As a little girl studying in primary, I was privileged to have spent a lot of time in the school library. Being a voracious reader my favourite place was among the books. It could be novels, short stories, comics… I just needed to lay my hands on them and was transported to another world in a jiffy.
How did this happen? During school hours children do not get much free time to go to the library, then how could I find those special hours?
My younger brother was in a school which started an hour earlier than mine. Since both the schools were close to each other, and pretty far from home, I managed to convince Papa to drop me early as it would be a win-win situation for all. With much resistance he finally gave in to my charms.
Every morning I entered the school gates, full of confidence, striding towards my class, not an ounce of fear. Obviously, there were hardly any students around. Only a handful of seniors practicing basketball or engrossed in some other sports activity, which I didn’t care about. My only goal was to reach my class, dump my bag and race to my cozy corner. On my way I would at times cross paths with the gardener uncle, the watchman uncle, or the cleaning ladies whom we called didi. Once in a while I would greet Sister a very good morning.
I had a ball of a time reading the variety of books available for us. As the minutes ticked by, I would see some friends trickling in. Slowly the library, the corridor would be bustling with activity. The happy shout outs would bring me out of my trance and I would join my gang, heralding another normal day for me.
All these years I revisited those hours with a lot of fondness and warmth, never with even an iota of fear…. But not anymore. I know all who are reading this must be thinking “you lucky girl, you didn’t fall in trouble”.
The way our world has turned upside down, no sane parent will allow their child, be it girl or boy, to be anywhere alone. School which was considered the second home, is no longer the safe haven we can trust. My father was the strictest kind available in those times. He checked things out before agreeing to leave me by myself at school. Those were the days, when you had faith in people, in school, in institutions. He trusted the school, the school met his expectations. The outcome is a well-read lady who is forever in debt to her school.
If the same scenario was presented to me today, it would send chills down my spine. It would not be easy to agree to drop your child too early or pick up too late.
We hear of so many cases on a regular basis that people have almost become immune to the news and children have become mere statistics for data analysis. Where have all those dear watchman uncle, gardener uncle, driver uncle vanished. They were a part of the society then, and they come from the same society now. The society as a whole is to be blamed for the apathy.
Being a vigilant and responsible citizen is in our power, let us try to be that. We may make the world a safer place for our kids.