Bringing up wrecking ball

What should we call the atrocities perpetrated by a toddler on his father?

Updated - September 16, 2018 12:43 am IST

Published - September 16, 2018 12:15 am IST

Illustration of crawling baby.

Illustration of crawling baby.

All of you will agree that when it comes to child abuse, it is absolutely necessary to speak up. Sadly, not many parents do so. As a practising parent myself, I can guess why: it’s probably because we have a narrow understanding of child abuse. It doesn’t cover every angle.

Little acts of vandalism

Let me give you an example from my own experience. Of all the books I own, my most prized possession (after Exam Warriors , obviously) is a rare 1922 edition of George Moore’s Heloise and Abelard . It is a special edition with a preface by Thomas Moore, foreword by Marianne Moore, and afterword by Roger Moore. It became even more special last year, as during my visit to Los Angeles for the Oscar ceremony, I had it autographed by Demi Moore, Julianne Moore and Michael Moore. As you can imagine, it would have fetched a tidy sum at Moore Market if Moore Market hadn’t been tragically demolished.

Tragic demolition happened to me again last week: Kattabomman tore every single page from this rarest of rare cultural artefact. When I voiced my dismay at this act of vandalism, he tried to pull my hair. I escaped unhurt only because, as you may have guessed from my attractive profile picture, I had donated all my hair to Lord Venkateswara in Tirupathi 17 years ago.

It is true that Kattabomman has only just turned two, and I don’t mean to wash his dirty nappy in public. But in the larger interests of society, I feel duty-bound to break my silence, if only to encourage other parental survivors to come out and share their stories.

So here’s another story: I was in my study, sipping homemade Ayurvedic wine and concentrating on my third and final attempt to watch Brij Mohan Amar Rahe! on Netflix. Kattabomman popped up from nowhere, and without any provocation, tipped the wine glass to the floor, smashed my father-in-law’s phone (on which I was watching Brij Mohan Amar Rahe! ), and broke my glasses. This happened day before yesterday. I was so traumatised that I haven’t spoken about it until now.

I got the courage to share my story when I realised that Kattabomman’s destructive streak may be linked to his extreme sanskari nature. Initially I thought it was pure coincidence that the first eight things he broke were all wine glasses. I figured it wasn’t when he next destroyed seven beer mugs (all gifts, just to be clear). We then switched to serving beer in cups (only home-brewed panchagavya beer, just to be clear). But they too have suffered the same fate as India’s democratic institutions — nearly all of them are broken. A few that have survived look like pieces of Harappan pottery: a chipped coffee cup, two-thirds of a saucer, a mug with a shattered handle.

Now we have finally installed a tank in the kitchen with seven IV lines coming out of it. We request guests to queue up before the tank and take their drink intravenously — no more glasses or cups. Of course, this tends to give a medical cast to the conversation. People end up discussing each other’s kidney problems and cardiac emergencies. And those with a morbid imagination start talking about how morning walks could reduce life expectancy for certain kinds of people.

From foot to the mouth

But Kattabomman’s hunger for entropy is not restricted to books or glass items. Lately he has taken to destructive pouring of every liquid from every container onto every surface. Popular combinations include water on floor, milk on bed, rasam on keyboard, and oil on canvas.

Another form of abuse currently going out of control is his tendency to force-feed me disgusting food-like items. Last Friday, for instance, when I wasn’t looking, he climbed into my lap, pried my mouth open and pushed into it what tasted like a human ear lobe. Only when I spat it out did I realise that it was a piece of raw potato wrapped in wax. I am generally hostile to uncooked vegetables, even law-abiding ones such as tomato or cabbage, let alone a potato naxal that has spent time underground.

But even a waxed potato is preferable, relatively speaking, to what’s more common: pieces of amorphous, pseudo-edible material that had been chewed upon, trampled under foot, stuck on a table leg, scraped out with a fingernail, and chewed on again before being forcefully wedged into my mouth.

I am only too aware that stories like these are legion, which is why it is important that more and more parents start speaking out. So, to come back to my original point, tell me, dear reader, what should we call such atrocities, perpetrated by a toddler on an innocent adult father? ‘Father abuse’? To my mind, that’s too evocative of the priestly functionary of a certain religion that shall remain unnamed so as not to offend any bishop types. And here I am referring to the chess-wala bishop, just to be clear.

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