Today was all about luck for this not yet three-year old girl.
Wait. Let me start at the beginning. I spent a wonderful Sunday with my family, catching up with old friends in Sarjapur. We talked of many things including how safe/unsafe it was for a girl/woman in India. Just the notion of ‘choice’ for a girl growing up in India vs. in the USA.
At the end of a long day we all went to Corner House, an ice cream place in Koramangla in Bangalore. We finished at about 9:30 pm and we were ready to get back home. We notice a girl child. Small, well dressed and carrying a cloth bag. She was making her way into the middle of this very crowded street with cars and bikes zipping past. My husband tells this man standing close to her ‘ please be careful with your child’. And this dazed looking man replies ‘ she isn’t mine’.
Suddenly there is panic. And we realize the child is alone, lost and crying very loudly. By now there were a whole lot of people gathered around to figure out what to do with this child. People fanning out in different directions, walking into shops, walking into lanes close by… anything to see if there was an equally panic-stricken mother/father/relative nearby looking for this child. There wasn’t. Not one we could find anyway. I got her a toffee to calm her down. It didn’t. My friend picks her up and starts to rock her. We called the cops. And are wondering what to do next.
Then this child points in one direction and starts wailing again. My friend suggests we set her down again and let her walk. She starts walking towards a far away lane while still holding one of the bystanders hand. By this time the beat cops on a bike have heard the commotion and come to help out. A few of us walk along with the little girl while briefing the cops. About 500 yards down the girl turns into a by-lane. Three house down that lane, well away from the busy street and traffic, is her home. Her mother is standing outside chatting with a lady completely oblivious to the drama that just unfolded a scant 500 yards away with her daughter. The child runs to her mum and stops crying. The mother had not even realized the little girl had walked out of the house. And amazingly this little, not yet three years old girl found her way home!
So all’s well that ends well. Yes. But things could have gone horribly wrong.
It got me thinking …
While walking around asking people if they knew of someone looking for a missing girl child, my thought was – what if she has been abandoned? Why did I think that? Mainly because if she were lost, then in the 20 mins that had passed since we found her, there would have/should have been someone looking for her. She was well dressed and not a street child. She was just barely three!!
The next thing that came to my mind was – Now what? I don’t know what to do. We can’t leave this child with the cops. Certainly not at an all male cop station. Do I call up a women’s cell, an orphanage, a hospital? What is the procedure in a situation like this? And if she were indeed abandoned, then was I going to be consigning her to a life in an orphanage away from any family life till she got adopted, if she ever did. Was it my moral responsibility to take her home?
And would it be right? Would I allow some other stranger to take her home. Would she be safe? But then I am sure, others too would have questioned if she would be safe with me.
Things could have gone horribly wrong even with us well-meaning well-intentioned folks. What if we had taken the child to a cop station/ hospital/women’s cell/orphanage. She would have become a part of the system. What if the mother did not realize for an hour that her child had walked out the gate. By which time all of us who knew anything would have left the area. Restaurants would have closed. Then what? What if this child slipped between the cracks and lost her way forever. We meant well. But…
Though there is something that I did see/ learn and am so very proud of.
A whole bunch of us stopped. We did not run away from the responsibility. There were the four of us – our friends and us – with kids. Everyone else who stopped were young, did not appear to be married and did not have children with them. The first couple who stopped, continued to stay on the scene even when we – apparently older looking/ with kids responsible adults – came on the scene. They did not leave. They were probably in their early twenties. There was a group of four girls of a similar age, who stopped and tried to calm the little girl. Some young guys stopped and stayed. Everyone tried to figure out what language the child would understand. Diverse people tried to reach helplines. The man from the sweetshop did not take money when he realized why I wanted the sweet.The cops from the police station were on the scene within ten minutes of our call. The beat cops had already got there within five.
Today this girl child found her way back home. Maybe it was luck by chance. Or maybe because no matter what you say for my country – Good people still exist. I saw it first hand today. It got me thinking about my discussion earlier in the day with my friends about the girl child. We have a long way to go. But if today’s youth can stop to help and not be daunted by the thought of responsibility, not run away after passing the buck, there is hope. I don’t mean to simplify the situation or trivialize what has gone on in the past and still continues to do so. I just want to believe.
There is always hope.