I was waiting on the compound pavement near our building for the school bus, sitting down as my school bag felt as heavy as a labourer’s cement bag. My water bottle sling hanging sideways. That’s when I noticed the expressions. A man across the road who was there all along. But in that one dreadful moment, I realised he was signalling me. Further dreadfulness when he pointed at something and smirked in a very ugly way. Took me some time to realise he was pointing at the area between my legs and making bad signs. I quickly stuck my legs together and hurled the bottle string on the front getting it to position before my knees. Thankfully he didn’t make any other move as he was aware there is a watchman in the building. I was 10. I don’t remember my friends from then and what I played those days but this I so vividly remember.
I was travelling a night journey in the bus; window seats always excite me. Love watching the trees run across the sideways as if on a fast-moving carousel and when the moon follows you everywhere, no matter where you go. Sticking my face to the window I enjoyed the views. That’s when I felt a pinch on the side of my chest. I thought it was something sharp on the window pinching me. Yet it happened again, all so clearly but to learn that someone is trying to do what they were trying to do was itself hard to digest. Let alone know how to react to it. I turned back to see him mischievously smiling back at me. I asked my uncle to swap seats with me. I was 12. I don’t remember what was the trip for but this I so vividly remember.
I was fast asleep when I heard my name in the middle of the night. It was a distant uncle who had come to visit. He had visited us few times when I was younger as he lived abroad. I never liked him, maybe because I am pretty sure that he touched me inappropriately as a child and likely I didn’t know any better at that age. As he called whispered my name that night, trying to wake me up as my sisters slept in the same room, nudging me to come out and he wanted to ‘show’ something. Between racing heartbeats, I pretended to sleep talk and made loud noises that made him scurry away, the rotten dirty old rat! I was 13, I don’t remember my first crush but this I so vividly remember.
Like every other Indian girl or woman, I went through something almost everyone with a vagina does. Maybe all over the world, don’t know, but surely in our country. Just like air, you can’t see it but it’s everywhere. Sometimes filled with so much ugliness that it stinks and fills one with disgust for the rest of their lives.
But you reach a time when you take it no more. When someone tried to just touch my hand teasingly despite telling him not to. The 6-year-old in Mumbai at the time, the 12-year-old on way from Bangalore , the 13-year-old in her own house in Chennai, knew JUST what they had to do at 15 finally. The echo of that one slap from all of them collectively together was so hard that people from ahead of the bus managed to turn their head back to see what happened. It’s when you learn, either you need to throw the garbage out or leave it in the open and it’s then the smell starts to fade.
My only dread is how many of such monsters are still roaming around the country like dementors sucking the joy and innocence of 4, 5 6, and girls of ALL age, who get left with lifelong bruises owing to some low life who have no sense of remorse for their actions. IF I were ever invisible, I would probably roam around the country looking for them and slapping the shit out of such men.
But I am visible. I can’t take this evil away. I can’t stop this fire devouring many of our girls every single day. I may not have the sea or even a tank full of water to do it, but I will do my very small bit. Even if I might just be able to spit at the fire with all the might I can gather.
I will do just that!