Friday September 7, 2012
No kidding, this is serious
By D. RAJ
Children can be all sorts of things. They can be cute and lovable but they can also be victims and villains, too.
THESE past couple of weeks, I have been transfixed with children and young people.
You see, it all started with a trip to Siem Reap, home of the famous Angkor Wat. The monuments there are impressive, the temples astounding, even awe–inspiring. I realised that Angkor Wat is more than just a wat, it’s an amazingly huge city that the Cambodians managed to build more than 1,000 years ago.
But more than the temples, what really struck me about Siem Reap and Angkor Wat was the number of children. There were so many of them. Everywhere you turn, there would be little children running around.
I asked our driver why there were so many children around and he grinned. “People here have little much else to do,” he said.
I had been warned of beggar children before leaving for Cambodia. “Don’t give them money,” said a friend. “If you give one, hordes of them will come to you for money.”
But you know what, I did not see any beggar children. Not one.
I saw only enterprising kids. Young entrepreneurs who were so good at what they were doing.
There were selling trinkets, drinks, scarves, anything a tourist would want. And boy, were they talented. Those kids can reel off in almost any language in the world!
A Chinese walks by a temple, and the children speak in Mandarin and Cantonese. A Japanese passes by, they switch to Japanese. Ditto with Koreans.
My colleague Mathi and I were greeted with: “Namaste sir, are you from India?”
“No,” I said. “Malaysia.”
Back came the reply: “Ah, Malaysia. Capital Kuala Lumpur. Satu, dua, tiga, empat, lima, enam, tujuh, lapan, sembilan, sepuluh. Please buy something from me, sir.”
You tell me, how can anyone not stop and buy something from a kid like that? So, we did.
There were many others like that. But the one that caught my fancy was a doe-eyed little girl with a cute, impish smile.
She sidled up to us with her little basket of trinkets and, oh so innocently said: “Buy something from me sir, and you can have my sister.”
I had to burst out laughing. Her big sister was an 18 to 20-year-old who was selling sarong beside her.
Well, I didn’t buy anything from the little girl so I didn’t have to take her up on her offer. But we did buy a few sarong from big sister.
On the flight back home, I thought about the little girl and wondered: “Did she even know what she was insinuating? Or was it some standard line they had for tourists – to break the ice and get them to buy that stuff.
I am quite sure she had no idea about the birds and the bees.
And when the plane landed, I walked into the airport and picked up The Star only to see a headline that read: “Another sorry kid”.
A 22-year-old had been let off with a slap on the wrist for sleeping with a 12-year-old. He had coaxed her out of going to school and had taken her to bed instead. And he got away almost unscathed.
To make things worse, this was just 20 days or so after another similar case.
Would a 12-year-old know what she was doing? Her body may have been that of a young adult but would she know the consequences of her action?
Surely, this is a wrong that needs to be addressed.
I mean, the guy may say the girl was a willing partner and even enjoyed it but people enjoy drugs, alcohol and smoking. So, do we feed them to our kids?
I am glad that the NGOs and even the ministry folk are upset and are trying to do something about it. Even the A-G has waded in so I do hope things get done right.
It certainly would not do to be seen as a society that does not mind having 12-year-olds running around with babies in their bellies!
That was Aug 29. The day after, it was time to usher in Merdeka.
As I was leaving for home after work, a call came.
“Don’t use the usual route home,” said a friend. “There’s a small riot going on at the main road. A bunch of mat rempit are attacking some guy.”
There was even talk that the person under attack was a policeman.
So, I took a detour and stopped at a coffee-shop where friends were celebrating Merdeka.
All around us were young boys – aged anything between 12 and 16 – all on bikes and causing a deafening cacophony.
They had their gears on neutral, their throttle turned full-on and their brains switched off. And of course, no helmets.
There was a roadblock on the main road but these kids were all over the inner roads. There was nothing the policemen could do.
Every time a patrol car came by, the boys would scoot off in several directions only to gather again and make a whole lot of din, to the annoyance of the residents.
Now, there’s talk that these kids are going to be roped in to help our cops keep the law.
I shudder at the thought.
> The writer has an 11-year-old daughter. And anyone who lays a finger on her will be facing a dark, painful future, no matter what any court or judge may say.