Who Actually Needed Help?

Yesterday was a lazy day for most people, what with the strike and all. But for me it was an early start [by our standards]. At 9 O’ clock I was already in the lobby of a small private hospital with a famished stomach, waiting for the physiotherapist to come. The chances were fat, but nevertheless I waited. I was trying to keep my mind off my grumbling stomach [as I prefer skipping breakfast rather than sacrificing my sleep] by burying myself in a novel!

The hospital is a small, neat set-up with an efficient physiotherapy unit, a small daycare type institution for special children, offers speech therapy and other associated facilities. The best thing about it is – that it runs partly on charity.

I would occasionally look up to observe the in coming children, each different from the other and special in their own way! Some came in crying, some laughed for no reason but ALL left smiling when they heard ‘school’ was off! Some however lingered in the lobby with their parents, who like me, had decided to wait.

One middle-aged, well dressed man who had brought his son for speech therapy switched on the small TV set in the corner, in order to check the news updates. His son who was about 5 yrs old, had difficulty not only in speaking but the child also looked confused and would stop talking abruptly as if he had lost the thread of his thoughts and would spend a while trying to gather them.

The child looked intently at the TV screen and in his enthusiasm had moved in front of it, when suddenly his father shoved him aside! The boy staggered, gained back his balance and diverted his attention towards the remote control in his father’s hands. The man did not resist when the boy reached for it, which was surprising as earlier he had so rudely shoved the boy away!

The kid then did what all kids do, he changed the channel and instantaneously was struck hard across the face by his father! The blow was enough to dis-balance a man but the kid merely staggered! Transfixed, I watched the scene cursing the man for his brutality. A part of me wanted to go and tell the man that he was in the wrong place. That it wasn’t his son, but HE who needed HELP! While a part of me told me to look away and keep my trap shut as it was none of my business. However, I shifted my gaze towards the boy who just glanced at his father for a few seconds, then walked out the lobby and began pacing the length of the parking lot!

In the meantime the physiotherapist had arrived and I took my housekeeper’s son in, for physiotherapy who is a 2 yr old and can neither sit nor stand. About an hour later, when I returned to the lobby, I saw that the kid was still out there in the parking lot, walking, with a blank look on his face. It cut my heart out to see him like that.

I remember once hearing from an  educationalist that when a child thinks, DO NOT interrupt! For there in his mind, might be springing up the ideas of a whole new world, the roots of a great new invention or answers to the deepest mysteries of the universe! Let their imaginations run lose and wild and do not restrict them to a world as conservative and small as yours!

The boy in question however was not a normal child. He had difficulty expressing himself and judging by his father’s behaviour, the reason was evident. Just by that 1 careless slap – the man had rendered his child speechless and had taken him perhaps to the stage where the kid stood a dozen speech therapy sessions before!!!

©2012 Habiba Danyal.