so today the mad momma's posts are bouncing off me and making me write in response...
she writes that one in four women are sexually molested as children. horrific as the figure is, its true!
i must have been nine or ten. with a working mum, i would be alone at home in the afternoons with an old lady who looked after me, reading, dreaming up some crazy project in my head, or just twaddling in and out of the neighbours' houses. Next door lived a couple and their seventeen/eighteen/ or maybe even twenty year old son. Unlike the other neighbour who cooked tiffins for people, and one was assured of theplas, dhokla, aam ras and other goodies, this house was not really inviting.
the house with the great food had other attractions, a sixteen year old whom i doted on because he made little rockets that he licked and sent up to the ceiling in one swish. many afternoons were spent lying on the floor sending up these spit rockets. and there was a nineteen year old sister, who had long, straight silky hair like parveen babi. i loved seeing her comb her hair, and it was a daily ritual that took for ever. so manjula ben's food, bh bhai's spit rockets and h didi's lustrous hair, this was the house my mum would often find me in when she got back from work.
i dont remember why i went into the other house on that particular day, did babbi bhaia call me in ?( i had to say bhaia and didi to all those older than me!)All i remember is that he asked me to sit on his lap saying he would do jhula jhula. The way he held me, and the way he rocked, i was very uncomfortable. And anyway, in a couple of minutes i felt that this was a rather foolish game so i left.
all i remember is that evening, walking to wherever with my mum,we talked about the usual, what i did through the day etc... i dont know if she sensed something, or if i brought it up, i described to her the jhula jhula game. very calmly my mum asked if i felt okay with the game. i said i did not like it, and anyway it was a rather dumb game. i can never forget what she said to me, you dont have to do anything that you are remotely uncomfortable with, and that you should just walk off.and you should not hesitate for a moment about telling me stuff like this which could have upset you.
i thought nothing about it after that. ofcourse it must have been unpleasant enough for me to remember it always, but more than the incident i remember the conversation with my mum.
its only recently that i realised that my mum was very shaken up and distraught over what had happened. one of her closest pals lived in the same building,she was a victim of rape as a child, my mum went to her and they discussed what to do. this friend was over after sanah was born and she told me how upset my mum was on that day.
none of that fear and anger my mother went through spilled onto me. all i took away from that day was the confidence that i could decide what i was comfortable with and what i was not comfortable with.and more importantly that it was okay to tell my parents anything.i dont think we had any more interactions with these neighbours, but i continued going to the other house even though there was another sixteen year old boy there. i was not banned from going near older boys or any such thing, infact i dont think i was told that i should never visit babbi bhaia's house either. i never wanted to go after that day, and if they had called i knew it was okay to say no.
I dont know to what extent i can protect sanah. I watch like a hawk - and at the same time i am happy that she trusts easily. She stays with friends when i need to take off someplace. her family goes way beyond her parents and grand parents. I dont even let tai bathe her or clean her after she has pooped, only her parents and nana nani can do that. But since i leave her with friends, there are bound to be occasions when others clean her. It all sounds contradictory, i know. But its important that she learns to trust, to be able to forge relationships with my friends who make up my community, and that she learns to deal with people on her terms.
I know that a trusted one could be the one who crosses the boundary. All i want to equip my child with is the confidence to follow her instinct, the confidence that she can come to me with even the hint of a doubt, and the confidence to deal with any transgression, violation, violence. she should know that the person who violates is scum, there is nothing for her to feel guilty about, and may she never know fear or feel inhibited by the unknown.
The incident i recount is not drastic, it was inappropriate touching. i was not taught about appropriate or inappropriate touching, but i knew instinctively that i was not comfortable. i was around nine, it could have happened when i was younger and unable to communicate my feelings to my mum, or it could have gone way beyond inappropriate touching. what happened made no dent on my sense of self, but the experience was enough to fill me with dread and fear for the safety of my child, may the dread and fear never spill onto my daughter. thats all i can hope.
The older sanah gets, the more equipped she will be to handle things, but in the event that something does happen what would i do? The person would have hell to pay, but that apart, all i could do is give her the strength to never associate shame and guilt with something that someone else does to her.Her sense of self should never be scarred by the violence of another person. That she will encounter violence is the reality i accept. What i will not accept is that my daughter has to carry the burden of someone else being scum!