I saw the child again today.
He was swinging to and fro on the gate of his apartment.
In his school uniform, with his school bag on his back.
I looked up, and there was no face observing him from the first floor either.
Every afternoon, I go to pick my son from school. I see a lot of children leaving school in their bus or with their parents, screaming ‘Bye’ to each other. It is a sight I love to see. One day I reached there early and had to wait till Munnu came out. This child (he cannot be more than 4 years old) came out of his class and left the school unaccompanied. I was surprised, thought the Security Guard did not see him go alone, and pointed out to him.
The Security shrugged, and said, “He stays in the first floor of the apartment right opposite the school.”
I thought it is okay in that case, though I did not see anyone watching out for him. The road in front of the school isn’t crowded, it is a by-lane, and only an occasional bike or car would come.
As I waited for Munnu to come from his class, this little boy stood outside the apartment for about 15 minutes, playing, walking here and there, idling, but no one from his house came outside to see why the boy hasn’t returned from school yet.
I felt troubled, in fact quite unhappy, to see the lonely child, and I again asked the Security about it. He said, This is the daily story. Every morning the child comes to school alone. Some afternoons after school, seeing the child sitting outside, the Security would see him up the stairs, after a while the child would come down again. This goes on till sometimes the Security gets mad at him – because if something happens to the child, he will be blamed. It was as if the boy did not want to go to his home at all. And all the while, there would be no one looking out from the balcony for him. In the words of the Security Guard, “Koi nahin dekhta, Madam.”
I wonder what the little one thinks. He may not even be able to put words to his feelings yet. But does he know or feel unwanted?
There might be nothing to it. Maybe it is just that his parents want him to be independent. Or that they are confident he will be safe. Or maybe, my Motherly heart is construing unnecessary melodrama where none exists. But it gives me (and others) the impression that they don’t care enough. My son wants to do things independently too. He wants to go out and play alone, he says he will go to school alone, but I just don’t let him. Even if he goes out to play with his friends, I would be around, watching. May be in another year or so, I will let him, but for now….
…I think 4 years is too young to be outside alone.