I had always wanted to write this down but failed to do so, until today when I finally gathered the courage to pen it down. Today I did it because a sudden realization has shaken me, the fear that a similar incident might happen to my kids, your kids or anybody else’s. Back in 2005, my family was having perhaps one of their last ten luncheons together, relaxing, chilling and chatting about life while dining.
The memories of this day are very vivid to me, only because the incident that took place that day, still haunts me on most nights and the paranoia has increased over time, leading to silent screams inside me.
It has taken me ten years to write about it finally openly. My body shivers, fingers tremble, and my throat dries up. Tears follow incessantly when I get flashbacks from that day, the failure to speak about it ever still lingers and gulps the insides of me in indescribable pain, a striking contrast to the outward, outspoken 22-year-old girl I am right now. To begin with, let me tell you that the place that I hail from, is one of the most liberal places on earth. My parents, now separated, are very liberal and understanding individuals, but there are some things that you can’t just share with anyone. They are like tiny worms inside your body that you can’t get rid of, and they keep feeding on you.
The 22-year-old me is the 21st-century feminist, who fights back almost all wrongs done to herself or anybody else, whether in close relation to her or not. She fights for rights.
I fight now to evade the disparity from that one incident, where I should have spoken up, but the lack of understanding of the situation and the sequence of events then, left me silent, and I always wonder now about why it happened and how I let it happen. Of course, I was timid and weak and, in those times, back in 2005, when I was just an 11-year-old kid, we didn’t know that these things happen. There was a lack of awareness. Of course, my mother told me not to get close to strangers or guy friends in the neighbourhood, what she didn't tell me was why and what exactly I should be alert about. Getting back to the incident, it was Sunday noon, and as we sat for lunch, I heard the doorbell ring. The enthusiastic kid that I was, I ran to open it. Beggars would often come to doorsteps in our colony on weekends; we offered them food and drinks and some money. I instantly ran inside and got a few notes from my father’s wallet, owing to my mother’s teachings of goodness. As I offered the limping old man money and water and eagerly put my head down, waiting for him to bless me and chant some prayers, to my utter dismay, he suddenly took his penis out and yes, right there, that dark thing hung, in front of my eyes.
And before I could react, his hands moved from my head to my bean sized nipples. He squeezed one of them and when I removed his hand with force, he lifted my frock, slid his hand inside my underwear, and pinched my clitoris. I was more than shocked. I gave him food, drinks, and money.
My parents were inside, talking and laughing. He was standing on my veranda with his sheer audacity. Knowing it’s a Sunday afternoon, and all residents are mostly indoors including house helpers, he committed that heinous crime of molesting me and doing it with such weird expertise that it made me believe that he was mentally sick. I wanted to yell; I still want to yell and scream it out. I did not have any understanding of the situation then, what he had done was grievingly wrong, but I knew that if I yell and tell my father, he would beat that beggar to death and I didn’t quite understand if he was mentally ill or not then, going by his wrinkled face and limping leg.
Of course, I didn’t know it was molestation, it was just something weird for an 11-year old, and with my little awareness, I figured that he must be ill in his head to do this.
However, as time passed by, I recalled that incident every day, and it flashes in my mind like it happened yesterday. His face, that sly smile, and his eyes, filled with the glory of achievement when he walked through the gates, eventually made me realize that he had just taken advantage of an 11-year-old kid’s lack of understanding and had, of course, emerged victoriously. What haunts me more is that perhaps he has done this same thing, to many others, many young girls who want to do something good by giving him food and money. Why I chose to write about it today is because of the increasing paranoia I see in the minds of women, as they walk through dark and deserted streets, of mothers when they let out their children to walk home after dark. I want women and girls out there to know that they aren’t safe anywhere, there isn’t an area with utmost security. You need to be stern and assertive and aware. I regret not stopping that man more violently that day and more than anything else, I want to stop doubting every male I come across, every vendor that comes at my doorstep.
I want to have the freedom of my mind back and get rid of that unwavering nausea I face in every crowd I go to.