“I have come to believe overand over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”
They say there are good men who walk the streets, share our workspace, live with us in our homes. Men who protect us, respect us,never forget we are humans.
I am sure there are. But in the fog of repeated betrayals, every silhouette is a potential threat walking towards me.
One cannot speak of otherswithout speaking of oneself.
Wasn’t I playing the silly child’s game of “catch me if you can”? Weren’t we laughing, excitedly building our self-esteem on whether we are smart and swift enough to escape being caught?
Anna (Elder Brother), when did you join in this game? Why did you catch a seven-year-old me again and again and hold your little sister against you for long? I now know what you did that day.
And I realize all that you may have done during the months you stayed with us and the times you visited us…memories fog, I only know that when I see you, even today I bolt, even today my heart palpitates and that I look at your wife and daughter with sadness,wondering what stories were left untold.
And that I haven’t forgotten.
An eight o’clock Mumbai local. A 19-year-old me wassupposed to get into the ladies compartment. But it appeared some compartments convert into general after a certain point at night. I didn’t know.
I looked around confused—men, and only men in a packed compartment. Just incase you were wondering what I was wearing—I wore a close-necked pink salwar kameez complete with a dupatta (scarf).
Pink used to be my favourite colour. I do not know how it started. But soon there were hands all over me, inside my clothes, as I thrashed around, crying for help, trying to beat off the strange faceless hands, trying to extricate to a space of safety.
Did I hear someone asking me to get closer to the door? I swirled, stamping on feet, pushing hands and fingers away, it dawned that men near the door also wanted to participate—from one pack to another.
Hmmm, I wonder where the “good men” in the train were. Or perhaps I did not cry loud enough. I still freeze inside when someone mentions Mumbai locals.
In my family doctor’s clinic. 21-year-old me on his examination table. I hear him telling me that I should ease up. That he is a brother, a bhai, wanting to ensure his sister has a healthy married life. Brother’s intention is always pure. I blink throughthe years I have known him—when a newly married him and his wife moved into our neighbourhood, when his son was born and then his daughter, me playing with them, talking to them inbaby language, of the times he came to our house to give my mother an injection to ease her bronchial attack, of how my mother depended on him, of the times he took care of my brother and my father, our family’s saviour, the respected doctor of our neighbourhood, the good man we all knew.
Not just that once, but again. You may wonder how I could have allowed violation a second time. Well, he was the doctor my family depended on and I knew himfor so many years. Maybe I was mistaken, maybe I didn’t understand…
Today I know. Of all the images of the neighbourhood I grew up in, I remember the clinic. Even today, I freeze when Isee men who have similar features, whose hands looksimilar.
At my first job. One of the 4women recruited nationally for a pharma group as a sales representative, first time ever for that group and one of the first batch ofwomen to enter the medical representative field. Me andmy only female colleague seated around a conference table listening to the multiple lewd comments thrown—in good humour.
Nah, we could not eat a vegetable chop without being reminded that it was one of my colleagues’ genitals, a man almost 30 years our senior, who we called as “da“ or “dada”—elder brother. Nor could we eat a samosa or drink tea. I thought to myself—maybe this is how work atmosphere is.
Maybe I need to chill and be cool. I laughed. I tried to joke. I tried to be part of the group. And wondered why itfelt so horrid. And wondered later, after the meeting, on how to respond to colleagues who asked for boatrides with me.
And what to do about a manager, who on evening sales visits, spoke of the “dry orgasms I gave him.” . . . . . . . (To be continued)