Monday, March 13, 2006

Blank Noise #Metoo

Had hidden this post , now Re posting this, after several years.

Reading about child abuse…well, opened old wounds…I really wonder if a single woman escapes…I think every woman undergoes such an experience in some way or the other- to a greater or lesser extent.  
I had always been small for my age and upto the 8th std, I have had uncomfortable experiences of even sirs/male teachers cuddling me and I remember feeling confused, and a weird sense of having been defiled…
And then of course, buses, movie theatres, bus stops- some of us girls would keep a safety pin or umbrella handy- I have had the pleasure of poking safety pin into many a curious, wandering fingers…
 And then when I left my parents for the first time- and joined college in Kerala, I went for a short holiday back to the Gulf to my parents- during Xmas hols. My  maternal uncle and aunt ( M uncle and M aunt) saw me off at the airport. Everything went fine. I was traveling to and fro alone.
 I was to return and this time another uncle ( S uncle) was to receive me at the airport. He was just a few years younger than my father- and he had always been a reticent, stern type of person. But, for no reason, I was feeling very wary, very nervous about this person coming to receive me, though I had had no unpleasant experience in the past with regards to this person. I even felt guilty about feeling nervous regarding a person who was supposed to be like my father. The plan was that he would receive me at the airport, we would then go to a  family friends' house, freshen up, and then board the same night train and we would reach my grandparents’ home early next morning- this was the plan decided upon. 

However, on the previous evening, for no plausible reason, a thought just occurred in my mind, what if this S uncle suggested that  we travel only the next day morning,and that we would spend the night in a hotel. I immediately chided myself for this thought- felt ashamed of my suspecting a father figure- and besides, this S uncle also had access to free  rail passes- and hence ticket availability would never be a problem.
 Uncannily, things moved just as I had foreseen. At the family friend’s home, he called me aside and told me that  there had been no tickets available for the same night, and since we should not be  burdening the friends, we should put up in a hotel and leave by the early train  next morning. I was aghast. I tried telling him that we could stay in the friend’s place- they were one big family- and they would not mind us staying over for one night but he did not relent. We left that home telling the friends that we were going to the station. On the way, he told the auto driver to detour to a hotel. 

I can’t express the trepidation, the uneasiness that I felt- on one side, it was fear, on another side, a tiny voice telling me that he was after all my S uncle whom I had known since childhood and I should not be thinking of him like a villain.
 We reached the hotel, all I can say, is NOTHING happened- but it was very traumatic- S uncle  was walking around in the room the whole night, talking to himself aloud. I was curled up at one end of the bed, chanting my prayers. Towards early morning, he just embraced me tight- and kept repeating over and over again in my ears-“I shall not do anything to you” , I was so frightened, I somehow managed to tear away and lock myself in the bathroom until it was time to leave.
 I don’t know why we did not take the train the previous night- what had the S uncle  thought- I know nothing, but by next morning- I had become a different person. If something had happened, I know one thing for sure- either I would have become insane by sheer fright- or maybe- I don’t know…
 Anyway, we boarded the train the next morning, reached my grandparents’ home by evening- I did not speak a word, refused to eat any food- and was crying silently throughout the journey. I had just left my parents, and now I did not know how to handle this about  someone whom I had thought was like a father- and someone who had daughters of his own.
 My M aunt who had come to see me off when I left for the Gulf noticed that something was amiss from my face, and asked me if something was wrong and I broke down and told her everything.
 But for years afterwards, I could not face this S uncle- my heart beat would increase, my palms would turn clammy- and I hated the very thought of men.
 But, I did not keep silent, I did tell my folks- my M uncle and M aunt, my grandmother, and then when I went to my parents next time, I told my parents too.
 See, in today’s context perhaps, the incident sounds very harmless, but in my family- girls and boys do not interact freely after a certain age- and staying in the same room for the night was definitely totally uncalled for- and years later, we did get to hear that this S uncle was rather feared by his own female cousins.
 I avoided talking to this S uncle for a long time afterwards, but after several years after my marriage, I did manage to make small talk if absolutely unavoidable. My parents have never been able to forget this incident and have had to behave cordially towards him all the time. And all the time he was fiercely protective of his daughters!!
 Other people think of him as a gentleman, and now that he has passed away, it is sometimes very painful to hear him glorified like he was a true gentleman in every way. His children adore his memory and keep praising him to the skies.
 I think I can say that I have overcome that episode in my life-though I had a tough time while in college, hostel, but I did know that I was not alone, I knew friends who had similar experiences, and sharing and venting helped me a lot in overcoming my anger- it is anger- fury- rage that I feel when I think about such things happening to  anybody – I feel harsh punishment needs to be meted out to such perverts. I am aware that though  I escaped unhurt physically- the mental, emotional trauma was very much  there for a long time. The fear that I underwent that night was harrowing. And of one thing I was sure- tickets / free passes at that were surely available then why??? And another thing, why did I think of such a thing happening even before it happened??