Monday, May 18, 2015

Jungle

I was gifted an interesting contraption yesterday - a latex-covered foot-long rod. Before you get the wrong idea, let me tell you how it works. You hold the thicker end of the rod and do a swish-and-flick movement. Like in that scene from the first Harry Potter movie where Hermione teaches Ron how to use a wand.

Except, you swish-and-flick with force. The rubber-covered rod magically extends to thrice its size. It transforms from an interesting contraption to a lethal weapon.

It was a gift.
From a father to his daughter.

----

It’s a jungle out there.

It’s not easy being a girl.
A woman. Or even a child.

It’s not easy being beautiful.
Pretty. Or even plain.

It’s not easy being a Hindu in a saree.
A Muslim in a burqa. Or even a Catholic nun.

----

I remember the first time it happened. I was at the medical store buying Crocin for Appa. Just as I was settling the bill, I felt a pinch on my butt. I was so stunned that I didn’t turn back - afraid that he would do something worse to me.

I was wearing a mid-length skirt and a loose top.
I was in fifth grade.


----

He was family. That’s what Amma told me.
He visited us one Sunday afternoon. Amma asked me to serve him lunch.

He chatted me up and asked me to feed him a morsel. I did. He sucked on my fingers in a way that made me feel dirty.

I ran to Amma and complained. She asked me to go complete my homework.

I was in sixth grade.

---


One day, I was home alone when a garment salesman knocked on our door. He was selling pant and shirt pieces. I had just started dressing in western wear and was interested in what he had to offer. He said they even took up tailoring orders and offered to take my measurements. I still regret having accepted that offer. Over the next half hour, he went on to strip me off my dignity even while I was fully clothed. I should have cried for help but the embarrassment of making this incident public stopped me.

By the time he left, I was sobbing openly.

It did not stop there. A few days later, he followed me back to the apartment and entered the lift when I was going up. He tried to kiss me. This time I fought back. I pushed him away, stopped the lift in the middle and ran out.

To this day, I get terrified every time a stranger enters home when I am alone. To this day, I take the stairs if there’s a lone man in the lift.

This happened in tenth grade.

---

Sometimes violence can be closer than you imagine.

He was my neighbour. He was my friend. I liked him. I looked up to him.
He liked me too. In a different way. I didn’t know it then.

We would sit for long hours on the terrace. He would tell me stories and I would share my dreams with him.
He was like the big brother I never had.

One day, he asked me for a kiss.
Without thinking twice, I planted a kiss on his cheek.

That day, the equation changed.
He made me sit close to him.
He touched me - not in a friendly way.
He held my hand - even when I told him I was uncomfortable with it.
He kissed me by force.

I should have told Amma about it. But I was afraid she wouldn’t believe me.

I was in eleventh grade when it happened. It stopped the next year when we moved to Chennai.

---

Chennai.

I had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. After successive bouts of depression, I switched from college to correspondence and stayed all day in my room, staring at the ceiling, thinking of painless ways to end my life.

The only upside to it, I barely went out. Life was peaceful, at least on that front.

----

My 21st birthday.

I was in Bangalore, waiting for the bus one winter morning when a boy cycling past me whistled out loud - “Hey sexy”. He looked like he was 12. Thirteen at most.

He didn’t touch me. He didn’t even ogle at me. Then why did I feel violated?

----

Back to Chennai.

Men on motorbikes grabbed my breasts while I was riding pillion, a look of triumph in their eyes as I cried out.
Men brushed themselves against me when I travelled by bus.
Men drove dangerously close to me when I walked on the roads.
Men ogled, whistled, hooted.
Men.
Men.
Men.

---

I got myself a pepper spray.
I kept my hair short after reading a newspaper report that said women with short hair are less likely to be victims of sexual abuse.
I wrote about it - hoping for catharsis.
I cried myself to sleep when the memories of it came back to haunt me.

---
Today.

My heart beats faster when I see a minivan approaching me.
I break into a sweat when I notice the man on a motorbike looking at me.

I pull out my pepper spray when I’m on a deserted road - be it night or day.
I maintain a steely expression when I go walking.
I stare down men who stare at me.

I try to be brave, but I am afraid.
Very afraid.

1 comment:

lavanya said...

And who was that bastard at Mt.Santoshi?????