savage mumbai


you know I hate mumbai. I say it often and i say it everywhere. the city takes too many liberties with itself. it strips off innocence easily. fast. and

In the four months I stayed there… I spent most of my time in the sand pit/slide/ swings in one play
area in goregaon, and another in Powai.

I was almost always the solitary parent minding my firstborn. I saw teenaged girls perching babies on their
non-existent hips and pushing prams for the evening park haunt.

It was bloody everywhere. A little girl ‘looking after’ a littler kid.

(I’ve lived in Bangalore and haunted the parks there.
I’ve lived in chennai and haunted (what little) parks
they have… and it is not THE NORM in those cities)

But for Mumbai. everything is chalta hai.
Why are such a great majority of mothers in Mumbai so

Cruel mumbai and cruel cruel Urvashi.

Don’t you remember the time when you were a little
girl? What were you doing when you were 10 or 12 ?
Why do you let a little girl do what you cannot or will not?


22 responses »

  1. damn.
    and she was released on bail!!! wow.

    about the park thingie – when i take Goosh to the park in the evenings, I am, more often than not, the only parent. Most other kids his age are with their ‘aayahs’. But yeah, these are all women, our age or older. They’ve kinda ‘accepted’ me in to their circle. We end up in funny situations. Each of us speaking different languages, diff ages, diff economic backgrounds. But we greet each other each evening with a smile, make the kiddies do ‘hand-shake’ and let them romp in the grass.

  2. Went thru’ it last year when a neighbour ‘kept’ a so-called ‘poor relative’ to do ‘light housework and give company’ to the 1 year old daughter. My fingers were itching to call the helpline, made the mistake of telling other neighbours my intentions…was immediately shushed and told it’s ‘their business’. Now I wish I had.

  3. richa: i used to meet older maids in bangalore too … in my park days of yonder. we had nice chats too:-)

    back then, i used to take along two kiddies’ of a construction worker down my street.
    (I think I had ASAAAN-like qualities back then !DID I chaperone three kids below five years of age? WHAT WAS I THINKING???)
    and they all would fight over who wanted to sit on the duck in the merry-go-round.
    i miss those two kids, richa. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ i often wonder if i’ll see them again. if i’ll recognise them …

    (sorry for going on.. it triggered off a memory)

    starry: so bloody hypocritical no? (calling it –light housework and give companyโ€™

  4. Most people do it under the pretext of ‘paying them and providing shelter’. Wonder if it really means anything to those kids to ‘earn’ a livelihood that soon!

  5. That’s a strong post, I saw this on Kiran’s blog. I dunno MiM, a lot of the people who hire these minors genuinely think that they are doing “good” to them by giving them a cushy life.

    It makes me really uncomfortable esp when they are brought along for parties and expected to stand aside and watch.

    Starry you think the police would do well by the baby-maid?

  6. Poppy, the same thought had me holding back. But actually I found out later Makkala Sahayavani in BLR does a pretty good job, from second hand reports. And so does the CWC and KSCCW who work with Mak.Sah. And so does Vimochana.

    And the fact is that even if it WAS true abt the light housework, she still wasn’t getting an education and was clearly at risk of major exploitation and abuse. Who was looking out for her?

    Ok, I’ll stop ranting now. basically everything looks simple in retrospect.

  7. This is so sad. yet sadly not unbelievable at all. Its hard to think that there are people who will SEE a 10 year old yet NOT see their child. Are we so used to labour that we don’t care even if its a young child? A child who should be in school?

    Child abuse is taken too lightly in India. I know it goes waaayy overboard in wastern countries, but I do get kinda appalled when people ask “How can you raise a child without hitting them to discipline them?” The question is not whether you do or don’t – but an educated person can’t conceive of raising a child without raising a hand? Its beyond the stretch of imagination?


    My answer? Its called bullying. When you hit a child who barely reaches your waist and can’t defend him/herself. Pick on someone your own size. Then its at least a fair fight.

  8. Very touching post MiM.

    I think most people who have children from villages at home don’t do anything right by them. But I do know two cases where they had 12 year old girls and home-schooled them. They did do housework also. Part of their salary went into a bank account for them. They got new clothes for festivals and small gold ornaments for their birthdays. (I should say it was not on the same scale as the daughter of the house but still.. ). Eventually the girls went on to pass the SSLC (10th grade / High school board in Karnataka). One of the girls was from Sivakasi and she would openly say that she didn’t want to go back as she knew she would end up in one of the firework factories rolling gunpowder into paTaaki. The girls seemed very happy and their families got the required financial assistance. Odd-ball cases may be where things turned out to be better than what they might have been otherwise..

  9. AS a country we are too tolerant of child labour… and our feudal mindset of being okay with people ‘serving’ us allows us to feel ‘benevolent’ if we behave like normal human beings.

    i have a 17 year old helping me with sanah since june- up until now i could not get myself to ‘hire’ help, even though i was working full time. Now that i have ‘hired’ help – it is not difficult to see the crass hierarchy- even the child sees it-making me balk. so even though the child has to be polite, respectful etc- the feudal set up does not escape her.

    i hated seeing little babies in the park with maids. but now that the child has her gang in the park and completely ignores me- i am stuck chatting with the few mothers around – and what topic is on top of the list- maids, and how they charge 100 rs more and take advantage!!! I sweetly smiled and asked how much they spend, as a family, on one trip to the mall- surely a monthly increase of rs 100 should not matter.
    now the mothers dont talk to me very fondly, and the child is not bothered with me either ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

  10. i meant to add- in the first para( apologies for long comments!) that even though i am a ‘considerate’, ‘respectful’ employer who gives sundays off etc- i make the rules- unlike the formal sector i.e. companies where the rules are a given- made after negotiations between all parties concerned. thats why i call the home setup feudal!

  11. Absolutely heart breaking. This is symptomatic of the fundamental malaise of our country : human worth being measured largely in economic terms.
    It really stinks.

  12. There are no simple answers, and no simple solutions. The problem is much more complex than merely should we allow employment of underage minors or not.
    Lovely post, MiM, will link to mine.

  13. i dont’ see what mumbai has to do with this lady’s cruelty.

    i have found more love, caring, sharing and acceptance in mumbai than i did in any other indian city.

  14. i am guessing the point of the post is NOT Mumbai bashing so am not gonna comment on that. i mean every city sees the same shit these days and its indeed sad.

    i never know how to bring it up with people i know either! its all just such a normal thing for most that people are surprised when you have a problem with the said situation!

  15. i think AverageJane has a point.
    Every coin has 2 sides.

    Remember the days of yore in large joint families when older children took care of the younger ones? Even then you had girls age 10-12 looking after their younger siblings.

    If the young girl is working in ‘good household’, she does get a better ‘quality of life’ than if she were back at home.

    You need to look at all factors – would the girl get 3 good meals a day at her home or would she starve? Or would she be beaten up at home by a drunkard father? Or exploited? Or be used as labour around the house/field? Would she be treated at par with her brothers? Or be given an education? Or be made to feel miserable about being born a girl? Or a hundred other things.

    Quite often its the girls who cant/wont get the above, that are sent out to work as household help. If they are with “good families”, they may be, just may be, better off than if they were to stay at home.

    What do we do then? Send her back “home” ? To what?

    Its a complex issue. We can do an endless debate on this. While I dont like the idea of child labour, there are instances where it’s actually better for the kid.

  16. Meira: it’s the only way of life they know, i guess.

    babiesanon: yep. i took the tag from kiran. we dont get any north Indian news channels here and i missed seeing this …
    i saw it on kiran’s blog. and was outraged. did you see the poor girl’s eyes, poppy?

    ” a lot of the people who hire these minors genuinely think that they are doing โ€œgoodโ€ to them by giving them a cushy life.”

    I wonder how they think it’s doing “good”?: the people who hire minors are getting served in return 24×7– a working child living in a strange home in a new city is completely
    biddable. and at the mercy of her/his employers.
    A genuine “good” deed doesn’t expect something in return.

    And the “party” thing kills me too, poppy. the obvious in-your-face inequality of it just kills me.

    Starry: “Who was looking out for her?”
    — and that IS my point as well. i think that is the only point.
    very potently asked, starry.

    SS: and she was released on bail!

    MGM: “Its hard to think that there are people who will SEE a 10 year old yet NOT see their child” I think if they did, the abuse would stop.

    AJ: a case that went right! this is good news. thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

    sur: my friend, like always, you said it. the feudal mindset is huge in India. there are agencies to tackle child abuse, but who’s to tackle the mindset.

    dipali: all the way up till the heavens.

    Kiran: correct.

    manisha: wow! really? you are still talking about the capital of maharashtra? okie, then you are invited for bajjis and sojji to tell me all about it…:-)

    abha: I know I am picking on Mumbai. But it was mean to me. I heart the bangalore that you live in, Abha.

    richa: what you say is also my dad’s stance on this issue, richa.

    but i’m with starry and sur

    1.: “who looks out for the kid” when she comes to work in a home (what is the law on that one — reg. working hours/ wage/ right to education?)

    2. and what do you about the Indian feudal attitude which is as big an issue as abuse.

  17. oh well I am migrant to Bangalore from Mumbai and i heart both the cities equally! ๐Ÿ™‚

    and like Manisha, i would find difficult that believe that Mumbai was mean to you! but then not everyone has same experiences! ๐Ÿ™‚


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