Wednesday, January 23, 2008

angers prey on sweet innocence

By : Zainul Arifin

The search for 5-year-old Sharlinie Mohd Nashar now involves not only the police, but also efforts of although caring Malaysians, including posters on the back of vehicles

MY 6-year-old daughter, Zuleika, is worried about the bad men who could break into our house to get her. It began when Nurin Jazlin Jazimin went missing and was later found murdered; it is now back in earnest with the disappearance of 5-year-old Sharlinie Mohd Nashar.

She is also concerned that the guards who are supposed to patrol the neighbourhood may not be as diligent as they should be, or that bad men could eventually evade the security guards who would need to go to the bathroom at some point.

If I were to be home in the late evening and she was awake, she would ask a series of questions before letting me into the house.

"What is your number?" That would be my mobile telephone number that she now knows by heart. "What is your name?" would be the follow-up question.

I asked her why was she asking me those questions and she said, if there were a bad man who looked like me and pretended to be me, he would be found out rather easily since he would not be able to answer the questions correctly.

This rather cute sensibility, and I am not saying that just because she is my daughter, is nevertheless a manifestation of the influence of our not-so-innocent times on a child's logic.

But it is also an illustration on the manner of a 6-year-old's thought process. Hence we should not be too surprised if they were lured away by bad men and women.

It is thus our primary responsibility to educate them of the dangers that could befall them.

Zuleika's worries, which sometimes border on paranoia -- at night she glances often at the window near the stairs' landing -- is a result of my wife and I telling her often to be extra careful, especially with strangers. We told her of missing young girls who have yet to be found, lured by toys, sweets and promises of kittens.

She saw the images of Sharlinie in the newspapers, on TV, at the back of a lorry and on walls and pillars. She asked who the girl was and why her pictures were plastered everywhere.

We told her that if someone came to her school and said her parents were involved in an accident, do not follow him or her, unless they were her uncles or aunts. Go to her teacher instead was my instruction.

When stories of missing children became a common feature in the newspapers, we decided not to hide from her details of the dangers that are lurking out there.

My wife and I told her of bad men and women who would take away children and do nasty things to them. We exaggerated a little, of course, but we believed we were entitled to do so.

It is of course important to be vigilant, and all parents would have stories of near misses and fortunate turn of events.

We know that luck, or divine intervention for those so inclined, have thus far made it possible for many of us to have our children unscathed and unharmed despite misadventures in the kitchen, bathroom, park and the mall, when a simple twist of fate would have brought about unthinkable horror.

Thus, as much as some of us would be quick to judge the unfortunate guardians, we should all remember that safety is a kind of a "best effort compromise".

We must resist the temptation to judge, and instead work towards something positive.

The citizen-initiated Nurin (Nationwide Urgent Response Information Network) to alert the media and public in the event of missing kids is one such example.

I believe as much as we are vigilant as we can be, we are but a step away from making headlines, since bad luck can likely descend on some even as it lets the rest to fortunately escape.

- New Straits Times