Monday, December 07, 2015

What happened to Mehr?

Dear Son,
I feel lost without you to pester me and wish you never had to leave for college. I knew all along that I would have to set you free to carve your future but I feel sad all the same. For all I know you may never be the same person again. You will grow. You will have new friends who will influence your life and your decisions. My head tells me that you will make the right choices and stand tall among your peers but my heart sinks at the possibility of your being vulnerable to the pressures exerted by them. Without us, your parents, to monitor your activities you may feel tempted to think that it is a fashion statement to harass girls even if it is ‘just for fun’. Be warned my child. Your mindless activity may have a very serious outcome as Mehr’s story will indicate.

You know Mehr don’t you? May be you don't. She was my colleague’s only daughter and hadn’t started school when I joined college. In a way I had practically watched her grow. I rejoiced with her mother when she got admission in a prestigious school in our town and regularly followed her progress. I was invited to her ‘Navjot’ party and I remember gifting her a story book because I always felt that books were the most precious of gifts that could be given to a nine year old. 

I don’t know if you have the information that Mehr passed away last night. Her death was caused by three mindless teenage boys who hounded her on the way to school. 

The day dawned like any other day. The chirpy thirteen year old got ready for school, fussed over breakfast and was coaxed to eat by her grandma - this was a routine that the two of them enjoyed - and after wishing her mom and grandma a hasty goodbye left for school on her bicycle. The school was about half a kilometre from home and she expected to reach it well before time. And then trouble began….

The road was lonely and three boys started following her. One of them overtook her and stopped right in front of her while the other two laughed at her predicament from behind. She managed to stop in time and started off once again when another boy took it on himself to whistle and sing a vulgar song while the other two crossed her path from either side. The girl panicked and tried to pick up speed. The school was now in sight and she wanted to reach there fast. There were parents on the other side of the road and it would only take a couple of minutes to reach them. Unfortunately she noticed a rambler at the turning a little too late and slipped while trying to apply brakes. Her head hit the rambler and she lost consciousness.

The rest is history. She suffered a head injury, went into a coma and never recovered. Her mother is in a state of shock and her grandma refuses to believe that her beloved granddaughter is no more. All this happened within minutes of her leaving home and she is unable to come to terms with the tragedy that has befallen them. 

My son, stalking or hounding girls is not funny. Boys may feel powerful and relish the distress that girls are being subjected to. Girls on the contrary go through hell when they face sexual harassment. 

Mehr is no more. Her mother laments that she has nothing to look forward to. Her father seems to have lost his voice and the vacant look in his face speaks volumes of his mental state. All this could have been averted if only the culprits had been sensitized and trained to treat women with respect and I for one believe that values imparted by one’s parents play an important role in shaping one’s conduct. Values like charity begin at home.

I have tried my best to treat you and your sister equally. I have never encouraged you to imagine that you are superior because you are a boy. I expect you to treat all the girls in your class as equals. They need to feel safe and comfortable in your presence and consider you as a dependable friend. I know you will not let me down because I am sure that you too would want not want a repeat of Mehr’s story. All young girls need to feel safe and secure.

I want you to share Mehr's story with your friends. I want you to understand that girls are your friends and need to be treated as cherished companions. I trust you son and I know that you will not let me down.

With lots of love,
Yours affectionately,