December 2014 was life-altering, each of the 31 days bought with it events – pleasant and surprises – bitter, in unequal proportions. The ‘Unwanted Visitor’, Paulo Coelho terms ‘Fate’- then turned ill- struck very often, mostly without a warning or fore sign; I was facing the disfigured demon, challenged at every corner and returned, flailing arms, uttering cries of help and being robbed of trust. But, that’s the story of a person who fights battles with vigour even when deprived of weapons on the war field, to emerge victorious and unscathed and stand out as a ‘warrior’.
A chain of unpleasant events followed that post-work Friday evening in December, when the breeze was not crisp yet and the cold, far from crude. When you are shopping vegetables, there are times when you mistake the lettuce for cabbage, the greengrocer corrects you at that and the cabbage curry is cooked with more attention and care later. But when you fail to spot the masked wolf pretending to be harmless amidst a flock of sheep, the taste of that curry is acrid and spoilt from an unexpected dollop of distrust and misgivings. The sheer veil of trust blinds us from spotting the vile intentions of the wolf; but it cannot hide for long beneath the camouflage.
I ambled on through clumsy stages of depression which had set-in with utter disbelief to start with. Had I been a fool not to have known or foreseen an act of such horrendous taste from a close friend? A friend who had earned a firm position on the most secure and sacred platform of brotherhood, a man who threatened to beat up other men if they pushed their luck trying cheap tricks on women in the group. It’s not an easy task for a woman to talk about molestation, however bold she might be. Living through aftermath of the ghastly experience requires courage, which is built slowly by collecting the debris of spirit left in you, and seeking support from people who you believe will stand by you.
The wound inflicted is beyond the skin, it leaves a deep-rooted mark on the mind that starts to shake the sap of confidence and starts affecting your state of being to an alarming level. Physical injuries can be treated with medication, and with time, they leave little or no trace behind. But, mental scars can only heal with a steadfast determination, unfaltering self-confidence, calmed nerve over a process of time, and unwavering willpower – all this to be built by yourself, hands carefully picking splinters of a broken you, cementing it together. I had only read about the trauma a woman is put through when the daring step of voicing out the experience is taken. It takes a lot of gumption, and constant nudging from intuition’s sharp elbow to take that step; and I realised it’s worthless unless the crowd that lends ears is genuinely empathic towards human emotions, and are not feeding on your story just to turn it into a scandal. I fail to understand why the victim is always victimized, and it’s not just a theory you read in the newspapers; it actually works like that and it is shameful.
When I decided to speak out to other women in the group, despite the ongoing distress and horror raised by dunes of that event, it was met with gasps that was followed by mistrust and questions hanging in the air. My intention of making it known was to avert incidents of such kind from being extorted on my friends, who still looked up to the person as a brotherly figure. Women, whose wellbeing was of utmost importance because they were people I’d known, grown up with, building memories along the way, and had believed to be my ‘friends’. If you sow seeds of trust in soil laden with grime and filth, do not expect it to bloom into a flowering tree. I was asked to justify, and ‘clear the air’, with two friends playing judge of honour. Yes, above truth and honesty lies the moral judgement of people and they only believe what they want to. My story and the trauma I had lived through was simply brushed off, based on the molester’s upfront denial of owning up his acts and choosing to walk out mid-discussion. A lot of friends’ flock around you during days of summer seeking shade, but very few are willing to share their cosy umbrella when monsoon hits! It takes dire times to understand who are willing to patiently lift you up, when you stumble and fall into a giant pothole that hadn’t missed to high-light caution.
I was a woman who placed faith in human relationships and the trust underlying them. Was I at fault simply because I failed to see a pervert hidden behind make-believe brotherly gestures?
Or should I have kept silent about it, and not cautioned the rest, avoiding the unwanted attention it attracted and sharp allegations thrown at me?
I don’t believe in coined terms like ‘Feminism’, but what happened to the good, ol’ days of standing by truth and respecting a fallen soldier? Is the human still ‘being’, never to ‘become’?
I refuse to call myself a ‘victim’. Any woman who has lived through molestation in any form is a warrior in complete sense. She neither asked for it, nor ‘gave out signs’; she did not roll out the carpet displaying a ‘welcome’ board, she simply mistook the man to be human with values in mind ruling over nerves in the penis- like it’s supposed to be. Adding to the arduous task of patching dents in her soul, and fixing a broken spirit, she walks on ahead with head held high, silencing barking dogs along the street, with elegance and dignity.
Time has ticked since then and erased the pain, a remote trace of the scars yet linger on the mind but they stand out like war-medals, a sign of strength and grit displayed during battles fought!
The winter of 2014 was a filter, of sorts; the fine net strained the heterogeneous mixture, holding back impurities only to let the most refined get through, adding authentic taste and flavour to living years ahead!