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21 May 2024

A prayer on my lips and an eye on strangers…

Mily Chakrabarty

By Mily Chakrabarty

A parent is a parent forever. Worry and concern are a part of our lives. So when the news of a four-year-old being sexually assaulted in a school bus broke recently, it brought to the surface every parents’ worst nightmare.

My five-year old also takes the school bus, run by the same company, every morning and afternoon, hence, this incident was really too close for comfort.

My first thought upon reading the story was - should I take my son off the school transport?

Or maybe I should enroll him for self-defence classes.

Or maybe I should seriously think of sending him to a boarding school back home.

Or I should probably send him to live with his grandparents where he won't be required to take the bus.

My second natural reaction was to blame the school and the transport firm. But apart from venting my latent anger, it led me to a dead end.

Without doubt, the educational institution and the transport firm could have handled the situation in a more sensitive manner but hopefully institutions will not take this opportunity to pass the buck and recognize this horrific incident as a rude awakening and revisit their transport policies and procedures to make it fool proof.

Closer home, this incident is a wake-up call not only for the schools but also for parents – especially working parents like me who are forced to rely on third-parties to look after their children in their absence.

A lot of times parents are not even aware who all their children interact with during the course of the day – cleaners, maids, security guards, courier boys, carpenters, plumbers, etc. A child’s familiarity with a lot of people should receive a closer scrutiny.

Beyond keeping a close on the children, what can parents do to make their children’s life safer? Give them mobile phones with emergency speed dial facility? Watertight background checks of all people who come in contact with our children? Stay in a joint family?

The list can go on. However at the end of the day we have to live with the fact that it is a big, bad world and it is our misfortune that we have to explain our children far more complex issues than mere 'stranger danger'.

Even as I ponder on how to make my child’s security fool-proof, I know that when my son boards the school bus tomorrow morning, I will have an extra prayer on my lips and an added weight on my shoulder till he comes back home safe and sound.