Over cups of coffee, mothers used to discuss our children. We now discuss our fears, feels Monisha Sen.
I looked it up in the medical dictionary. It's called Agoraphobia, a fear of crowds, of feeling safe only at home. It described my newly developed worry when taking the children anywhere these days. I cannot deny them their little excursions, but I find I automatically avoid events that are slated to be crowd pullers. And I find increasingly, other mothers unwilling to make plans for anything that involves going too far and too long from home.
The kids had a blast last Sunday. We had taken them to the new mall, which has a play area. While climbing, sliding and jumping, they could forget it took us 45 minutes to get to the parking area - their parents couldn't. We were tired after going through the security checks, the car was checked inside, under and in the boot. As we watched their mad antics in the jungle gym, we could not help worrying about the amount of glass surrounding us. For the kids, their treats started in the queue waiting to go inside. But for us, it was yet another reminder that our city is under threat.
We took them on a ganapati darshan, all dressed up and excited about the festivities. They did not realise it, but their parents instinctively avoided the better reported and more popular places. We found ourselves driving away from the exciting lights in the heart of marathi Mumbai where we live. We did our darshan in quieter suburbs where the fairy lights were as bright but the crowds thinner. We deprived the children of the mela outside a pandal, but I guess we can make it up to them another year.
My toddler's play school had a trip planned to Siddivinayaka temple this Chaturti. I worried from the moment the circular came in till his special waking-up smile that broke my heart the morning they were to go- I could NOT let him go. I hope the teachers and he, understand.
Friends went for a movie leaving their kids behind. During the interval, there was a commotion and what turned out to be a bomb hoax. Their first thought was for their children left at home, and they have not been out without them since. They have curtailed their activities and social life, and I realize my nervousness is not mine alone.
I now leave early to drop the kids to school on time. I buffer twice the normal time as I have to factor in the nakabandis and police checks we have to go through. It used to be fun to drive to the other end of the city on a weekend and meet up with friends. The kids used to enjoy having a sandwich picnic in the car so I don't have to start the feeding ritual the moment we arrive. But now it takes twice as long to reach anywhere.
There are checks on the road, there are traffic jams because of the checks and there is a husband tired of moving around in this city.
I guess, like all others in our city, I am learning to adapt after being through an embarrassing security check where a soiled diaper bag, two sets of childrens' underwear and dozens of empty sweet wrappers were displayed in public. I now prefer not carrying what I used to consider essentials in my purse. I prefer the security of the checks especially when the children are with me.
Yet, I am adapting. Adapting to living in a world that seems to be watching and waiting. Accepting being on high alert all the time. Accepting the slow traffic, accepting the reassurance of seeing khaki the predominant colour at the entrance to any public place. Comforted by the police waiting, watching, checking. Reassured that headlines and news reports are not anything more terrifying than planes being turned around because of the exuberance of few innocent passengers.
Accepting that the alternate is too dreadful to contemplate.
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- The Indiaparenting Team