The Observation Home receives children from all spectrum of society who have committed varied levels of crimes. As a counsellor, what becomes important for us is to be able to create a space where the children are able to feel safe, express themselves, reflect on their actions and reconnect with their inner-good.  

In September, we saw three such cases of children who had committed heinous offenses. All three children had very deep behaviour patterns and perspectives and they held onto their masks so tight that even after multiple counseling sessions, it was hard to get through to them. As we heard a little bit about about their backgrounds and life, we realized who their influencers are and what circumstances led them to commit these crimes.

After much thought, we felt like we needed to do something experiential and something drastically different. In 2018, we had attended a Head,Heart and Hands retreat by Moved by Love in Ahmedabad. One such experience in the retreat really touched my heart deeply and intuitively I felt like this is what we need to do with the three of them. Three steps and a bow – is a gratitude walk which was inspired by Rev Heng Sure’s pilgrimage in the US. It’s not really a therapy but an experience that helped me go within. 

A large part of this process was to create an ambience for inner reflection. With the help of Ashiyana interns and my colleague Shivani, we changed the environment at the Child Guidance Clinic. Lights were dimmed, diya’s were lit, soothing positive music was played on low volume. The room freshner added to the aroma of the room. As we played the prayer from the laptop, the counseling unit was transformed into a sacred space. The boys entered the room with suspicion but as they felt something different, they immediately immersed themselves in the process and all their questions disappeared. 

They followed me in silence, three steps and bow to the ground. As they bowed down, they were told “sometimes in life we wish to apologize to people we have harmed but we are not able to. As we bow to the ground, let us think of them and ask for their forgiveness and forgive others who may have hurt us. Let us also say thank you to all who stood by us in our bad times and those who love us.” 

Bowing they circled the counseling unit. Soon they had forgotten where they were and were fully immersed in the process. When they reached the decorated room, Shivani, wiped their feet with a wet towel and offered them water in a glass. The boys were in tears. 

In a circle, as we continued to sit in silence, they slowly started sharing their reflections one by one. One of them had been in the institution for more than 5 months. His friends involved in the case were released on bail but his parents refused to get him out. His anger towards his parents turned into an apology. He apologizes to his parents  for all the trouble and shame they had to face because of them. Another boy shared that he apologized to the person he had harmed and their family members. They expressed gratitude to all those who have helped them in their life. One of them shared how this process needs to happen with many more boys who are inside as they are not able to express what is in their heart. 

We asked them to continue this self reflection rest of the day and be in silence as far as possible. 

One of the boys came back to say can we do this once more, I still have a few more people to say sorry  and thank you to. We smiled and explained that it’s not necessary to go through this process again but instead imagine that feeling of peace in your mind and from there express your gratitude and apologies everyday. Continue the process of reflection. 

We cannot change their past or the actions they’ve committed but we can create a space where by reflecting, the boys can see themselves for who they are, take responsibility for their actions, develop empathy and learn to reflect before they harm anyone again. For the three of them, this experience surely was the first step in that journey of self reflection. 

 – Trupti Kulshreshtha