The Unbearable Heaviness of Being a Child

(abridged version in Forum: http://thedailystar.net/forum/2009/october/unbearable.htm)

When I lifted the most adorable two-year old in the world to sit her on my lap, she started screaming “Amar lengtu! Amar lengtu!” with an angry and disturbed look on her face. I didn’t realize I had accidentally pulled her dress upto her waist. Perplexed and alarmed by her premature recognition of her ‘shame’ zone that would in a few years evolve into her ‘fear’ zone, I worried about what grounds her intuition was building up on. As I fixed her dress, she lightly slapped my arm to ‘punish’ me for revealing her shame. She seems to be perfectly fine with bare arms and legs. I was as disheartened as I was resentful to see how aware she is of the hierarchy of fear/shame attached to different parts of her body. Why has it arrived so soon – her terrorized conscious?

Her five year old sister wanted to show off how her little sister is able to identify different parts of her body.

“Tomar chul dekhao toh!”

The little one pulled on one of her curls, “Eita amar chul.”

“Aar tomar chokh?”

She pointed at the corner of her eye, “Eta amar chokh.” Then she took over. “Eije amar naak! Eita amar kopaal …Eita amar gaal.” Extending her arms she said, “Egula amar haath.” Then she lifted her frock, and said, “Eita amar pet … aar eije amar dudu…” Right then, a male staff of the house walked into the room to get something. Before I knew it, I quickly pulled down her dress, pulled her close, and asked her to tell me that story about two girls and their tea-drinking cockroach friend that she had made up a few days back. “Ekta telapoka aar duita meye boshe acche…” Why did it creep up on me without any warning – my terrified conscience? Continue reading “The Unbearable Heaviness of Being a Child”

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