This is one of the first stories I wrote. Let me know your thoughts.
Warning: It may be disturbing
Standard disclaimer: This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any characters or persons dead or alive is purely co-incidental
Postscript: When I posted this blog yesterday, I didn’t publish it on my network as I usually tend to do hesitating about the reaction it may evoke. But one of the readers, who has been kind enough to subscribe to my blog, called me early hours of the morning to ask me if this story is purely fiction or were there elements of truth. I paused before I replied. “Yes, I was sexually abused when a child but the rest of what I wrote is imagination woven from fragments of conversations I have had with friends and acquaintances who have been abused. Sexual abuse has a stigma attached and the victim is seen as the perpetrator with anger and disgust, while the perpetrator goes scott-free.” I paused again, shocked that I had broken out of the victim syndrome and took a deep breath. “I’m not a victim and will never allow anyone to victimise me,” I said. There was a long pause on the other end. “I know what you mean. I asked you this because someone I love had been abused. They knew they could trust me to understand, listen and tell them it wasn’t their fault. I did that and I ensured the perpetrator never does it again.” We paused, in mutual silence and understanding. “Bye,” and the click.
After the call I realised that perhaps this story will be a catharsis for someone, somewhere. That yes, I may get calls and have gossip abound but if I’m able to help one person the way someone helped me (I call her my guardian angel), than it will be worth it.
Just remember, “It is not your fault. You did not provoke the abuse…….You are strong, and you will survive, thrive and LIVE.”
She is five. Summer vacations are here again, that time of the year she loved the most. She looked forward to spending time with her beloved Maa. The sweet smell of the kitchen that enveloped her Maa; the cotton saree; the fragrance of Pond’s on her Maa’s soft skin; listening to stories of days gone by and eating whenever she wanted to.
Her cousins would arrive shortly. Her uncles and aunts had already made plans to take the family to Jog Falls for a picnic, but that was still some time away. In the meanwhile, she had made plans of her own. She would persuade her dad this time to get her a puppy. She wanted one that looked exactly like her neighbour’s pet. Cuddly and naughty. She planned to keep it in a small crate she had made Maa give her. She was tired of asking her small brother to play. He could hardly walk and she was too small to carry him around all day. Her mother could do that well enough.
She only hoped Maa wouldn’t talk her dad out of it. Everyone listened to Maa, though she was old and grey haired. She had never heard Maa shout at anyone, even when the shopkeeper charged her a rupee more or when the milk man tore the carton and blamed her for it. She was ever smiling.
Her cousins arrived. She didn’t understand why her eldest cousin always wanted to play with her alone. Maa never let him. He took her to the kitchen garden once and made her sit on the slab. He took her tiny fingers and placed it on his pants. She could hear Maa shouting her name. “I’m here Maa,” she cried out and her cousin immediately got her off the slab and vanished. Maa asked her what she was doing all alone in the kitchen garden. She had turned around to point out her cousin but he had disappeared.
Maa lifted her up and carried her back inside. After that, she was Maa’s pet mishy, her lil’ mouse. Maa took her everywhere especially when her cousin was around.
That night as the entire family gathered in the hall to watch a movie she cradled up in her Maa’s lap. She saw her cousin beckon but Maa held her tight and she slept. Summer holidays were always fun but Maa never let her mishy play outside or by herself. Maa said mishy should never let anyone touch her or come close to her, but why would anyone. Her dad bathed her and Maa wiped her dry and dressed her. Mother was always busy in the kitchen or attending to household chores. Maa was the only one who had any time for her lil mishy.
She hadn’t seen her elder cousin again after that summer. Her aunt said he had decided to pursue his higher studies in another city. She was glad. For some reason he made her feel uncomfortable. School would start soon and she had not finished her homework yet. She sat down and made an effort to finish it else she knew her dad would bring out his cane.
It was her birthday. Dad had got her new clothes. Mother had dressed her like a Barbie. Her friends at school were jealous. They sang a Happy Birthday song but that bad boy had pulled her hair and yanked her braid loose. She had beaten him up and she would have been caned but for her birthday. She smirked. She felt like a princess. There was a birthday party that evening. Her dad said he would invite his friends and their families. She didn’t want any of her school mates there. She didn’t like them much, especially that bad boy.
The house was lit up like a Christmas tree. She couldn’t wait to cut her birthday cake. She was forbidden to touch the cake till the actual party. She had tagged along with her Maa and peeked into the kitchen. The huge cake sat there on the table. Proud. Iced white plum cake with almonds. Her favorite. Maa had made her gulab jamoons as well. Dad had got her a small tricycle but she would have preferred the puppy. Dad had promised one the next birthday when she turned seven.
Smiling she went out. Her dad called her. She loved her dad. He always played with her. He took her out every evening on long walks and told her stories about his school days. They were so similar. Father and daughter. He called her his best friend. She couldn’t understand why mother and dad never spoke to each other.
Her dad introduced her to his friends. They patted her on the head, and praised her. “What an adorable child you have.” “She is very well behaved.” “Did you say she can read a whole comic book by herself? I’m sure it is because of your encouragement.” “Why can’t our girl be more like her? She is out playing with boys all the time. Yes, yes she is a child. But look at your daughter.”
Dad called out to her again. She went running to him pigtails flying in the air. She liked her new dress. It made her feel like a ballerina. If only mother had got her those matching pink shoes to go along with the dress but mother never got her anything she wanted.
Her dad’s friend was huge. He picked her up and tossed her in the air. He caught her mid way and flung her in the air again. She started to cry. He hugged her and called her his ‘pink princess.’ She did not like him much. She was scared of heights.
Her dad’s friend had got her a wooden horse. She liked the horse. He looked friendly. She sat on the horse and gently rocked herself to and fro. She had cut the cake and Maa had given her a big piece. Her brother was crying all the while. Cry baby. Mother had gathered him in her arms and sung a lullaby. Why didn’t mother carry her?
They were ready to leave for the movies. Her dad’s friend came home often these days. She had not seen him after her birthday. He had turned up again just when her winter vacations were going to start. He had suggested the family come over to his house for dinner, and perhaps stay over that winter. He had a huge estate. Maa did not like the idea. She told dad she did not like his friend. They had not gone to his place that winter but he had started frequenting their place more often. He made mother laugh. Sometimes she saw her dad watch her mother when she laughed. She wondered why mother never laughed at dad’s funny jokes. She wondered why dad never spoke to her mother the way his friend did.
It became a ritual on the weekends to go out for movies or long walks. Only now, dad’s friend came along as well. Dad said he did not have family. He was not married and his parents stayed in another city. He was lonely and he enjoyed our company. She did not understand why they had to endure him. He always smelt of lemons. She liked the smell of her dad. She liked to clamber up on him and sit on his stomach while he read her stories. She sat watching the changing expressions on his face as the gentle giant walked in the garden.
Maa did not talk much these days. Dad was not on speaking terms. They had an argument nearly every day over his friend’s frequent visits. She was used to her dad’s friend now. At least he didn’t fling her in the air. He got her cakes and pastries and sometimes took her on long walks. He would stop on a dark road that lead to her house and remove her panties. He would touch her. And then he would bring her home.
Maa always stood by the gate waiting. Her dad’s friend never spoke to her Maa.
They were more of a family. They went on outings together now. Maa, dad and mother would go in an auto and she would accompany her dad’s friend. He took her to the doctor when she broke her hand playing in the school ground. Mother was happy that she had someone to rely on. Dad always seemed to be on a business trip. He brought her home. Her hand was plastered and it hurt.
He had waited with her on the steps. He had sat behind her on the steps and slipped his hand inside her blouse. She felt his big hands kneading her chest. She could not move. He had whispered in her ear, “don’t tell anyone. This is our secret. You are my pink princess.” He had hugged her tight and she whimpered. Her hand hurt.
The doctor asked her where dad was but her dad’s friend responded before she could reply. “I’m their family friend. He is out on business and she broke her hand. There is no one else to bring her here. I will bring her henceforth. Let me know when she needs to come for a check up again.” The doctor looked at her but she was too scared to do anything but nod.
After that it became a fortnightly ritual. He continued to get her cake and pastries. She did not understand why her chest hurt. They were growing now. Was it because he pressed her there often? Maa had told her never to allow anyone to touch her but Maa was no longer there. She had gone away, far away. Mother said Maa will always be there, watching over her.
She ran to the puja room and cuddled her Maa’s photo.
She was doing well at school.
They had moved to a new neighbourhood. Dad had left after Maa went away. He had kissed her on the forehead and told her he loved her. He had packed away all her toys in a huge carton box. He had taken her Barbie and her doll house. She still remembered how he had stayed up all night to build it for her. How could he take it away? Why wasn’t he taking her as well? Her mother held her brother tight. She clung to her mother as well. Why didn’t mother stop her dad from going away?
Her dad’s friend was constantly home. Mother went away in the mornings to work at a pickle making factory. She said she was in charge of the unit. She returned late at night. She kissed her brother good night and asked her if she had dinner, and slept herself. Her mother looked very old. Where was the beautiful woman who laughed? Her mother was constantly tired.
She came home from school most evenings to find her dad’s friend at home.
He still got her pastries. He sent her brother to buy milk from the market.
He closed the door and came on tip toe to her room.
He came from behind and pulled off her school uniform.
She no longer had a flat chest. He cupped her small breasts and said she was a big woman now.
He unzipped his pants and took her hands.
He placed it on his round, hard stone-like thing.
She was scared and cried even louder.
She heard her brother call out.
She heard him curse and slam the door.
She bolted the door and cried. She called out to her Maa. She washed her face, changed and came out of her room.
Her brother had placed the pack of milk in the fridge. She made him a glass of horlicks and drank water herself.
The wooden horse stood in the hall. She had long stopped playing it.
He had gone.
She was fifteen.
It was nearly eight years since her dad had left them. She wondered whether he remembered them at all. He had come to visit them a year after leaving them.
She was excited when she saw him standing at the door. She had flung herself at him and hugged him tight never wanting to let go.
He stood still.
She looked up at him, and she saw a stranger.
She saw her mother.
She knew than it was over.
She went to her mother and stood by her side. She held on tight to her brother and waited.
She heard her dad mumble, “It is for the best honey, someday you will understand.”
She had stopped interacting with people. This was her last year at school.
Her teachers had constantly written remarks ‘Unsociable’ to ‘Introvert, needs to learn to deal with people’, and called her mother to explain.
She showed anti-social behavior. She picked up fights with the senior boys in her school. She never interacted with her classmates. She was fiercely competitive. Her grades were always high but she was not liked by anyone. She didn’t care.
Her dad’s friend had stopped coming home now.
Her brother was her shadow.
They went to school together and returned home. He waited for her while she finished her tuitions.
She cooked dinner while he finished his homework.
Mother returned home to sleep. She was too tired to eat.
She hoped to get a scholarship to a good college next year. She hoped the remarks on the report card wouldn’t come in the way of her higher studies.
Her final exams were two months away.
She needed to score better.
Her brother had taken ill and mother had sent him away to stay with her sister.
She did not like staying alone.
She came home to start on dinner. The door was open.
She heard the door whine and then slam shut.
It could not be.
Her hand trembled as she spooned oil into the pan.
He came from behind and clutched her waist.
He turned off the stove and flipped her around.
He cupped her mouth and stripped her of her pinafore and shirt.
He flung her on the cold kitchen floor and pinned her down. He unzipped his pants and took his hard thing out. He pulled her panties down.
She looked at him with fear. She felt tears streaming down her cheek.
He pried her legs open and she saw with horror as he brought it down to her.
She struggled to go free. She twisted and turned. She prayed. She waited for Maa, Maa who was always watching over her.
She felt intense pain.
She felt like she was being branded. She remembered a Nat Geo documentary in which cattle were branded. She could see the calf’s eyes.
She blacked out.
He was standing on top of her smiling.
“I have made you a woman now. You should be thankful to me.” He washed his hands and stepped out of the kitchen.
She crawled to the bathroom, and washed herself.
She dressed and came out.
He was sitting on the sofa reading the papers.
The front door was open.
She went to the kitchen and finished cooking.
Her mother came home. She saw him and smiled.
He had dinner with them and left.
The results were out.
She had been in the top three of her class.
Her dad’s friend helped secure a seat for her in one of the city’s finest college. Her mother couldn’t stop thanking God, the stars, her forefathers and her fortune at having such a benevolent benefactor.
She stopped talking to him.
She stopped talking to her mother.
Her brother was having problems at school. She went along with him to meet the teacher. She promised that her brother would turn a new leaf.
She held his hand and walked back home.
She had finished college and taken the first available opening. It was a call centre job.
Her dad’s friend had been derisive. ‘What more can you expect? She will be a call girl at the call centre. Get her married.”
She had slammed the door in his face and walked out of the house.
She had a long argument with her mother that night. She was going to live life on her own terms and no son-of-a-bitch was going to tell her otherwise.
Her mother had been shocked. Where was her docile daughter? Who was this mad woman? Why couldn’t she understand that had her dad’s friend not been present all these years they would have been on the footpath?
She wanted to shout back. She wanted to tell her mother.
She turned around to yell at her mother. She glared at her, and opened her mouth, to tell her mother about the abuse, about the rape, about the breach of trust.
She saw her mother’s eyes fall away.
She knew then.
She saw her brother stand near the threshold.
She went up to him and kissed him on the forehead.
She would not repeat the cycle of abuse.
The house is lit up like a Christmas tree. It is not her birthday.
The groom is on a horse and all the relatives, who had disappeared all these years, miraculously come back.
Her dad’s friend stands at the entrance beaming.
The groom’s parents are talking to him. He folds his hands and greets them. He ushers them inside.
Her mother is resplendent in a benares saree. Her brother is standing by her side. He has joined the Armed Forces and will head out to join his battalion.
She steps out into the verandah.
Not much has changed.
“Isn’t she beautiful?” “Who would have ever thought she will end up making such a fortuitous match?” “Do you know the boy is taking her to the States after they are married?” “All this would not have been possible had it not been for him.”
She had grown within the ranks to become a manager and steadily moved on higher up the rung.
She had completed her post doctoral degree as well, for whatever it was worth.
She had very few friends.
She walked up to the pandal.
She was in a haze until she felt a knot around her neck.
She stepped out of the pandal and looked at the stranger standing next to her. She looked ahead to see her dad’s friend.
He mouthed a sorry.
She saw a tear.
She was a woman now.