Exposing the stains of horror that have remained as powerful visuals in my head over so many years, thankfully my horrors have spared unwanted deeper scars although my sore mind did turn cautious. I am a very protective mother to my daughters as a result and I need to obviate any imaginery unneccessary thoughts of fear. Working on it.
Horror 2 has not gone away, the only difference is it does not haunt me anymore.
Horror 1: School life (Izzat Lut Gayi ) Not literally.
I am a keen observer, thinker and very sensitive to everything around me and do read a lot more from the environment, there is a lot of information always around that forces to overwork the unnecessary. I would naturally stare as a child, reading people, situations, anticipate movements – alert mode.
This incident is about the time when I was 12 years old (Year 8 in school). The daily commute school-home was by local BEST Bus in Mumbai. (No 3, No 126 primarily were the buses that we took) The bus stop after school was over occupied and rushed with students as there were two schools that finished the same time. (boys from Anza School and girls from Gloria Convent School). It used to be a giant struggle to board the first few buses and even once in – it would be jampacked where students will be clinging in groups to avoid falls. This chaotic jumbles had captured joys in the head of one lust-hungry man. I had noticed his presence for a few days, my intusion kept warning me of the possibility of harm.
What had happened to me?
It was a a dirty act that probably took a while to wash off from my life.
One day on my way back home in the bus, this sick man was there next to me, before I could realise it was him, he touched my busts, it was brief as I ducked and sat down. So it did not last for more than 2 seconds – it felt yuck, till date I feel I wish I had the sense to scream aloud and hit him with a leg! the impact of that infraction lasted a very long time. I had made a permanent visual note of this man and would always spot him in public and manage my travels depending on where he was. I would try to protect my friends and would make them miss a bus if needed to, giving any silly reason. Had not shared this with anyone.
It felt that I was violated. I was terribly shameful and guilty. I really did not understand why I felt that at the time, it had occupied my happiness for a while and flavoured me with thoughts of fear. I started wearing my bag on the front or would have cross hands at my chest always.
In few days a new tragedy, one of my friend who was totally oblivious was victimised, I had failed to spot him that day. He brutally had felt her deeply for a longer time trapped in overcrowded bus – I felt very very sad. Very sad! I was there at a distance to witness it and incapable. She did not utter a word, nobody talked about it, few of my other friends witnessed it too. Now everyone was aware!
It was troubling me and since bollywood movies were an overdose during that age, the concept of “Izaat lut gayi” was quite well known, although I did not know how that happened to any girl/woman. So one evening my mum was offering her prayers and I put a lot of courage together and interrupted her and asked her “If any man touches your breasts then does that mean “Izzat lut gayi“” ? (in my heart I was hoping she would say a NO)
My mum said “Yes”
That “YES” sunk my heart, also she was at her prayers so I took it to be the truth without a question or doubt, she asked me why did I ask this and I said it happened to a friend. Mum was relieved but she did not tell me the truth at the time, maybe she was not prepared to open me to the world of sexuality. I was inside in turmoil, I thought I was no good anymore, feeling this tag! naive, yea! I am naive even now. But the fact that my friend was at a deeper misery than me I felt maybe my percentage of shame is lesser and hence that kept me low on suffocation. It played on my mind many times, with progressive years as I understood details, reality dawned on me and that “Izzat Lut Gayi” tag lifted and flew far faraway! Thankfully, it felt very good. So then isnt it all about what is in your head that tells you to either cordon off or free up! Mental state is difficult to manage, so much strength, so much to let go.
At the time of the incident I had complained about this man (thrash) to the school office and our very furious principal Sister Toynette with her army of teachers patrolled for a week and one lucky day I could point him out. He was ripped off. Never was he in our sight. Our future journeys was so much happier!
As a consequence to this experience I made sure to be armed very well or be alert/ready with my moves whenever!
What happened next after 2 years?
Once again during my bus journey there was a young man staring at me since the time I sat in the bus, he tried to act smart by standing behind me when I stood up to make my way to the exit, in Mumbai to get off the bus one needs to make way early as buses are overcrowded especially during peak hours or if its a popular/busier route. This fellow was about to get his hand closer -> I did the unprecedented, I shocked myself, I made a loud wild cry and yelled “What are you trying to do?” and then slapped him! He was stunned.
The entire bus was ogling at me and him.
I got off the bus at the next stop, could not handle the attention and I prayed I never saw him again! COURAGE did get in.
These horrors may be a repetitive ordeal for many of the women/girls in many such inconvenient situations, I hope this narrative sparks courage and homes me as your companion to give you the needed strength.
“Izzat lut gayi“” – means raped and this term is used in bollywood movies exhaustively.
An interesting display I came across as I walked to office – smart shock!
Horror 2: High School (Ab Aake Dikha Saale)
HSC 12th Boards. I was coaching at Agrawal classes at Matunga. (tera naak Katunga – offtopic – my Dadaji used to say it, he had clients in Matunga and we often visited the Parsi restaurant with Dadaji, kheema pav oooh delicious memories and I hope to visit them sometime.)
So HSC (Science) is a very competitive year and every determined student puts every hair into the preparation and these classes were really a top notch at the time and would also furnish your preparations by pushing you through mock board exams almost 4 months before the boards. I was not wisely prepared by this mock date as per my own standards so the nervous thread had started to execute. I am obsessed with punctuality and hence I find myself much earlier than expected anywhere, somehow I make everything work, all my priorities are also beautifully met.
So the exams were to begin at 8:30 if I remember and the journey from my place at Mazgaon to Matunga was briefly a 30-45 minutes bus journey. I had a bunch of local friends for company so we agreed on the time to meet at the bus stop. In those days we did not have cell phones so it was down to verbal agreement. I left early I think and was at the stop at 6:00 am, I did not find my friends and I thought I was running late so I boarded the bus alone.
In a state of nervousness and loneliness I alighted at the bus stop next to Agarwal classes but the exams were held at a school nearby, I did not have the confidence to get off at the stop nearer to the school exam centre as I thought I would lose track of the route and hence I had decided to walk from the classes to the school.
It was a quiet early Sunday morning and the residential area looked dead as it was human free . I entered one of the residential lanes and there a dirtful man standing in his lungi smoking beedi appeared, he looked at me and instantly I sniffed danger, he ran towards me speedily, I was dumbstruck, my intusion had alerted me, it happened so quick, this sudden shift in fear and active thinking. He had intentions to molest and rape – it was evident! I had to save myself, God knows how terrified to the core I was. Naturally I started dodging him on the street (I remember I also wanted to cry because I did feel helpless, like the burden of my responsibility and safety fell on me), my speed of run had amplified and everytime he would get any closer I would change direction, I did that just when he was an inch away, gosh now I feel I was courageous with that and the entire lane I managed to keep out of his grab!
I still am shivering as I put this down. During my run my mind was constantly thinking about the combinations of directions or movements I should be prepared with if he kind of gets my strategy, he was dumb and only lust controlled. All along the run I eagerly kept glancing at windows if I could spot someone. The entire dodge run felt never ending, every time he neared me I was shit scared to fall into his hands and every escape felt extremely divine and unbelievable, as if someone is protecting me, I tried to scream “HELP” but my voice could not go beyond a certain volume as if I was naturally muted. At that time I was unable to understand why I could not shout loud, I felt jailed in my head. Oh my God I see it, I can live it yet again, I do feel those escapes, every escape I said in my head “oof Bach gayi”.
Maybe because I was generally a very quiet person I lacked that pitch and audacity to scream.
This man was dumb he could not work out a better way to break my strategy, which also points out that these road siders can be easily over smarted, not necessarily but do try your very best at critical thinking sensibly.
Finally I reached the golden round-about at the end of the lane, high pitch of bustling crowd of students-parents muzzled and there stood the school. I stopped there! Right there and looked at him sharply – “Ab AAke dikha Saale” screamed out. It was still such a low tone, barely anyone around shuffled or noticed. I was breathless too. I really wanted to hit him as much as I could as many times I could. I wanted to ask other parents to help me beat him, but in that search of initiating a loud cry this person disappeared. My eyes kept looking out for him but he was gone. He was left unpunished, I did emit a lot of negative calls to him, it must have hindered him in his life.
Perplexed and almost lost control of natural thinking, I followed other students and went in the school for the exams – not focussed. After my return home, shared this incident to my family, they were shocked. I kept my emotions internal so everyone very soon played stable later in the day. It was not that grave an occurance for them, maybe because I kept it discreet, I may have hidden the details, the impact was highly invisible, so it was easily trivialised and forgotton.
It was a devastating experience for me, till date I feel my vulnerability, till date I count my blessings. This would had been a big end of my story before it could had even started. Masuma would had been suicidal, maybe, but I would like to believe I would overcome the pain had it become my reality.
The contrast of happy memories and sad memories with Matunga is strange at times.
With this experience I could empathize how one can completely shift from normalcy given a life’s tremble. I was protected luckily, not everyone is fortunate. I had thoughts that diminished my self worth because I felt very weak. Carrying a Mumbaiker’s soul my life went on with zest and courage.
Choose to be happy. Spread joy, positivity and laughter. Strongly believe “Happiness attracts happiness”.
So if you are struggling with your MeToo opt for this -> Love yourself, you have a purpose! Let that MeToo fly away, leaving you elevated, leaving you stronger, leaving you smarter! Courage is what it takes to feel accepted.
“Let no feeling of discouragement prey upon you, and in the end you are sure to succeed.” – Abraham Lincoln