Tell me a story mummy!!”, my four-year-old daughter said with the insistence of a politician.
“Alright, alright, what story do you want to hear today?”
“A scary one!”
“Not again!”, I said with an exasperated sigh.
“Why don’t we listen to some nice happy story today? Maybe about princesses and magic and unicorns?”
I wasn’t sure where she had picked up this fascination with scary stories. That was all she wanted to hear about lately – monsters, ghosts, scary animals. She was supposed to be four years old only and I was supposed to be protecting her from all the nightmares.
“Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease!!Just this one more time mummy!!! Pleaaaaaaaseeeeeeeee!”
“Oh alright”. I gave in.
“Once upon a time, there was a kingdom and in that kingdom there was a castle, and in that castle there lived a beautiful princess with her mummy and papa. She was very kind too and really liked to read books”.
“And her name was Tisha and she lived with her three best friends, Neha, Pooja and Shanaya, and they had different color rooms. Tisha had a pink room and Neha had a purple room and Pooja had an orange room and Shanaya had a blue room!”
This is how our story sessions went. I would start and she would butt in, in-between and change the course of the story, or add her own bits.
“Right. Then one day, Tisha, Neha, Pooja and Shanaya were playing in the park and it started getting dark. Mummy had said not to play when it is dark and not to go near the jungle, because the scary monster comes out in the night to eat little children”. I said with a careful voice, like an instruction.
“But they didn’t listen to mummy that day, and decided to play hide and seek instead”.
“No! But Tisha was a good girl and she listened to her mumma, so she went home with Shanaya. But Pooja and Neha didn’t listen, so they stayed in the dark to play hide and seek and Pooja went to hide near the faaaaaar end of the playground, which was very close to the jungle where the gruffalo-monster lived”, my daughter corrected.
“Hmm..ok, so then Neha was counting when she suddenly heard a scream! It was Pooja!! She was screaming, help me!! Help me!!! Oh no!, thought Neha, the monster has got Pooja!! She ran towards the sound and saw that the most scariest, terrible looking monster was standing in front of Pooja and was going to catch her.”
“The monster said in a scary voice, hahaha, strayed away from home did we? I will gobble you up for dinner today, yummy yummy.”
“But the gruffalo monster didn’t know that Neha had the magical powers to call her friend princess Tisha and princess Shanaya. Neha quickly rubbed her magic ring and princess Tisha and princess Shanaya got the message and they took out their magical wands, and their magical tiaras and wore their princess dresses and sat on their magical unicorns and flew to the gruffalo-monster!”, my little daughter added, rather excitedly. Of course she wanted a really scary monster to fight, of course.
“And then, princess Tisha said to the monster, let her go, you naughty monster! How dare you try to eat my friend!! I will turn you into a little bug and put you in this jar!” And so, she moved her wand in a circle and said shimmer and shine, give me your powers to turn this naughty monster into a teeny weeny bug!!”
My daughter would finish the whole story herself, I was just there to start and end the story, I thought, with a smile.
“Yes, and with that, the terrible and naughty monster was defeated, and all the princesses went home, and changed into their pyjamas and had hot chocolate and went to sleep. Good night now”. I said a little sternly to my daughter.
“Good night mummy, don’t dream of the monsters!”She giggled, as she gave me a kiss.
But how could I not dream of the monsters, my darling? I don’t want to stop you from spreading your wings and flying, but how do I stop those monsters? Lurking in the shadows, waiting for little girls, little boys, big girls, women, anyone who dares stay out in the darkness. Who dares to go beyond the playground to venture into the forest. Where do I find that magical power, to turn these monsters into little bugs that could be squashed. I couldn’t sleep because I was feeling the rage of a million women. I couldn’t sleep because I feared for my own daughter.
All I could think of, was sending a silent prayer to all the mothers and sisters, for all the daughters and sisters, so that only our prayers and togetherness can keep us safe from the monsters. So that when the time comes, we save each other. We rush to each other’s aide, without even asking, “why did you go there that late in the first place?” We punish the monster. Not each other.