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Rishi Verma is 29. He is a writer by profession, and by choice. To pay his bills, he works in advertising. To bring peace to his life, he writes fiction, strums the guitar tunelessly and reads like a maniac.
Some of us remember Tobu Cycles and Campa Cola from our childhood. Memories of Mario and Contra bring gentle smiles on the faces of some. Others, from a different generation remember cleaner, less crowded roads. Even playing Cricket on the streets during a nationwide bandh. Some are still around who remember getting on a train full of corpses during the partition.
And then there are those for whom a passing mention of the word childhood opens the gates to demons from the past; to memories of being punished in a locked bathroom; to blows that tore open their lips; to recollections of an adult’s forced weight on their frail bodies.
I wish I could use a more politically correct term: abuse, molestation, sex-without-consent. But I cannot. I cannot get myself to utter those words, created merely to cover up the horror and trauma that children all over the country, nay, the world face everyday. Regardless of your age at the time of your rape, it is rape. Not abuse, forced sex or molestation. It’s rape.
Some of you may get uncomfortable as you read the repeated mention of the word rape in this article. And I want you to know that there’s nothing wrong in feeling that way. What is wrong, is to not feel deeply sickened; to not feel the pain; to open the next tab on your browser and forget instantly all that you read just now.
Unfortunately, that is the reaction of most parents in the country today. How do I know? From the experience of having gone to my own parents after my rape. And what did I get? A stony silence and looks of deep embarrassment. Perhaps, I could have settled for those. Perhaps I would have lived with the silence, thinking that the guilt sealed my parents’ lips. But no. There were statements, judgements to come my way soon. “You must’ve imagined that!” There were also other comments to brush the uncomfortable topic off. “It’s okay. It happens.” “Forget about it.” “You mustn’t tell anyone about it.” Defenses for a relative, and against their own son. Reactions that left me only utterly puzzled. There was no space for anger there. No room for detesting anyone. Just a deep, dark fog of confusion. But nothing seeped into my being quite like the devastating statement: “It must be your fault. You must have done something wrong.”
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I huffed, puffed and panted up the hill, taking many rest breaks along the way. My calf muscles pained, my heart protested, and my breathing became heavy at one stage.
“Let’s turn back,” my husband remarked. We stood at the foot of Shravanbelagola – one of the most revered Jain pilgrimage centres. “We will not climb the hill,” he continued.
My husband and I were vacationing in Karnataka. It was the month of May, and even at the early hour of 8 am in the morning, the sun scorched our backs. After visiting Bangalore and Mysore, we had made a planned stop at this holy site in the Southern part of the state en route to Hosur. Even while planning our vacation, my husband was very excited at the prospect of visiting this place and the 18 m high statue of Lord Gometeshwara, considered one of the world’s tallest free-standing monolithic statues.
What we hadn’t bargained for was there would be 1001 granite steps that needed to be climbed to have a close-up view of this colossal magic three thousand feet above sea level on a hilltop. It would be an understatement to term it as an arduous climb.
Every daughter, no matter how old, yearns to come home to her parents' place - ‘Home’ to us is where we were brought up with great care till marriage served us an eviction notice.
Every year Dugga comes home with her children and stays with her parents for ten days. These ten days are filled with fun and festivity. On the tenth day, everyone gathers to feed her sweets and bids her a teary-eyed adieu. ‘Dugga’ is no one but our Goddess Durga whose annual trip to Earth is scheduled in Autumn. She might be a Goddess to all. But to us, she is the next-door girl who returns home to stay with her parents.
When I was a child, I would cry on the day of Dashami (immersion) and ask Ma, “Why can’t she come again?” My mother would always smile back.
I mouthed the same dialogue as a 23-year-old, who was home for Durga Puja. This time, my mother graced me with a reply. “Durga is fortunate to come home at least once. But many have never been home after marriage.”
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