Aarushi Talwar: A requiem to childhood lost

On 24 May 2013, Aarushi Talwar would have turned 20. But five years ago, she was killed, barely days short of her 15th birthday, allegedly by her father, Dr Dinesh Talwar, aided by her mother, Dr Nupur Talwar. Over the years, the case saw a dramatic unfolding, much like a Greek tragedy, with first the father being accused of committing an ‘honour killing’, then the blame shifting to servants and eventually returning to the parents. Today, the Talwars are firmly in the dock and Dr Rajesh Talwar’s statement is being recorded by the trial court even as they try to seek some or the other kind of relief from higher courts.

I followed the case closely as a journalist in the early months of the killing. But today, when I think back on the events surrounding it, I do so as the mother of a daughter. Several issues concern me as a parent about the kind of society we are bringing up children in.

First of all the living situation of the Talwar family. According to reports, Aarushi’s room had a lock that could be opened from inside, but once locked could not be opened from outside without a key. Every night, the parents would lock their daughter in her room. Ever since I first read about this lock and key I have been wondering as to why the parents felt the need for such a ‘safety’ measure. If their daughter’s safety was a concern, then didn’t the bolt on the inside, which Aarushi could open and close, suffice? Why this need to control access to their daughter’s bedroom? Who was it that they did not trust? The servants? Why keep a male servant in the house if the convenience comes at the price of your child’s freedom? I try to imagine what kind of concerns can force parents to keep their beloved child in a literal prison. I fear for my daughter growing up in an environment where for her own safety I have to resort to measures that may be killing her innocence and childhood.

As any aware parent, I too know that I must educate my child about taking care of herself, but at what cost? I fear that in our efforts to protect our children we might be inadvertently forcing them to grow up too fast.
Aarushi was an only child. With both parents working, she would have come home to an empty house but for the grandparents living nearby to whom she went till her parents returned home. Like many of her peer group, Aarushi had an online life with profiles of social networking sites that mandate eligibility only to those over 18. In class IX, she had her own cell phone and was reportedly planning to have her birthday party at a popular sports bar in NOIDA. Legally, admission to bars is restricted by age. We can deny it as much as we want, and put a modern foot forward, but isn’t 14 a bit too young to be hosting parties at pubs?

I do not know who killed Aarushi, but I do feel that as a result of the social environment we live in, her childhood had died too early.

Soni Sangwan has reported on Delhi - warts and all - for several years. She is now a Journalist-in-Retirement, dividing her time between watching her two-year-old daughter grow and seeing the city she loves evolve.
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