By Mihir Joshi
“Close your eyes Have no fear The monster’s gone He’s on the run and your daddy’s here
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful Beautiful boy Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful Beautiful boy”
I love this song by John Lennon and while Lennon may have written it for his son for his own reasons, I hear these first few lines and I realise that in the modern world, the “monsters” are so many. And all I want to do, is keep my little boy safe.
Now, most often, I’m a very nonchalant kind person and being in the entertainment industry I share a lot of my public life with people via social media. It is a way to connect with your fans and people who follow your work, and a little over six months ago when Neil was born, I thought, like a lot of media industry parents, I might share a lot about him on social media too. But my wife, Neha, wouldn’t have any of it. In fact, I was strictly forbidden to show his face and on the rare occasion that I share a picture of Neil on social media, I often obscure his face in some way.
Now, there’s this Indian concept of “nazar” which is something a lot of folks believe in, as does my wife but I understand now that her reasons go far beyond some silly superstitious belief and today, I get it.
So what happened today?
I was invited for a screening of Oscar Nominated Short Films by Shorts TV and in the four films they showed there, one of this year’s nominated films was called “Detainment”. Detainment is a 2018 Irish short drama film written and directed by Vincent Lambe, about the murder of a two-year-old toddler named James Bulger. This is based on a true incident that happened in Merseyside, England, where James, the little toddler was abducted, tortured and killed by two young boys, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables who were just 10 years old! TEN YEARS OLD! Holy lord! The movie was sickening, disturbing and really got me thinking.
While we’d all love to live in a fairy-tale Disney movie world, the real world is nothing like it. This is a world in which we read stories about babies getting raped and toddlers getting abducted and stories about paedophiles and all sorts of terrible things. I’m not saying the world is all bad but I think we need to recognise that there is a lot of bad in this world. And when you have a baby boy or a baby girl in this world, what can you do? What can you possibly do to make sure they stay safe and sound?
Let me start by saying that I don’t have all the answers but I have some thoughts about what I intend to do.
Listen to your wife! I’ve semi-joked and said that my wife is paranoid at times and while I still don’t get the concept of “nazar”, I cannot deny the logic behind it. If there’s anything we can do to ensure that our child stays safe why would we not do it?
So yes, it starts with something as simple as: do not over-share about your child. You don’t know how the photos or videos you’re posting are being seen, especially if you have a public profile. If you have a private profile and only your friends and family are seeing it…then I don’t see too much of an issue but then you don’t know who will share what you have further. So limit social media shares as much as possible. And even then, if you must, don’t put up too many solo photos of your baby. Try to be in them or have some other loved one be in the photos with your baby.
As they grow up, try to be with them every step of the way till they’re old enough to handle themselves and even then, know where they are and what they’re doing. If someone says you’re too protective, don’t think twice about it. I’d rather be protective and take care of my kid than be too chilled out and let something bad happen.
If you can’t always be with them, have a play group. Another parent or group of parents you know and trust. All I’m saying is, when they are really little, don’t let them out on their own, even if it is just in your own society or building compound. Let there always be one adult around a bunch of kids. This is not just from the perspective of making sure no stranger comes around them but also from the perspective of someone being there in case a kid gets hurt.
Spend time with them at home. Teach them well. Make sure that as they’re growing up they know how to take care of themselves too. Simple stuff like staying away from strangers, not accepting anything from someone you don’t know or calling out for help when they need it.
I don’t intend on giving my child a cellphone any time soon but I would want to think of ways in which I could monitor them on mine. There’s great technology these days and I intend to figure out ways to do this. If you know of any smart ways of doing this or are already doing this, please share your thoughts with me on social media. I’d be happy to hear from you. But I do believe that intelligent technology is the answer.
I never realised how much parents worry about their children until I became a father. I will not live my life in constant fear but I will live it now with a lot more alertness and concern. Like I said at the start, I still want to believe that the world and most people in it are good, but now, I will pay attention and recognise that there are things we need to worry about as well. If you’re a new parent and this realisation is hitting you just as it hit me, don’t worry. We’ve got each other and a lot of other good people to help us out. All I’m saying is, be careful and keep your babies safe!
(The writer is a singer-his debut album Mumbai Blues won the GIMA Award for Best Rock Album in 2015-hosts his own talk show-The MJ Show and does live Hindi commentary for WWE. Follow him on twitter @mihirjoshimusic. Views are personal.)