Recently, I wrote this short story as part of TimesOfIndia WriteIndia contest.
“All of us live with our past. All of us allow it to shape our future. But some of us know how to shrug the past. I think that is who I am…..
This is who I want my daughter to be. This is who I want my followers to be. Everyone thinks that I am very strong.
But No. That’s not the truth. Deep inside, I am a scared child haunted by my dreaded past. Sometimes I feel I have been haunted so much that even the thought of it bring chills down my spine.
When people are so haunted, even a little bit of distraction helps as an escape mechanism. For me, the distractions were sex and abuse. To put it more precisely it was sexual abuse. Yes. I got so used to it from my childhood that I started to enjoy it, I started to enjoy the pleasure in the pain. There were moments that I willingly asked my partner to abuse me sexually. You know why? Because I started to enjoy it. Enjoyment not as in for happiness. Enjoyment as in like a stress buster. Something that makes you escape from reality.
That painful reality which reminds me of my horrible past, always. That reality that isn’t worth living. That reality that keeps you anxious, nervous and fearful all the time, as though something bad was going to happen.
My only source of escape was to forget the pain. Forget the emotional wreckage. Forget the wear and tear. I chose sexual abuse as my escape mechanism. You know why? The very thing which haunted me, had slowly started to define me. So I started embracing it. Rather, it started embracing me. Not with soft hands though. But with hands covered with thorns. Thorns that hurt me bad when the hands embraced me. Yet, I escaped. From my painful reality.
You might ask, what happened to me. What was that haunting thing that haunted me throughout.
I was in grade 5. It was an usual sunday afternoon. I was playing alone at my friend Rishi’s home, why alone? Because he was down with fever and I used to have a fascination with his toys. Especially the pink colored barbie doll set. Rishi’s parents didn’t buy it for him, but for me as they considered me as a daughter. I used to call them chachaa and chachi. But there was another chacha in their house. Rishi’s father’s elder brother, Jaydev. He used to love me a lot. Buy me lots of chocolates. Probably because he didn’t marry and have kids of his own.
At least that’s what I thought and even my mother told me once when I asked her.
“Priyanka, come here” he called me.
I went near him innocently along with my barbie doll.
He asked me to sit on his lap. It was a usual thing. We always used to do that; I used to sit on his lap, and he used to wrap his arms around me, hug me and also caress my hair like a dad would do to his loving daughter. Then he would kiss me on my forehead or head, give me some chocolates and let me go.
But that day, things were different.
I felt it the moment he wrapped his arms around me. Usually his arms would touch my stomach. But that day, his arms were touching parts of me that I considered private or at least I thought so. Yes, they were touching my chest. Even though I didn’t attain puberty, my chest tissues had grown more than the average girl in my class. And I felt his hands were pressing those tender innocent tissues over my dress.
I was confused. I didn’t know what to do or what to say. I didn’t even know whatever was happening was right or wrong. I didn’t know how to react. So I did the best possible thing. Which is simply do nothing.
Then he became more bold. I think he thought my silence as acceptance of whatever he was trying to do to me.
He started to move his hands beneath my shirt and caressed those bare and tender tissues.
He pinched them. He groped them. It was painful. It was too much for me to take at that age. And the worst part is I didn’t even know what was happening to me.
Then I gathered some courage and asked him “Cha.. Chacha, what are you doing? It’s paining”
“Nothing beta. I am just giving you some massage. With which you can be very healthy and not fall sick like Rishi.”
I was confused, but replied “Chacha, then why you didn’t massage Rishi?”
“I have already massaged him, beta. That’s why he is sleeping. By the time, he wakes up, his fever would have gone.”
“Oh, but I don’t have any fever Chacha. So leave me na. I will go and play.”
“It’s not about now beta, you shouldn’t never get fever in the future too. Otherwise it will spoil your playtime with Rishi. That’s why I am giving you this massage. OK?”
A confused little mind in me replied “Ok Chacha.” and continued playing with my barbie doll, while that bastard continued playing with my tender body.
This was 1980s, an age where kids of my age weren’t aware like the kids of the current generation. This was not the age of the cell phones and the laptops, but of VCD players and Colour TVs.
So you can’t blame me for my lack of awareness. Or my parents’ failure to impart that awareness in me.
Then something horrible happened.
That bastard moved his fingers and slid it inside my little skirt and inside my panty and started feeling the tender skin.
I was so nervous and wanted to run. But couldn’t. Something stopped me. Maybe I was afraid. Maybe I trusted him too much that he wouldn’t hurt me. But I couldn’t understand what was happening to me.
Then he slid his finger in, breaching my genitals. It was painful. I started crying. But, he didn’t stop. Instead he said it was quite normal and Rishi had cried too.
He continued his inhuman animalistic act for few minutes. I believe even animals would be considerate. But he was not.
After sometime, he let me go. I was relieved that it was over. He also mentioned that I should not tell it to anyone, or else the magic will lose it’s power.
I don’t know why, but I obeyed him. I never opened my mouth to anyone.
That night, I couldn’t even urinate properly. I felt pain, irritation and soreness in my private parts. It was very painful, but little did I realize that it was just the start.
Day by day, it became even worse. Sometimes he would slap me, punish me. Abuse me physically. Verbally. Sexually. Emotionally. Slowly that monster had taken me under his control. He would threaten me of dire consequences if I rejected or didn’t do anything he said. He slowly took control of my life. Little did I know that memories were getting formed. Extremely haunting memories.
He made me to do things that I later watched in porn movies. I was an object of sexual satisfaction for that sadist monster.
5 long and painful years continued like this. By now, it had become a routine, he would somehow find alone time with me and do things to me and made me do things. I had become crippled. Emotionally. I had lost my smile, my innocence. I was robbed of my innocent childhood. The world was so cruel.
I felt so much shame, guilt and pain that I felt I deserved this. I thought it was all my fault. Maybe I gave him singals that no other girls gave. That’s why other girls were normal and I was not. That’s what I thought.
Luckily my dad had to shift places. He took us away from that place. Fortunately, all the torture was over.
At least that was what I thought. But it didn’t. I was so used to it that I was actually missing it. I felt incomplete without it. That pain had become a part of me. That suffering had become so close to me that it was controlling me. Which meant, not suffering was like I was not my self. A self that I had not built, but a monster built upon me.
Then I found another neighbor. You know, a predator somehow finds it prey. It knows where to find it’s prey. It knows how to make the prey come to it. My new neighbour was an abuser too. He found me. I found him. Irony is, a prey too is magnetically attracted towards it’s predator. But this time, I was more willing to give in. It was as if I was ready for the pain myself.
That was the first time, I started to use pain as an escape mechanism from reality. By now, I couldn’t enjoy anything that an average girl my age would enjoy. I felt lonely. I would just exist. I would just smile in front of my parents. I would just act that I was happy, normal. But I wasn’t.
Whenever I was not being used, I was in hell. I was in deep depression. But I couldn’t share it with anyone. I would go to the bathroom and cry. But wouldn’t cry loud. I would wake up in the middle of the night and be afraid for no reason.
After a few years, I left home and stayed in hostel during my college days. Guys would hit on me as I was good looking. Little did they knew that I wasn’t good looking at all in my heart. By now, my life had a pattern. I couldn’t understand love. I could understand only abuse. I was silent when some guy touched me, giving them more boldness for further things. A predator knows how to find it’s prey. A prey would find it’s predator as well.
I began my sex life seeking multiple partners. I thought that would make me normal. It didn’t. I thought I would at least feel love once in my lifetime. But I didn’t. Sometimes I would willingly ask my partner to abuse me sexually. Some people would do that. Some people would end the relation with me thinking I was a psychopath.
Only I knew, that was the only way to escape hell. To escape this reality. To escape this monsterous world.
Then I entered second year of my college. That is when the first best thing of my life happened. My love. My first world. For the first time, I felt love. It was my soul mate, Aryan. We were friends at first. But, he was understanding and caring. I felt a deep emotional connection. So I opened up to him. I shared whatever I went through. I told him everything. Each and everything about my haunted past. He was supportive. Very supportive. He told me that it wasn’t my fault. He made me understand that slowly. He told me, he would be there for me. He made me feel better. He was the first person who made me feel that I was worth something.
By now, I had developed some sense of self belief. I felt that I wasn’t worthless. It was all because of Aryan. He saw something in me that no one else saw. He saw me as a person, a woman, a child in adult’s body that needed support and a lot of unconditional love. He saw me beneath my skin, beyond my physical beauty, he tried to connect to my soul. A very hurt soul. It was pathetic. I was very afraid to show how much hurt I really was. But I opened up slowly. Slowly and steadily, I trusted him. More than I trusted anyone in this world.
Then, he took me to a therapist. I went through a major transformation. But that was not enough. It was enough for bringing me back to normal. At least I was out of that habit of getting abused wantedly. But it wasn’t enough for me to completely forget the pain and the life long suffering. You know, things that happen in childhood take a toll on you, your body and more importantly your mind. Your mind is difficult to condition. Once it settles for something, it doesn’t come back or try to adapt. Even though it might be bad in the long term. Especially mind like mine, which was conditioned in a bad way.
Mind like mine always tries to reason that whatever is happening is for the good. It doesn’t try to question. It doesn’t try to analyze. It doesn’t try to forget. It can’t forget. All the memories are etched in the deepest parts of the mind.
But Aryan saw hope. He hoped that I would recover completely from the hell I was facing. He hoped that his love would cure me completely. But even his deepest and purest form of love couldn’t cure me, completely. It made me stop my bad habits, habits that I wasn’t proud of. But it didn’t make me forget all the pain.
He decided to marry me and cure me. But that also didn’t work out.
I used to get panic attacks in the middle of the night. I used to get anxious for no reason all of a sudden. I used to get very angry. Yet he tolerated me. He supported me. He loved me!
This happened for 3 more years and the next beautiful thing in my life happened. You were born. I was the most happiest person along with your dad. But I was also the saddest on the same day. Because you were a girl baby. Yet another girl. Just like me.
What if you also would face the same problems as I faced? What if someone trustworthy would do the same thing to you that was done to me? What if someone really hurted you? All these questions lingered on my mind. Then Aryan consoled me. He understood my fear. He knew that I was afraid. He knew I was terrified. But he consoled me. He made me understand that, this won’t happen for you.
Then you grew up. Confident and proud. Just opposite of your mother. Just as your father and mother wanted. The initial years were the most beautiful. I would forget all my pain when I played with you. But when you grew up, you began to distance yourself from me. Rather, I distanced away from you. Why? Because I didn’t want you to be too emotionally attached to me. I wanted to keep the emotions in check, so that you grow up the way I wanted. Confident and mentally strong without getting too much emotional attachment.
I asked Aryan not to disclose anything about me to you, till your 18th birthday. I hid my weaknesses. I would show it only in front of him when you weren’t there. Because I wanted you to grow up strong. I didn’t want you to know that your mother was a weak coward who couldn’t take care of herself.
Rather, I wore the mask of a tough and ruthless business woman. A successful business woman. A business that Aryan helped me setting up. Since then, I took it to greater heights. People called me successful. People started following me. People started to like me. People thought I was a leader, a fighter.
Little did they know that I was still a 11 year old child who was robbed of her childhood, wearing the mask of a grownup. Little did they know that I was under tremendous pain.
Aryan did his best to love me unconditionally. But beyond a certain point, he couldn’t help. He acted as a antiseptic on my wounds. But the wounds would come up again and again, which he would nurse tirelessly. But still the wounds were deep rooted to be cured completely. I took a toll on him too.
People underestimate what a person like me can do to a supporter like him. Even though he never considered me as a weight, I was weighing him down. I was bringing my own downfall emotionally, and I was taking him along with me. I pulled him so deep inside my endless pit that it became difficult for him to crawl back up.
He tried to pull me from my endless pit, but in turn I was pulling him in deeper and deeper into the same pit. He didn’t leave my hand as he wanted to be with me, even though he knew it was suicide for him.
All the while, we both managed not to pull you into that pit. We didn’t want you to know that we were actually going down that pit till you turn 18.
But that time has come. That is why I wrote you this letter. I know you might feel bad when you read this letter. But I want you to stay strong. Ever. Not like me. Definitely not like me.
Don’t wear a mask. Be confident from your heart. Don’t act as if you are confident. Be confident. Be strong emotionally. Help yourself. Help others.
I am writing this on my death bed. You know, to top all of that I really had, I had cancer too. What a finish to the story? As if I wasn’t hurt enough. But that was ok. I could take that pain. What more could happen anyway? Aryan took the pain along with me.
But when you read this letter, I want to confess that your mother was not confident, not brave and not strong. Rather, she was a child at heart always looking for a lot of childish love. Always looking somewhere for the lost childhood. But we gave you a good childhood that we can be proud of. We laid the foundation where you can go on and do beautiful things in life. Things that you have always dreamt of. But one thing is sure, don’t be like mother. Be confident and brave. I may not be alive when this letter reaches you. But I will always look from up there, I will bless you, you just have to believe in you and be strong.
With lots of love
Deepthi wiped the droplets of tears that were rolling down her cheeks. She didn’t care that she was at the stage in front of a crowd of around 3000+ people. In fact, many in the audience too started crying.
“Love you mom. This was the last letter by my mother. I read it 3 years back.”
After a pause, “She died of cancer 3 years back. That left a big hole with my dad and he followed her too in another 6 months. I thought it was better off having him dead rather than seeing him die daily without my mom. Such was his love for him. He loved me a lot too, but his love for mom was something that can’t be explained by the universe. Love you dad. Miss you both.” she said.
“So when I started this organization, I thought if I could really do it. I wasn’t very sure if I would do something this big. I was discouraged by many. Many told that I am too young for all this. But I knew, my mom was watching. She was up there waiting for me to bless me, waiting to hold my hands to do something big. And this, she would definitely love. It’s not a normal organization. Is it people?”
“We are expanding our NGO to bring awareness about sex abuse to children, parents and teachers throughout India. Then if God makes it possible, I will take this to the entire world.”
“Because two lives have suffered due to that. Those lives need to have a meaning.”
After a pause, “Mom, I know, you are there somewhere, watching all these. So let me assert that you were the bravest of the bravest woman that i would ever see. You are my inspiration for this movement. You will always be my inspiration, forever.” with tears in her eyes.
“My mother is a hero. And so are you. Each and every one of you, who came out to share your personal stories and supported this movement. You are all a hero.”
Audience clapped heavily. After a pause, she started speaking again. The clapping stopped.
“So ladies and gentlemen, let’s welcome the entry of PriyankaAryan foundation into other parts of India. Let’s make this a nationwide movement, folks. Let there be more children who are not robbed of their childhood. Let there be more parents who write more happier things when they are on their death bed. Let’s make this very big and successful.”
Audience started clapping again.