Published: 24th December 2021
Sudha Murthy's anecdote gives Kerala boy courage to share details of abuse with his teacher. Here's how
The District Child Protection Unit officer concerned told that an FIR has been lodged and the perpetrator booked under POCSO Act
When a Higher Secondary teacher of a government school in north Kerala was reading out an excerpt from author and Infosys Foundation chairperson Sudha Murthy's anecdote 'Horegallu' in the classroom, she had no inkling of the mental turmoil that one of her students was going through.
The anecdote, included in the Plus II English textbook, narrates how Sudha's grandfather used to listen patiently to the daily life experiences of travelers who took rest on a 'horegallu' (stone bench) on the roadside. While a brief rest on the stone bench under the banyan tree eased their physical exhaustion, a compassionate ear to their stories refreshed their minds as well. The anecdote also mentions Sudha's former co-worker Ratna who used to listen to the woes of her colleagues but would never reveal any of their secrets to others. "I hear them out with sympathy and without any judgment. When a person in trouble or under a lot of strain finds an outlet for his worries, it relieves half his burden," Sudha quotes Ratna as saying.
A day after teaching the chapter, the 17-year-old student came to meet the teacher in the staff room and broke down before her. "At first I could not figure out what he was saying, in between sobs. Then I realised he was trying to narrate a very unpleasant experience in his life," the teacher told TNIE. Slowly it emerged that the boy was being sexually abused by a neighbor and the ordeal was slowly taking a toll on his mental well-being. "The assault had been going on for many years. The boy had suffered in silence but a point came when he could not suffer any more. Perhaps, the references in the English chapter gave him the courage to ease his mental trauma," the teacher added.
The school authorities quickly alerted the psycho-social counselor assigned to the institution by the Women and Child Development Department. After a series of counseling sessions and emotional support, the boy revealed the ordeal in detail and also the name of the perpetrator. Since the boy was found to be in a very disturbed state of mind, arrangements were also made to provide psychiatric sessions for him. "We contacted the parents, who were aware of the incident, but were trying to hush it up. We convinced them of the seriousness of the matter. We then approached the police as it involves sexual abuse and that too of a minor," the District Child Protection Unit officer concerned told TNIE. She added that an FIR has been lodged and the perpetrator booked under POCSO Act.
According to P Jayaprakash, child psychiatrist at SAT Hospital Thiruvananthapuram, it is very crucial to instill help-seeking behaviour in adolescents and also encourage them to share their experiences with a person whom they trust. "Not only should such life skills be an integral part of the curriculum, teachers should also be trained in making the initial intervention when adolescents report a problem to them," he added.