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Runaway worry, here

Runaway worry, here
Pujitha MJK

She is a household name now and for all the wrong reasons. A local TV channel has even made her a celebrity (by default) by airing her exclusive interview, in a desperate bid for TRPs.

It is horrifying to see how 13-year-old Pujitha MJK, from a reputed city school, who ran away from home, smugly recount her audacious train-hopping journey.

And why did she do that? She smiles sweetly and fluently responds in Kannada, “I was feeling depressed after my low marks and needed a break,” she nonchalantly states. There is not an iota of regret or remorse on that unbelievable innocent face.

“Why is she giving interviews? To tell other kids to run away at the drop of a hat. I am surprised that her parents have allowed her to speak to the media,” questions one indignant mother of a teen.

The city had gone into frenzy when Poojitha went missing. There was genuine fear for the child’s well-being and deep sympathy for her parents. It seemed like all of Bengaluru was searching for this charming teen.

A special website was quickly created with her details uploaded, concerned well-wishers formed whats app groups to share information and her pictures and frantic messages were shared on FB.

Totally oblivious to the storm she had created, the bold teenager was on her own little Enid Blyton adventure. Poojitha was train-hopping, from Bengaluru to Ahmedabad, and then Mumbai before she got tired of her rendezvous and caught a train to Yeshwantpur. But enroute to Hubli, she was found sleeping in a train coach.

“I am happy to be back with my relatives,” she says, now that her goal of travelling had been achieved. She cockily talks about being good at painting and therefore drawing caricatures and making Rs 100. She also claims to have corrected grammar for ‘poor’ people and made Rs 50.

While the urge to recommend that her parents give her a sound spanking is strong enough, blaming a misguided youngster is not the solution. There is obviously a serious communication gap between the teen and her parents, who didn’t understand the gravity of the situation when she talked about facing academic pressure.

But sadly, we live in over ambitious times, where parents compete with each other to ensure their child is the brightest and best, often transferring their unrealistic expectations onto the child.

Poojitha reached out to her parents, but they didn’t take her cry for help, seriously enough. Under the circumstances, it would be easy to brandish them as ineffective. But like the mother of a grown up daughter confessed, “Parenting is a life-long lesson who no one has mastered, and it is important that this child be taught responsibility.”

Another parent is outraged by her over confidence, “She was talking to the channel like she had won a gold medal, she needs some strong disciplining or the parents will find it hard to cope as she grows older.”

The alarming fact is that this 13-year-old actually masterminded her trip, by stuffing clothes into her school bag, lying to her mother about a special class and taking money and simply disappearing for four days.

“I would smack her hard,” says a young mother Poojitha was lucky not to have fallen into the wrong hands — all kinds of scary scenarios come to mind — rape, child trafficking, murder, the horrors are endless.

“The parents are understandably shaken and relieved that their child has been found. The guilt-ridden father actually defends his daughter to a channel saying, “We need to put ourselves in the kid’s shoes and understand what feelings and emotions she is going through.”

Fair enough, that is a positive realisation, but what is equally vital is that the overconfident teen be taken for counselling, where she is made to realise the repercussions of running away in the big bad world, and that it can never be the solution to resolving problems.