A child is a sapling

Amal Chatterjee
8 min readApr 8, 2018

Synopsis : A child is like a sapling that needs nurturing,care and a proper environment to grow in. Where a child is not provided such care and the proper environment to grow results in a social problem where such a child becomes deviant, drop out and can get into criminality . The blog focuses on this issue with examples.

A child is a sapling

Source : Google photo

I often see a child like a sapling that grows into a beautiful tree someday given the sunlight and water and a lot of space around it. A child also needs the proper environment to grow in, lot of love and care and the space to grow in just like a sapling. This care comes from his parents, his siblings and others who help the child grow up into a nice person.

I used to know a kid in the village who was about 4 years old at that time and was innocent just like any child of his age. He was not chubby but not skinny either and had the innocent eyes of a child. He was very playful and swam in the stream just like a duck. He was not afraid of anything and back flipped into the water from the steep banks while we looked in wonder at his skills at that age.

He would climb the date trees to pluck the sweetest dates and give them to me. I knew that it was hard to climb a date tree but he was not afraid and climbed like a monkey. He did not have a lot of vocabulary but was learning fast. His energy made him hyperactive so he was always running around.

His mother and other siblings did not pay much attention to what he did the whole day or where he went in the village may be because they had other things to worry about. They were poor and always worried about how to meet their daily needs. The father had died and the mother who was an illiterate village woman did the best she could which was not much.

They had some rice from their farm and one daughter was working as a teacher so they pulled on somehow and always received me warmly whenever I visited them.

Many years passed before I could return to the village again so I visited them to say hello. Many things had changed in the mean time. I was old now and the old lady was much older and bent with age and ague. Then I saw an old man hunched and sitting in one corner listlessly who did not look at me so I asked them who he was. They said he was Babu. That was the name of the child I knew and was shocked.

He was like a skeleton, bent and disheveled. His hair was long and matted and his ribs showed through his torn under shirt but what shocked me was his eyes. They were vacant and without life. They were dull and unfocused.

I was then told that he had become a drug addict and dropped out of school long ago. He kept company of bad people in the village and often lay under a tree or somewhere senseless so people had to bring him home. He had no purpose in his life except to get his next fix.

How did this happen and how that vibrant innocent child of yesteryear turned into a zombie that I saw now? What went wrong? Did their poverty make them care less for him when he needed it most? I don’t know all the answers but here was the case of a healthy green sapling that did not get enough sunlight and nourishment to grow into a healthy tree and withered.

There is another case more tragic although I do not know what is more tragic than a failed person who is now a drug addict but the following story is certainly more tragic.

She was a child of about 10 who used to sit with us while we did our home work in the evening. We did not know where she came from and who were her parents or siblings. I am sure she told us her name but I have forgotten it. We found her curious because she often asked questions about our home work and was a gentle and lovely child so we welcomed her. Ma often gave her something to eat and drink because she felt that the child may be hungry.

She was thus growing up and stopped coming to our house. One day we heard that she had hit her teacher with her shoes so she was promptly expelled from the school. We did not know the details and why she hit her teacher but we felt that something was wrong with her. We had no idea what really was wrong until one day we saw her near our house being restrained by several men. She was in chains and she was fighting like a tigress and bit the hand of one of them. The girl was insane.

We felt really sad finding her in this predicament and felt very sorry for her because we remembered her as a gentle sweet girl who used to sit with us while we did our studies. So what really happened? How a sweet girl of 10 turned insane a few years later? Why her parents did not take care of her? What were the circumstances under which a seemingly normal person turned totally insane? One day she was found drowned in the river.

We take our normal upbringing for granted not realizing that we were blessed to have loving parents who cared for us and provided us with the environment to grow into normal healthy beings. How many people are so lucky? In any community you will find the people who become drug addicts, deviants, drop outs who turn into the life of crime and self destruction .Their parents divorce and shatter the home life with just a stroke of pen and leave their kids without their protection and care.

Once I saw an old woman in a country fair in the Mojave Desert community that I was visiting. She was a pathetic example of a failed person who was drunk and holding a big bottle of whiskey in one hand while fumbling for a cigarette. She offered me a drink but my friend took me away from her saying that this woman was scandalous. Her teenage daughter was nearby but she was a problem student in his high school where he taught. I could now understand why seeing her drunk mother in the fair grounds.

So it all comes down to the environment in which a child grows up. The poverty per se is perhaps not the reason why someone goes wrong in life. I have mentioned in my previous blogs that in African villages, the kids are well behaved even if they are poor because the elders in the village look after them and punish them if they step out of line. They live in a community where people care for each other and support each other when needed.They do not perhaps turn out to be doctors or engineers but they do turn into honest simple people who in turn raise honest simple children.

In our modern society in the vast suburbs where many middle class people now live do so in isolation. They do not know their neighbors and no one really cares to know who you are. Kids are neglected so they start seeking company that often comes with a price. By company I do not mean the Bible thumpers who avidly seek new recruits in high schools and even in colleges but those who are into mischief , who start growing long hairs, show disrespect to the teachers in the class room and bully other kids for no reason except their looks or because they are smarter than them.

It all starts to go down from there. Smart kids go on to college and become doctors and scientists or teachers but their classmates end up in prison or dead due to drug overdose. Women suffer the most because they end up getting knocked up in their teen years and become promiscuous that has its own consequences like dropping out of school and ending up selling hamburgers in a McDonalds somewhere or worse trying to raise their illegitimate kids who are the future inmates of a jail somewhere.

The fabric of the society starts to be torn by the generation that did not get the support and care of their parents when they needed them most and suffer the consequences. This is happening in many countries where people are under tremendous pressure to meet their basic needs but keep on producing kids they cannot provide for.

I live in Asia where the divide between the poor and the middle class is so stark that it is mind boggling. If you just turn the corner into any street in the poverty ridden section, you will be surrounded by hundreds of kids who come out of the woodwork just like termites. They are mostly illegitimate and their parents live in the cardboard houses surviving on whatever jobs they can find which is often not much and does not provide them two meals a day but they are the heaviest breeders of such children.

Is it any wonder that many of these kids become drug addicts and are shot dead by the police? Is it any surprise that these sweet girls become prostitutes? Given the proper environment to grow, they too could become successful in life. No one wants to be a drug addict or a prostitute. That is perhaps out of desperation that they do it.

In Brazil there are thousands of kids who live in the streets like feral dogs and scrounge for food in the garbage bins. They are the abandoned children of failed people who try to survive on their own and are often killed by the vigilantes or police. The government treats them like vermin that they try to eradicate. They say that it creates a bad impression on tourists and shows their country in a bad light but it is a social issue and not a criminal issue.

The church padres keep on repeating like mantra their opposition to family planning and sex education in schools even in poor countries. They say that the kids are a gift of God but fail to show the poor people how to raise them. That is not their problem. They claim to be the experts in these matters even if they do not raise their own family although some secretly do and others become pedophiles.

People in more developed countries ignore these padres and do what is right. The rich people do not have the problem of money like the poor people although they may have other problems that may be a subject of another blog someday.

The point is that we all need support to grow up normally. It is not a gift from the parents but a right. Often children come because of lust and not love but they too have the right to demand a good environment to grow in.

That little boy called Babu in the village did not get it and that nameless child who became insane did not get it and drowned in the river. Who is to blame for such tragedies?

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Amal Chatterjee

I am the village bard who loves to share his stories.