Mystic mantra: Bachpan bachao

Children bring blessings to the world

At a tea party once, parents were boasting how much they loved their children and how they would do anything to protect them. Suddenly, the safety valve of the pressure cooker exploded, emitting clouds of steam and smoke. Within seconds the adults fled, leaving the kids blissfully playing on the floor.

While children in India are exposed to unimaginable dangers, many of us myopically ensure that our own kids get the best education to forge ahead in life’s rat race. But with the Nobel Peace Prize’s gaze zeroing on Pakistani girl activist, Malala Yousafzai, and Indian child rights activist, Kailash Satyarthi, “for their struggle against the suppression of children and for the right of all children to education”, it’s time to bachao our bachpans.

Before bachaoing any bachcha it’s best to save the child in us. Hypocritical lifestyles and hectic workloads leave little space to knock off shoes, cover ourselves with sand, play piggyback with kids, clown around... Children have no ego and care a fig about others’ opinions of them.

“Unless you become like little children,” says Jesus, “you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus saw kids as models of trustful surrender. Children instinctively sense that they fully depend on their parents for everything. Consequently, they’re neither burdened by the past nor anxious the future. They trustfully live in the here and now.

The Bible has more than 500 images of children and childhood: as humble, ego-less, innocent, avid learners, forgiving, non-vengeful and reflections of their parents. We often browbeat our kids into becoming our clones. Instead of being obsessed with educating our children, let’s allow our children to educate us.

While we allow children to educate us, we must be aware that contrary to feelings, children are not “holy innocents”, but born with innate selfishness — evolutionary instincts necessary for survival. Hence, there’s a need for children to be schooled in unselfishness.

Children bring blessings. Childless couples who adopt children and give them a new lease of life must be commended, while all child abuse must be condemned. In the year 2000, about 12.6 million Indian children were employed as child labourers — shockingly many of them girls — in hazardous industries like fireworks and beedi-making.

Mr Satyarthi’s satya and arth lie in his realisation that a child’s name is “today” and that responding to its needs tomorrow might be too late. As we heap malas upon Malala, may we embrace our kids even if pressure cooker valves explode or guns are aimed at our foreheads.

Francis Gonsalves is a professor of theology.

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