The Yellow colored bus was parked on the left side of the road. I sprinted towards it. I was late by 2 minutes.
As I drew closer, I got a glimpse of T through the bus window.
T, the apple of my eye, my younger daughter, 5 years of age, was happily making boomerangs with the Bus attendant, H.
R, the bus driver let out a chuckle looking at them. Before I delve into what followed let me tell you a thing or two about H and R.
H is a lean and plain-looking young lady who takes care of the kids on the bus most sincerely and affectionately.
R (much like H) is a young man with a friendly disposition and wears a big broad smile around children. He also makes it a point to cheer for my little one every time she hops on the bus.
The reason why I thought of sharing this is, despite knowing how they had been with children on the school bus in the past several months, I froze looking at the way my 5-year-old was clicking pictures with H.
My mind turned foggy. My judgment became cloudy. And my heart missed a beat witnessing this growing camaraderie between my daughter, H, and R.
I wasn’t angry. I was concerned.
I think H sensed that. She immediately helped T get off the bus and as she handed her bag to me said “T was getting bored, so we were just having a little fun. She loves to get clicked!”
I nodded without looking at H.
“Bye T!” said R waving his hands at T who by now had comfortably positioned herself in my arms.
I frowned on the inside.
I headed back home, irritated at myself. The two-minute delay from my end had cost me so many pictures of my child on a stranger’s mobile.
No, I am not a paranoid person. But years of raising children single-handedly have probably hardwired my brain into believing that the world is far from perfect. Especially when it concerns the well-being and safety of my children, that’s where I draw the line.
Despite my gut telling me that H and R were nice people, my brain clearly instructed me that nice people weren’t to be trusted right now.
In the evening I tried to explain to T why it was important for her to say ‘No’ to pictures even to THE NICE PEOPLE.
Her first reaction was that of a confused look.
She told me ‘H’ was her friend and that she was very kind. I looked into her eyes which were challenging the idea I was consciously planting in her naïve conscience. I decided to look away.
Children are born with the ability to go with their gut. They only know one way to trust a person. And that is in completion. The way it should be. How ironic! I was stripping off my 5-year-old from an ability she was born with.
Believe me when I say this. Guilt was running through every vein in my body. Like an ace jockey riding his favorite horse, guilt was riding on me victoriously.
I got very little sleep that night. It was unimaginable to even think of the harm that might come to my child as a result of such relationships. And it was equally depressing to brush my instinct under the carpet which kept saying that they were harmless people. The nice kind.
The thought of taking it up with the school management did cross my mind at first but the cost of my peace definitely could not come at the expense of somebody’s job. A couple of days passed, and I did not take it up with the school authorities. But I started reaching the bus stop earlier. And cross-checking with my little one every other day if she was allowing the staff to take her pictures. She had learnt to say NO.
Around the same time, I got the opportunity to attend an event hosted by my daughter’s school. I decided that I would take it up unofficially with the Bus in charge who I found standing near the entrance. I did not hand out H’s and R’s names or the bus number. I just casually shared my concern and requested him to sensitize his staff on the issue at hand. He pried a lot and kept asking me the exact details about which staff member had been behaving like this and I kept dodging those questions. I didn’t want any trouble for H and R. I just did not want the pictures. The in charge assured me that it wouldn’t be repeated in the future. He looked relieved that I was not raising a hue and crying about the issue.
True to his word since that day there hasn’t been a single instance of pictures being taken or boomerangs being made. All has been well. Everything is still the same. Except that THE NICE PEOPLE now seem distant and different.
I don’t know if it is entirely because of my request or because of another parent’s complaint which I hear was submitted in writing on similar lines; Whatever the reason be, H and R no longer welcome children with a cheery smile. They just help children board the bus.
They no longer shout in excitement Bye T! They just help her alight the bus.
They no longer initiate a conversation with me zestfully telling me Aaj T ne ye bola. Aaj T ne ye masti ki. They simply hand her over to me.
They no longer say empathetically Koi baat nahi. Ho jata hai if I drop my daughter two minutes late. They don’t say anything. They just wait.
H and R were nice people. But I couldn’t trust them.
Maybe they thought I was nice too. But now they can’t trust me as well.
Sometimes the most basic emotion needed to lead a wholesome life is the hardest to come by. Like trust.
And sometimes the most basal emotion, the one that shouldn’t be lurking around your soul in the first place, is also the hardest one to beat. Like guilt.
P.S. Restricting myself to H, R, &T and not handing out the names, to maintain the characters’ anonymity. Not necessarily of my child.
Picture Credits: www.storyblocks.com