When Zohar Judah asked, “What is a terrorist?” his father Akiv hesitated. “How do you explain that to a five-year-old?” he asks. Zohar, who underwent a ‘cohen’ (Jewish baptism) ceremony in the presence of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg at Nariman House, is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, says Dr Rajan Bhonsle of the Heart to Heart counselling centre.
Luckily for Zohar, his teachers at The Hiranandani Foundation School (HFS) in Powai, (where his mother Hannah also teaches), got him and his classmates to express their feelings in drawing class.
“When school re-opened, they talked of nothing else but the terror attacks,” explains Barkha Gulani, supervisor of the school’s pre-primary section.
“We wanted children to feel free to talk. Our job was to listen,” says Kavita Malhotra, the headmistress of HFS, who adds that the school had also planned physical activities to help children relieve their stress.
And principal Kalyani Patnaik is setting in place a disaster management plan, a drill for which will start soon after the Christmas vacation is over. “We want to be on guard. It’s better not to take chances,” she says.
Let them cry
“The key is for parents not to panic,” says Dr Bhonsle, who has had a slew of children and parents coming to him for advice. He says he asks parents not to stop children from having a good cry if they feel like it. He also encourages them to let children express themselves by drawing, writing or just talking. “They can even write a letter to a terrorist expressing their anguish,” he says.
“Television coverage of the event has increased children’s fear quotient and I advise parents to monitor their TV viewing,” advises Dr Pravin Shah, who practices at Ghatkopar.
Arti Sharma, a clinical psychologist with Seva Niketan, agrees. She tells of an 11-year-old girl who was traumatised by the TV coverage. Sharma asked her to sketch out her fears but after the drawing was done, she wanted to tear it up and burn it.
Older children, like the rest of the city, are venting their anger through marches, protests and signed petitions. SAVE (Students Against Violence and Exploitation), an informal group within St Xavier’s college, organised a candle-lit vigil outside Cama Hospital. “At least 500 students turned up,” says Punya J, who is now collecting signatures for a petition which she, along with 10 other similar groups, will send to the concerned authorities. “This is our way of telling our government they have let us down,” she says.
Students of HR college did their bit by organising a blood donation drive. “The blood was sent to hospitals which treated terror victims,” explains FYBCom student Mitali Laungwani, who participated in the drive.
We’ll leave the last word for Ryland D’monte, a fifth-standard student of St Stanislaus High School who underwent a drawing and essay session as part of the catharsis process. Says D’monte: “What the terrorists did was not right. What did they get by killing those innocent people?”