“Woh mujhe rat ko sone nahi dete”
(“He does not let me sleep at night”)
-Mini says to Durga in Kahaani 2
Kahaani 2. The recently released Bollywood movie; I had gone to the theatre with the expectation of pure entertainment. But little did I know I was in for a movie that would not only justify our spending money on tickets( Paisa Vasool, as we call in Hindi) but also would leave me thinking for hours. The movie not just portrays the fight of a single mother to get her child back who has been kidnapped; but it also highlights the fact that child sexual abuse continues to be ignored and the lifelong impacts of child sexual abuse.
The protagonist of the film, Vidya/Durga is a victim of sexual abuse which left her with life-long psychological trauma. As a result, her first marriage with the cop Indrajeet Singh had fallen apart as Durga is shown to be probably afraid of physical intimacy; which are reflected in her relationship with a man she meets in Kalimpong. When she tries to find solace in Kalimpong by taking up a job in a school, she befriends a little girl named Mini who seems to be troubled. Durga finds herself drawn towards Mini and is keen on discovering more about Mini. She eventually discovers that Mini is being abused by her uncle and accidentally kills Mini’s grandmother, who tries to kill Mini to hide her son’s crime. What follows is Durga’s run from law and her fight against the system to keep Mini with her, whom she considers as her daughter.
The trauma of sexual abuse is well reflected through the protagonist Durga who laments that the society does not need another Durga Rani Singh. In everything she does which eventually leads to her to being charged of murder and kidnapping, it is her grief that drives her. She could not save herself from being abused, but she wants Mini, for whom she develops a motherly affection, to live a healthy life despite what happened to her.
As we see in the movie, we often fail to acknowledge that child sexual abuse can happen in any family. When Durga tries to talk to the principal of the school about Mini, only 6 year old, being sexually abused by her uncle, the principal refuses to believe that as she had known the family for years and she tells Durga that Mini came from a well-reputed family . Prior to that, nobody ever took an interest in finding out why Mini kept falling asleep during class hours every day; it was merely regarded as ‘bad behavior’ and she was punished. Often, the symptoms of sexual abuse are just dismissed off as ‘bad behavior’ or ‘lack of interest’ in studies. Unknowingly, it is Durga’s boyfriend who points out that Mini’s drawings are probably an attempt to convey a message and soon Durga discovers that Mini is being sexually abused by her uncle.
There are few takeaways from the movie apart from the thrill and suspense. First and foremost, we need to understand that child sexual abuse can happen in any family. It is not necessary that such incidents happen only lower socio-economic segment of the society; as in the movie, Mini hailed from an influential and educated family. Pedophilia is a psychological disorder that anyone can have, irrespective of his/her status in society. Secondly, schools and families need to be more sensitive towards children’s behavior. If there are disturbing symptoms, attention needs to be paid towards the child. As Durga, with constant love and attention, eventually succeeds in revealing the truth when little Mini admits that her uncle does touch her private parts. We need to teach children the difference between ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’. Just the way if we lose our limbs in an accident, the impact lasts for a lifetime; the impact of child sexual abuse is no less. In fact, the memories and trauma can leave a person emotionally disturbed for a lifetime.
(The writer has completed her Masters in International Relations from South Asian University, New Delhi .Her research interests include: Refugee rights, Women’s issues, Ethnic conflict, inter-faith peace-building. She is volunteering with United Religions Initiative-North India zone. She has also been volunteering with SAFIGI Outreach Foundation Ltd., an NGO located in Zambia for more than two years. SAFIGI is dedicated to promote women empowerment and focuses on safety education for girls. To know more about SAFIGI, visit www.safetyfirstforgirls.org )