Kidnapping of a different kind

Growing up in Delhi was a very social affair; we lived in a housing quarters for bank officers, so everyone knew everyone else. Birthdays, every kind of festival and other happy occasions were celebrated with much fanfare and togetherness. Deaths too saw neighbors and others show their solidarity and consolation - many a times relieving the grieving family from the chores of cooking for days together. This particular incident happened during a birthday party; there was a family that lived in the floor above ours and it was their elder son's seventh birthday. All the kids in the building - including my brother and I - were invited to the birthday party.

The party had a great turn out, and sans one unpleasant incident where their younger son planted himself at the door and refused entry to those who didn't bring gifts everything else was as much fun as a kid's birthday party could be. A few minutes after the cake was cut and we were all balancing our share of it on our paper plates, the door opened and about four men came in; the birthday boy's parents welcomed them with much respect and led them to another room.

Somehow, I remember that when they all walked in everyone became very quiet and there was an uncomfortable silence until they were out of sight. The oldest of them must have been in his mid fifties. He was well built, wore a pale green kurta pajama; it didn't look new, but it was perfectly ironed. He wore a black cap - a wooly one made of some animal's hair - sort of like a badly made wig. The other three men with him were much younger, maybe in their early twenties.

After some time, when we were all finished with our cakes and drinks, the birthday boy's dad scanned the party and invited a select few children - children who were my brother's age and younger - to the room. Now, I have always been very competitive, especially with my brother; even as a little girl, I would divide the chores such that my little brother and I had equal work to do!  I began arguing, obstinately demanding to be allowed into the room and finally - with much exasperation from everybody - was allowed.

They made the children stand in line and I watched entranced as the old man began to speak to them in soft, hushed tones. There was an unsettling focus in his eyes and though he didn't use any of the things we normally associate with it, I realize now that he was, in a way, hypnotizing the children. He began asking them about a child - a relative of the birthday boy's family -  who had been kidnapped. The children were asked what they could see, what they felt, what colors they saw; they were asked to describe the surroundings, the clothes they could 'see' the boy wearing and such. The man took his time with each child, patiently repeating questions and probing for answers. By the time he was with the third child, I was bored and decided to go home.

When I reached home, mom asked me where my brother was; not knowing what hypnosis was and being too  young to be aware of the gravity of the situation, I nonchalantly answered that some old guy was asking questions about some child who had been kidnapped. I'll never forget the look that came over my  mom's face; I was really scared, because though she wasn't yelling, I knew that she was very very very angry.

She marched upstairs with me in tow; like an angry mother lioness, to the shock and horror of the birthday boy's dad and the hypnotizing man, she barged into the room where the 'interrogations' were taking place; my mom gave them such a piece of her mind that they both cowered in embarrassment and a little fear. My brother was the one who was being questioned when we had walked in; mom grabbed him from the chair and came back home. The funniest thing (in retrospect) was that despite this, the birthday boy's parents kept asking for just another minute with my brother because apparently he had found a 'connection' - but they kept their distance.

Mom was so angry and emotional. I didn't understand it then, but I do now. Her fear and shock of having had her youngest baby misused that way. After we came back home, she prayed over my brother and did the other things that Indian mothers do to ensure that no bad vibes were around my brother. I was still in awe over my usually calm mother's near violent outburst that I don't really remember how the other parents reacted. But, I do know that hearing all the commotion several of them pulled their children out of the party.

A few days later, I asked my brother what it was that he had actually seen and that little imp tells me that he never saw anything, but let his imagination take over and made up stories for his own entertainment!

Be careful where you send your children and whom you leave them with. There are many wolves in sheep's clothing lurking around the most innocent of places.


Gosh, this was scary and for a moment I also led myself to be angry at the impossible sister who just left her brother and walked home.

Joy always,
!! Oxymoron !! said…
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