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“He squeezed my breast hard, and quickly moved away, leaving me red-faced with pain and a shame that would seep into my soul so deep that it coloured everything about me.”
I was born to a middle class Indian couple as the eldest daughter among three sisters. It might seem beautiful to have a majority of girls at home, but I constantly heard things that were said to my parents, like: “Don’t you have son? Shit!” and “Girls can’t complete a family. You should have a son too!”
The impact of this on me was severe, and I felt degraded, and thought of myself as a futile and fragile gender. I started considering myself as a worthless being, and the trauma of this led to a debilitating inferiority complex.
I can still feel myself visiting those walls again as I write about it, when I used to get up in the middle of the nights disturbed by the fights in my parents’ relationship, a relationship of distrust, allegations, force and violence. I could rarely see love between them and prayed for the fights to end. It never happened!
Childhood was already very difficult. There was a constant sense of fear of the fights at home, and I dreaded the emotionally insecure environment. I remember myself crying almost every day and asking myself, “Why am I crying?” because honestly I did not have any answer! I just wanted to cry, and it always felt like something wanted to come out. The pain wanted to ooze out through my voice, from my body, my tears and my life. But it never happened because I had no one to share it with (I couldn’t share my feelings with my younger sisters either), and I would always cry, hiding myself under the pillow and inside the closet. These incidents took away my confidence. It was evident not just in my studies, but I could never make friends in my life.
Even if things had just remained the same, I would still have worked it out as I grew up, but I did not know that something major was moving towards me with the passing years.
I was in the school rickshaw that day, sitting at the corner of the seat, near the door. I was an 8 year old already struggling with complexity and emotional insecurity. Suddenly this uncle came on a scooter and grabbed my right breast and squeezed it very tightly, very, very tightly. No, I am not going to use the word ‘groped’ because this word would not be able to do justice to what happened to me. He had squeezed my breast hard and quickly moved away, leaving me red-faced with pain, and a shame that would seep into my soul so deep that it coloured everything about me.
As the uncle moved his scooter away, I could only see his face and he went away speeding up his scooter. I was 8 and I had no idea what just happened. The incident happened on the main road, a crowded road, and still nobody saw what happened to me? How is it even possible: there were scooters, rickshaws, cycles and pedestrians, and still nobody saw it happen? No one made any noise, no one asked me anything. Was my molestation that invisibile?
I only uttered a loud “AAAH!” and a boy of my age sitting next to me asked, “What happened?” I replied that someone had pinched me, because we were socially conditioned and taught that we should not talk about breasts, and touching breasts, and someone touching breasts, and about the vagina, touching vagina, and someone touching the vagina. In fact, I did not even have the right words for it!
I came back home, and the pain stayed for a long time. I had no one to share it. The incident not only added to my emotional insecurity and inferiority complex, but made me more physically insecure at a very young age. I kept thinking for years, why would any one want to touch my breasts? WHY?
Does it happen to everyone or did it only happen with me?
Was I sitting in a wrong way, a way I should not have?
Did I give some cues?
But NO, I was 8. It left me in trauma and doubt until I was older and went to college, and learnt about the term ‘groping’; and the pleasure these psychopaths find in groping, just groping anyone from any age. I learnt that the fault was not in my body but in his mind. It made me realize how we women are marginalized at every step of our lives, and that we are abused not only emotionally but also physically.
This incident not only made me emotionally vulnerable for a long time, but it also killed any bonding with my father (he was man – that was enough!) that I could have shared otherwise, freely. It made me scared of my father’s presence and made me skeptical of his intentions whenever he was around me. I could only see that uncle in him, sharing the same age and gender, and may be sharing the same disgust.
I remember my adolescence. The first time I felt my breasts growing, I could not believe it, and it was something that I wanted to avoid. Initially I felt if I was getting some disease, but then observing other women made me aware of my puberty.
Honestly, I did not want breasts. I kept thinking, “If uncle could grope me when I had nothing, what would happen now?” I could not make eye contact with my father as I was guilty of having my breasts come out, and for what happened to me because some uncle touched me there. I always carried a “dupatta” (a long piece of cloth to be put on dresses to cover breasts) to cover myself up, which was further strengthened by society because according to them, “a girl’s honour lies in her breasts and vagina”.
I remember using the dupatta for 18 years of my life just to secure myself from that guilt. Not only this but it also infused me with the habit of slouching and looking down while sitting and walking. In fact I could not even sleep on my back facing up, as I wanted to hide my swelling breasts; I felt guilty, scared and under confident. It took over my body posture and I still struggle with the body abuse that I inflicted on myself because of that incident.
Author’s note: This is a personal experience. Writing this post needed immense courage, as it is about secrets I always kept locked within myself.
Published here earlier.
Image source: shutterstock