible because in no time Rishika was totally enjoying playing games with her Uncle Abhay.
While Tanuja and Reena were busy in the kitchen chatting, they heard Rishika cry out loudly. Confused and scared, the first thought that came to Tanuja was that she had fallen or hurt herself somehow. As soon as they reached the living room, what they saw shocked them. Rishika was sitting on the floor hugging her legs, she looked scared. Her Uncle Abhay was just getting up from the sofa looking tensed.
“Oh, it is nothing. I was just tickling her when she fell on the floor and cried.” Abhay said smiling nervously.
Rishika ran to her mother and hugged her tightly; Tanuja felt that she was trembling. “What is it, Rishu? What happened?” asked Tanuja worried.
“Mommy, Uncle was giving me the dirty touch. So, I shouted like you had told me to. We were tickling each other and then he said that he knows an interesting game to play.” Rishika said innocently. She still had the twinkle in her eye. She wasn’t crying; she just was upset because she felt uncomfortable.
Tanuja was furious; she had never known she could ever get this angry. Her face blushed with anger and unable to control the tone of her voice, she shouted as much as she could on Abhay.
“How could you, Abhay? How dare you even think that you could do something like this to my daughter? ”
“Your kid is lying. I did not do anything. I was only tickling her. I don’t know what kind of education you give your kids. They have no sense of respect for elders. How can a 5 year old girl ever make such an accusation on me? Reena, can you believe this? Do you believe this kid?” Abhay shouted in his defense nervously.
Reena was too shocked to respond. And Rishika was crying profusely now, she did not like this fight among the adults.
Tanuja took all her belongings and ran out of the house with her daughter. She was still angry and now she couldn’t even control her tears. Reena came behind them, but in no vain, the car had already sped away.
Tanuja knew she had to stop crying and take control of her emotions. She had to understand what really happened. She somehow composed herself and looked at Rishika who was continuously staring at her mom.
“Mommy, why are you crying?” asked the little girl crying herself.
“Baby, your mommy really loves you. You have to tell me what really happened there. Don’t feel shy, just tell me what happened.” Said Tanuja.
“Uncle was tickling me on my neck and underarms and before that we were doing pillow fight. I was really enjoying. But then he stopped tickling and said that he has an interesting game to play. He also said that I should not tell anybody about this game. I agreed. He then took me in his lap and slid his hands inside my frock. I thought he was going to tickle, but he did not. I did not like it. But then I remembered what you had told me about the bad touch. I just shouted and ran away from him. Mommy, I am not lying. I swear on God, it was the bad touch.” Rishika said with tears flowing down her eyes.
Tanuja hugged her immediately. “I know baby. I know that you are not lying. You will never lie.” Both mother and daughter hugged each other for long. Tanuja felt huge emotions. She felt extremely angry and cheated by her own family. She felt very sorry for her daughter but at the same time she felt proud of her too. Her daughter had finally done something that she could never do as a child. Her daughter had the courage to go and tell out in the world that something wrong happened. Her daughter was not the victim, but she is winner. She is an inspiration.
“Rishu, listen to me very carefully. You know what, Mommy is very proud of you. You did the right thing by shouting and calling out to me. Nobody has the right to touch you badly. Just remember, if another time such a thing happens, you have to do the same thing that you did today. You have to shout and call out to all the adults around you and tell them what happened without feeling any shame or guilt. It is not your fault, baby. Uncle was wrong, he is bad. You are my baby, very pure and very brave.”
“Mommy, why did Uncle say that I was lying? I am not lying. Why did he say bad things about me to Reena Aunty?” Rishika was still trying to understand a lot of things.
“Because Uncle knew that he did something wrong. He did something that he shouldn’t have done. And you don’t have to feel bad about whatever I said to Uncle. He had to be told that he did something wrong. You are not wrong, baby. He is.”
Rishika smiled finally – her million dollar smile. She was now convinced that her Mommy really meant what she said.
Tanuja knew that this was the first incident in her daughter’s life and many more will come about her way. She felt extremely proud of herself that she was bringing up a brave and outspoken girl, a girl who will grow up to be a confident woman, never doubting herself; A woman who will stand up for any wrong that happens around her; A woman who will not be victimized and will never take blame or shame on herself. Tanuja was a proud mother today.
Just one thought lingered in her mind – only if my Mom had told me about the bad touch, only if she had taught me to be this courageous. Only if I had not taken the blame and shame on myself, only if I had not suffered so many years for that one evening, I would have been a very different person.