And what to do about a manager, who on evening sales visits, spoke of the “dry orgasms” I gave him. Or how to manage a doctor who promised to push my company’s products if I went out with him.
I am grateful for these experiences. I recently read a wonderful article on “ 5 ways to Practice Gratitude in an Insane World ” on Subho’s Jejune Diet in which the author speaks of the need to be grateful for difficult times.
I am grateful because the experiences made me sensitive as a human, allowed me to examine preconceptions, gave me an opportunity to heal and become whole, made me wise. More importantly, it prepared me to receive other stories.
My topic for Ph.D. research was very innocent—I wanted to understand how women in a particular transnational spiritual community lived. And unwittingly, I discovered that majority of the participants in the community were rape or incest survivors. In fact, I had been noting that my other research papers also strangely led to women who were survivors and that without intending to, I was actually documenting how they coped the thereafter and how they transformed.
Life experiences that converted all feminist theories I had read in textbooks into theories of flesh.
Year 2007 and 2008: As I sat through several evenings either listening to women, or listening over and again to the recordings, or reading transcripts, I realized the gravity of Gloria Anzaldua’s words “there are no safe spaces.” Whether the experience of a four-year old who was raped by her grandpa, or the young teen raped by her trusted male friend, or the young girl who witnessed her mother’s rape by a burglar, or the woman gangraped by soldiers, or the child raped by her uncle or the girl who went through cult abuse—Indian, American, Americans of Indian descent—notion of “good” men blistered and erupted and oozed out like a pus.
There were men who were animals. And then there were men who let them be. In India and abroad.
Slowly all places where women congregated became spaces of listening. That poetess-activist. Women who visited women’s resource centre and them who walked for “Take Back the Night” annual marches. Till the classroom itself became a space to come out. I remember December month as I sat with my sheets, evaluating final presentations of my public speaking students, when she got up to speak.
A lovely, intelligent, alert and chirpy girl who confused me by being inexplicably absent for periods of time and who sometimes didn’t care to submit her assignments, a girl who deserved an A and yet weirdly stayed hovering between a B and C grade. She took stage and broke into a rap, a rap that shattered silences, of a continuous refrain—wasn’t my no a No? I still remember her, hands cutting through the air, voice increasing in fervour and tremor, bellowing from hidden depths, as the rhythm of her words slowly crumbled into a sad monosyllable—no.
In case you are wondering–he was not a stranger.
There must be There must be good men who sit, stand and walk withus. There must be. Pardon me. I don’t know who you are. Even if I have loved you, I don’t know if you were, are, will be a good man.
In my court, you are guilty until proven otherwise.
[ Gratitude to the sisters who shared their courage, their feisty spirits, as they did their vulnerabilities and fears, and their healing processes. This accidental documenter hopes to convert your learnings to wisdom for those who still live in the shadows of silence. Forgive my failings in the process.]
Bhavana is a fellow blogger. Her work : http://tillingtheearthwoman.blogspot.in/2012/12/take-back-india-i-men-we-trust.html