I will NOT read the newspaper anymore!

I just do not feel like starting this blog with the usual “hey guys.” The cheery tone doesn’t go with how I feel right now: unhappy, depressed, restless, angry, helpless and most of very, very SCARED!

This is not the way life is supposed to be on a daily basis for us – and more importantly for our children! But the past week has been particularly shocking: starting with what is now being called the “slap dare” that ended in a social media tsunami to the absolutely gruesome murder of beautiful little boy and the rape of  a 5-yr-old girl in a school toilet in East Delhi by a peon.

In between – a dance teacher in New Delhi “threatens to disrobe” a Class 5 student, a school bus crushes 6-yr-old Soumya while dropping her home at Mehrauli village, a 16-yr-old is sodomized in a South Delhi coaching centre, a Tantrik kidnaps and rapes a 15-yr-old and in Telengana, a 10-yr old schoolgirl is “humiliated” by her teacher and made to stand in front of the boys’ toilet for “not wearing the correct uniform!!!” On top of all of this gloom, hovers the dark cloud of mindless frenzy over the arrest of a religious conman and the blatant silencing of a prominent voice of “dissent.”

I feel a chill run down my spine, even as I write all this down. And it does not end here. Yesterday’s newspapers wrote about a woman “who was allegedly gang-raped in West Bengal’s Birbhum district on Monday and a bottle thrust into her private parts after she sought to end an extra-marital affair.” She is in a critical condition. But today, she is yesterday’s news. A single column in the newspaper.

Will she survive? Who will look after her 2 little kids? No idea! As far as the “hyper emotional TRP”is considered, her role has ended. Which is not the case with the “Pradhymn tragedy,” where the raw emotions of his distraught parents are relentlessly splashed across newspapers EVERYDAY even as TV anchors casually sit on the bed and interview his grieving mom, trying to find “new angles” to keep the story alive – “MLA, Minister attend last rites of killed schoolboy;” “Boy’s father doesn’t think cops got the right man;” “Rape accused fears for safety of his daughter;” “Two schools offer seats to Ryan boy’s sister;” “The letter he wrote to his mother” and “The mystery of the missing footprints in blood.”

Dastardly and extremely disturbing. As a result, schools are frantically placing orders for “more” CCTV cameras, parents are having non-stop meetings with school administration on safety guidelines, kids are shaken, adults are anxious and every bhai, didi, labourer, bus conductor, peon and help is in the circle of suspicion! The environment of distrust and fear is stifling. The day does not begin with a smile as it should but ugly lines of extreme worry. A permanently palpitating heart.

Reams have been written about how “bad news” affects us at the neurological level. BK Sister Shivani spoke eloquently at the Gurgaon Mom’s annual meet this year, about how we internalize all the negativity by reading/watching/listening to news about violence, tragedies and crime; and how it eventually moulds our personality and thinking. How images of death & destruction trigger sadness, impotent rage, frustration at not being able to do anything and even PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). But the scarier bit is the coping mechanism, where the brain then starts filtering images and we adjust to a state of “emotional disconnect” to carry on with our lives despite all that is going around. No rocket science there, it’s plain common sense – the survival of the species.

Do we have a choice then? Well, going back to BK Sister Shivani: “People and situations are not responsible for the way we feel. They are only the stimulus, our responses are the thoughts, feelings and behaviour which we choose and create.”

Sitting in Leisure Valley, listening to a whole range of outstanding artists – singers, story tellers, activists, poets and stand ups – perform at the peaceful #NotInMyName campaign, I wonder about my choices. How do I move from passive fretting to active participation? How do I wriggle free from mind-numbing despondency to a state of “can do-will do” optimism? How do I just break free and live each day with a purpose? The answer my friend is blowing in the wind along with the soul stirring lyrics of the Hamare Naam Par Nahin anthem. I get up… brush off yesterday’s dust and see the light at the end of the tunnel! Om Shanti!

(written in mycity4kids)

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