Childhood Trauma – A deep seated pain in the heart

An Article by Anupama Ravindran Menon


As the sensuous aroma of freshly brewed coffee tickled the sensation of my just awakened olfactory buds, I welcomed the beautiful morning sunrays by hopping onto the balcony terrace and glaring into the wide theatrical opening horizon in the humble woods surrounding camp. Being an opacarophile myself, the sunlight was a boon as it ignited sparks of joyous memories within me. Specks of butterfly flutters and wing spreads of flying birds announced their grand arrival by adding colors to the broad blue sky above. Chirps of sparrows and chattering clutters of excited chipmunks added notes to the melody of greeting dawn. Excitedly drenched in the aura of nature’s miracles, I picked up clear pearls of residual morning dews, using them as ink to scribble invisible notes on the nearby windowsill.


I turned around to grab hold of a piece of cookie to satiate my amazingly scrumptious appetite that happened to be accelerated by the reverberating jolt of rising adrenaline-cortisol outburst. As I had my drink and snack catalyse the kickstarter to a voracious metabolism, my auditory fibres picked up a rather recently etched memory, yet a familiar note of high octave pitches in the background. They were the melodious chitchats of innocent children playing around the parking lot facing the officer’s accommodation. It was a weekend routine as fellow officers brought their long-missed family to camp, spending precious time together, making up for lost moments that dissipated under the noble veil duty and honour. I couldn’t refrain myself from capturing this beautiful moment of pure bliss and serendipity, as the children ran around whilst basking themselves under the sun, doused in innocence and happiness.


There was always an undeniably enigmatic flow of joy and love, while immersing oneself in the presence of a child. Children are truly the living quintessential exuberance of life, radiating impeccable energy and light upon everyone and everything they set their heart upon. Their child plays of climbing over challenging heights beyond their reach, closely resembled outbursts of highly determined sunshine piercing its way through the thick canopy of bending and twirling greens. It was symbolic of their innocent rays of hope that always finds its way to shine through any hurdle thrown in. Their chirping conversations and boisterous laughters mimicked the symphony of birdsongs with dancing morning crickets.


Beyond the acres of greenery enveloping the camp site, the real world was busy bustling away with the excitement of elections. With the colourful banners and political parties’ flags hoisting high across streets, I turned on the radio to catch up on the trailblazing news of the ongoing election day and voting polls. In the midst of adjusting the radio waves to its accurate frequency, I picked up a particularly heated up conversation held on air. It caught hold of my attention within seconds, bringing me far away from my current wandering thoughts. The RJ had an impressive knack of stringing his words in such a way that I picked up the conversation right where they were conversing. They were arguing about the rampantly escalating impacts of childhood trauma and abuse. The rapid, fiery topic and waging war of opinions had me hooked to the radio without further a due. Within no time, the whole process of flashback commenced, sucking me back into my memory abyss, unfolding images of my service in the barren lands of the Middle East under the peacekeeping flagship of United Nations. It sculptured out the portrait of a very moving yet memorable journey that remained sealed and etched deep inside the very fibres of my grey and white matter.


Working in the dry, desert lands of Lebanon, it was an experience that humbled me to my core facing the cruel reality of life in many forgotten parts of the world, raw and harsh, beyond the ludicrous lenses of modernity & luxury. Across terrains and continents, over leaps and oceans, dry hackles of hay and vicious poisonous creatures strode the vast territories of sands of the war-torn nation. The narrative began to replay, crystal clear like it was just yesterday. It was my first week of the entourage there. I recall looking out of the small existing windowpane connecting the closed army territory into the outer world, as I cast my eyes upon the snow laden wide land, an enigmatic emblem of the ongoing winter. Marking the cold that swept across the country, smooth velvety snow blanketed every tinkle and speckle under the solemn, gray sky. A smoky cold fog floated above the snowy landscape, acting as a buffer masking the thin breathable air enveloping those around.

Cutting through the blurry mist, I distinctively remember catching glimpses of distant small shadows of children walking up-to the concertina barb wire protected camp gates, only to seek help for their medical ailments. As they were respectfully ushered into our humble hospital setup of the reutilized old Italian architectured caravan, I dutifully began to examine my patients. Out of the three, Muhammad, as he was called, was a memorable character as he left an indelible mark deep within me. He had a rather small built for an 11-year-old boy, with brawny hands, clearly cracked heels and dirty, patchy clothes exuding an inevitable vibe of a child laborer. Featured by the chapped jawline and smudged face, he was clearly famished beyond words. Despite the obvious signs of child neglect his physique depicted, Muhammad fervently tried his best to maintain the tough man image he so miserably failed to impress unto us. On the contrary, his oscillating, frightened eyes painstakingly gave away his terrified inner child. Picking up varying degrees of intriguing purplish discoloration on the skin, I obtained further history about the origins of the wounds. Based on my fair share of medical knowledge and proficiency, I was definitive that Muhammad was another victim of physical violence of varying degrees over a long period of time. The varying colors was evidential of different types of blunt force trauma inflicted upon him over a long timeframe. Every blue-black mark imprinted was relevant to different times of being abused resulting in various stages of blood clots forming and dissolving. Engulfed in an unseen blaze of rage, I was determined to nail the perpetrator who had hurt this sweet little boy. As language had become a ghastly enormous barrier between us both, I sort the assistance of our in-camp language interpreter. After an hour long of delicate interrogation, the interpreter surmised the child’s one and only answer of quoting workplace accident repeatedly as being a hiding covert to the fact of him being abused. Despite multiple attempts of probing and coaxing, the child adamantly refused admittance to any such occurrence and left our premises with a big smile of gratitude and simple medication in hand.

As Muhammad walked away with his other fellow friends into the vast snowy landscape, I was reduced down to tears imagining his plight. The interpreter advised me to leave him be and that they are thousands of similar cases out there, mostly beyond help and assistance. Utterly shocked and ashamed, I couldn’t help wondering the duress he had endured making him so tolerable to such inflictions of pain and hurt. At such a fragile, delicate age, he was robbed off the entire innocence and joy of childhood which was rightfully his without the need of asking for it. He was devoid of any kind of hope and love that should have been showered abundantly upon him. It shattered my heart to watch his soft, beautiful spirit break and bend to the thorny weeds of abuse and trauma. His misconstrued acceptance of the abuse sent chills down my spine as it uprooted my entire conceptualization of childhood. It was painful acknowledging the fact that he was in denial of having fallen prey to the wrongdoings, accepting it blindly as a growing part of his life.

It was obnoxiously sickening to accept that global statistics showed there was at least one child being victimized to abusive behaviors every 5 minutes of every day. A rather startling fact, if not alarming revelation to be a part of a millennium that prides success and development yet condones on such shameful acts. As time went by, there was a tangential escalation of similar incidents involving different circumstances and various scenarios all within the vicious cycle of child abuse. Barely a handful were reported and mostly buried underneath the towering piles of bureaucracy and lies, often swept under the rug of secrecy and societal stigma. Spread out far over continents and countries, child abuse had established its reeking stench hovering over most nations regardless of how successfully progressive they were.The heart aching irony of modern society. All across the face of Earth, it was deemed preposterous to allow financial shams and political corruption disrupt the progress of humanity but there was no issue at all in the moulding of our future generations in the face of domestic violence. As another case hits yet another news column on the papers, the new incident is merely another common word of mouthpiece, only to be discussed over dinner tables and small talk. Approached with oblivious sympathy but no definitive, pragmatic solution worked out.

Adapted into a part of the United Nations training modules, there was a mandatory psychological training session of dealing with domestic violence and abuse cases. We were heeded with a fair share of warnings regarding the common monstrosity of child abuse and neglects that occurred in such broken communities We were cautiously prepared with the course of actions to be taken if we stumbled upon suchlike situations. I was in a very difficult spot drowned in emotions of despair and frustrations of incapacity to mend the broken. Yes, how saddening it is to admit that I too am a part of a generation that closes an eye to such heinous atrocities.

Being the simple, regular, girl next door, I was an ardent believer of live, love & laugh. Nature was, is and will always be my go-to person to help me iron out turbulent thoughts and emotional turmoils that chaotically cloud my mind. It did not take me long to realise that the littlest of both nature’s magic and wrath was actually a fair depiction of children and their childhood. That cold winter in November 2019 was both a beautiful one and a harshly cold one. It was emblematic of the very same predicament we faced then and now. If I were to tune in the aura of winter into this thought process, perhaps imagine the small, frozen crystal-clear puddles and streams, naturally carved by time and wind, sculpted into beautiful stalagmites and stalactites that mimicked unpolished diamonds. A moment so beautiful, perfectly encapsulated in its imperfection. Everything so white and pure, still and frozen. Childhood is a passage of rite that every child deserves to live and experience with utmost joy. Every part of the journey imbibes and imbues seeds which moulds the child into the authentic individual he or she grows to become. Every ounce of love and effort worked into a child manifests as wonderful miracles as they grow. I still tap into a lot of my beloved childhood memories to hone strength and empowerment to overcome the next obstacle ahead.


Now, to do the same but on the opposing pole of the spectrum of childhood. Try to tap your innermost senses into the shoes of a freshly blooming flower bud born in the harshest of cold times. Have you ever imagined what it would be like for the little blossoming morning glory to be fighting through the odds of striking cold and profound silence? What does it bring being different in indifferent surroundings? What hopes does it have in carrying cold dew drops on its fragile petals and keep fighting to blossom daily and splatter its meagre colour in the sullen white background? Despite having a near negligible significance in its existence, it still fights a valour battle. A battle to survive, a battle to hold up and a battle to thrive as it seeks to continue its living in the name of hope, believe and love. A similar fight resembling the inner war these abused children fight through day in and out.


As I stood there battling my own inner demons, my thought bubble was burst by the blaring ringtone of my telephone. It brought me back to the current reality of today. Children are the truest form of life, nascent to its purity and uniqueness. They are every bit of magic and nature. Every child is a cloud of raindrops that hit off the barren earth emanating the fragrance of fresh minerals & soil. They are the perfectly imperfect combination of sunrays both at dawn and dusk. Some of them are the dazzling stars that scatter the inevitable black, dark sky. They are the very breath and living beat of life. As I silently slipped in a prayer that my Muhammad and every other child out there is safe and protected, I couldn’t help thinking that we can all make a difference by putting a full stop to this growing madness of a crisis. It is our duty and responsibility to protect them as they will for the future after them. Let them have the freedom to be a child as they are meant to be.

Remember what we sow is what we reap!

Let’s put an end to child abuse!

Say no to child violence!

Say no to child trauma!

Let’s honour children as we celebrate their childhood together!

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