Why isn’t hitting a child made illegal in India? What a traumatic sight it is to randomly see kids being slapped or whacked in public. Apart from the indignity, the child also visibly grapples with the question: to cry or not to cry.
There we are at the Taj Mahal with the tour guide going blah blah blah and suddenly a piercing cry goes up in the crowd. One sees the wailing kid, who also manages to convey shock and surprise via his wail, and straightaway knows it is the mother who did it in this whodunit. Because she alone stands unconcerned; while everyone cranes their neck at the kid or tries to distract him with a crow here, a tree there, the mother resembles a general in a battlefield who has executed a premeditated attack.
Some of the warfare is sneaky in this unevenly matched duel. A blow to the head for saying the tables all wrong; a shove from the back because you are tardy at the breakfast table; a pinch, a jab, a sharp elbow in the rib. The child has to bear this in silence or go in for voluble cries. The one who cries manages to sublimate his anger in the moment, but the other one, the one who looks back mutely, has to be watched into adulthood. He may grow up to kill someone, maybe even the owner of the hand that hit him. Abuse is a cycle.
Adults hit as kids still carry the sting on their skin. They proudly speak of how their father’s hand tired but they did not react even once. They casually mention their ‘ineffectual’ moms who allowed the abuse. The scars of physical violence in childhood are of course more than skin-deep.
One of the most honest accounts of childhood trauma is found in Gayathri Prabhu’s memoir ‘If I Had To Tell It Again’. There are heartrending but brave scenes from her growing up days when her father, under the influence of alcohol, disciplined her in ways he thought best, which was indeed a done thing a generation or two ago. Spare the rod, spoil the child and all that.
But today one is aware of the harm this does to the tender psyche of the victim. No one outgrows this cruelty ever. Child psychologists who listen patiently to parents complaining about their children know who really needs counselling – not the kid, but the parent. Behind every damaged adult is the innocent child he used to be.
Which is why one regressive scene (among many other regressive scenes) stands out in the latest Bollywood release Simmba. Simmba, brought to life by Ranveer Singh most delightfully, is an orphan who makes families out of friends, which is all very well. But when he meets a father figure, he begs the latter to hit him – hit him now, hit him hard – so that he becomes a good man! Not just that, the new daddy beats his new son immediately. And then they hug like a great wrong has been righted.
No amount of item numbers and one-liners can drown out that unnecessary drama-queen slap on Ranveer’s adult cheek. Thank God it’s only a movie and once the popcorn’s over we can go home to be bossed and bullied by our offspring as per norm.
Forget smacking, kiddie cheeks are not even up for pinching with a ‘so cute!’
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