Kids and Their Caregivers... In Karachi

Putting aside my regular rants, raves and, generally bitchy stuff about this, that or the other. I'm blogging today with chills still running down my spine regarding something I witnessed this afternoon, but was unable to do anything about.

While waiting for the kidlets to get off from school, I entertained myself watching the pre-nursery kids making their way out the gate. A few with their mothers, a couple of fathers, a grandparent or two, but mostly "nannies", and... Drivers. As my eyes moved past a tantrum from a three year old, to a grandfather bending down to retrieve a fallen backpack, I noticed a little girl waiting near a car. She couldn't have been more than three or four years old. And, she was gorgeous.. All big eyes and sweet, tired smile. Her driver who was opening the car's back door, probably to set down her backpack and water bottle in the back seat, was also staring at a woman approaching the school, from across the street. Eyes fixated on her breasts, he threw the bag and bottle into the car and shut the door.

I rolled my eyes, and was just looking away, when I saw him bend down and scoop the little girl up into his arms, while his left palm slipped under her school uniform dress and, came to rest directly under her bottom, cradling it.

And, then he began to massage her bottom.

I felt my blood run cold, and instinctively started toward them. However, I didn't make it to the car in time, and he deposited her in the front passenger seat, got into the car and started to drive away. Where are her parents? screamed a voice in my head. Why do they leave their child in the hands of someone like that?

Important questions, no one answer.

It terrifies me to see such things, and makes me so mad, I could happily commit a violent act. Sadly, in Karachi I see way too much of it. From the uneducated, unqualified "nannies" slapping the hell out of toddlers, to lecherous drivers shuffling children of all ages from home to school, to tuition centers and back home. Rarely do I see parents in sight, and while I can appreciate that there are a number of mothers out working, or in some cases, busy at the hair salons they frequent, and even busier working fathers all over this city. I can't help but ask.. At what cost? Your child's innocence and well being?

Are you aware of what goes on with your child and his/her caregiver?

Is this what it means to be all about getting out there and showing just how damn westernized we are? How wonderfully liberated? Without a thought for our own children? I can rarely shake the feeling that many here do all this, not for themselves, but to prove something. And, it sickens me, because most of them have a narrow view of how things (in the west) are, and how they think they're doing a remarkable job adopting those habits.

I sit right back down in my seat and not send out that job application, not till I'm sure my kids have the safety they need in my absence, and the best care. I don't have all he answers, but neither will I ignore the questions for my own convenience. It's not easy in this city, what with little to no resources for daycare, except of course the available options of "Play Schools" which cater to the bigger wallets, (If you're middle class, forget it. You'll be paying out more than your income), or the little old lady offering inexpensive care for your child. Where the floors are dirty, and one tiny room is crammed to the max with kids ranging from four months to six years.

Of course, I'm not some comfortable, upper class suburban mom, who can afford to kick up her heels and refuse to work. Living in this city with one earning member to support a family of four is tough... doable, but tough. And, if you can't do it, or won't do it, then for goodness sakes give more than a passing thought to your child's welfare. Would random checks hurt? Do offices not allow some time off maybe once or twice a month? Can you not meet for lunch fifteen minutes later? No aunt with spare time on her hands? Can families not come together for the welfare of the kids?

I often wonder what goes through the minds of these parents, these mothers. Do they not think it's possible their child could be molested? Are they living in some kind of dream world, where they're sure their kid will inform them of any strange advances made by their driver/nanny? Do they even think their female "nanny" is a safer bet? Is the gutka chewing, filthy, man leering at women on the streets while driving their child to and from school really a saint? Does he bow his head and kiss her big begum butt so convincingly that she trusts him? What the hell is going on here?

Where are the parents? And why are so many of the more "educated" class in this city allowing this menace to exist in their own homes?



Melissa Sue said...

Great article A.

Michelle said...

Good article Anne. It hurts me to think that parents can be so careless. I would give anything to ensure my childrens safety and well being.

Farwah Baig said...

You are absolutely right. We do turn a blind eye to such an important and sensitive issue. Though we do not have statistics on it, I do think every second / third child has seen some form of abuse / harrassment, mostly at the hands of people very close to them. Majority of the cases are never reported and the few that are, are very difficult to prove.
I would suggest that you discuss this with the school administration. The least they could do is to send out memo / notices to all parents to take whatever steps possible to protect their children. I hope they do that!

Sheila said...

Anne, I agree with you about doing the bodily harm. No way in hell will someone do something like that to a child and me just watch. Too bad you couldn't catch him, or someone closer hadn't seen that. And would have done something. Too many people turn their heads and act like they don't see, either because they're afraid to get involved, or just feel helpless to stop it. It's not about "east" vs. "west" either, just people's relutance to be stronger then the evil that's out there. And that's what it is, evil. There's no reason for it, no rehab for it. The men (and women) who do this are sick, to be sure, and there's no cure. A bullet in the head. I hope you are able to contact someone at the school and they'll do something.

Engage HR said...

Very well written piece Anne!
My two cents worth:
First, you ought to wait outside school next time you are there and try to identify the girl and/or driver and then report it. Recently at a birthday party, I saw a maid practically dragging a 16-month old kid from one side of the playground to the next – and though it was a large crowd, since it was a private party, I asked her who her ‘baji’ was. She pointed her out in the crowd so I went to her and told her what I saw. It turns out that it was someone I knew – and she was totally oblivious to her maid’s harshness with her child. The sad thing though was that she continued to talk to her friends and let the maid carry on. I don’t know if she reprimanded and/or fired her later (like I would have done on the spot) but still – it was very harrowing to see her carelessness. I swear there is a maid mafia out there and they think they can get away with anything! It’s ‘bajis’ like that one who perpetuate this sort of tolerance.
The second point I wanted to make was about how I handle my own maids. With three kids under five and my husband and I both working, we do often depend on maids and domestic staff. BUT having said that, here’s what we do (in random order):
• We have made it very difficult for them to find opportunities to slack off. Translation: we don’t leave them alone with our kids long enough to screw up.
• We remain inconsistent with our times out of the home when the kids are left with the maids. This way, they never know when to expect us and are on edge.
• We treat them, and their families, with respect. We don’t treat them as sub-human just because they are poor. We feed them well, take care of them when they get sick, care for their emotional well-being and make an effort to be conscientious of their feelings and their issues.
• In our portion (we live upstairs and the main house is my in-laws) we NEVER allow men servants inside, unless they have express permission from me, or my husband.
• The maids are only allowed to make telephone calls when we are home; and the number(s) must always match with my cross-reference list (their parents or other known numbers). NO talking to men and boys, etc.
• I make it very clear from the get-go that I am the parent. I set the rules. I govern the children’s care and they are never to make decisions that I have not authorized them to make.
• When our children go to birthday parties, other kids’ homes, stay after school, class outings or even go out to play downstairs in our own home’s compound, we never ever let them go without at least one of us there, my husband or myself. We don’t even rely on other family members for this.
• I educate them constantly. Last week I gave them both bleach safety training ☺ (after one of them used WAY too much in a closed bathroom and nearly suffocated us when we went in there to bathe one of the babies).
• I give them space and room to relax and unwind. The burden we put on our domestic staff can totally get out of hand and I feel that unless we manage it, they are bound to retaliate.
• Lastly, I am known to go without male servants (drivers, gatekeepers, etc) who are in a position to interact with my children, for months if that is what it takes, until I have thoroughly screened and cross-referenced the guy(s) and until I know which family he is from and his entire background. My husband and I have the advantage of getting these people from one of my husband’s family-owned villages.
I do want to point out that we won’t hesitate to use other methods, if necessary, like installing cameras if we have to. But it’s unrealistic in this country and this society, to be able to live life without the support of domestic staff. I tried it and thought I could do it since I’m from abroad, but it was not possible.

Oops. This turned out to be WAY more than ‘two cents worth’. More like a thousand bucks worth.