The Price Of Silence

Posted: June 24, 2014
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Some stories need to be told, even if it takes many years to get to where you can tell them.

One of the top 5 entries for June’s muse of the month writing cue, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” (from Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings).

I wake up to the warmth of the gentle morning sun. I yawn, savouring the pleasure of being home. After three years I’ve come to visit my parents. Even after ten years of being married and having a family of my own, it is here that I feel myself. Rolling on to my side, I check on Vaishnavi, my daughter, who is still asleep, dreaming of whatever it is that little girls dream of.




june-muse-of-the-monthReluctantly, I shrug off the blanket. There are things to be done today and I make a mental to-do list as I brush my teeth –visiting my alma mater where I’ve been invited to give a guest lecture, meeting my bestie for tea, shopping for shoes at Linking Road.

When I get to the kitchen, Amma is already there and she smiles at me.

“What time do you have to leave for your lecture?” she asks as she hands me my coffee.

“The lecture is scheduled for 11 o’clock. But I want to spend some time with Shweta –she is now a lecturer in the Department of Psychology. So I want to be there by 10.”

“Ok. What about lunch?”

“I’ll be having lunch there.”

“Oh…okay. I guess then you can see him in the evening. In any case he’s going to be here for a few days.”

“See who, Amma?”

“Govind uncle. Your Appa’s cousin –the one from UK, you remember him? You both used to get along so well when you were a kid.  Anyway, he’s coming now to look for a bride for his son. He called us last night saying that he will be coming and that he’ll be staying with us for the next few days. He was so glad to know you’re here…”

But I am not listening. My world had gone blank the moment I heard the words “Govind uncle.”

I remembered him of course. I remembered the imported soft toys and chocolates. The frilly dresses.  His enthusiastic greeting, “My dear Meenukutty, how you’ve grown!”

And I remembered his cigarette-smoke tainted breath. The sand paper of his stubble against my cheeks. His lips on mine. His big, sweaty hands fondling my pre-pubescent chest. Forcing my small hands to touch him in places I didn’t want to touch him.

And worst of all, I remembered his breathless voice in my ear, “This is our secret Meenukutty. Don’t tell anyone. Promise me, you will never tell.” With tears streaming down my eyes, I’d promise.

And I’d never told because even though I didn’t understand what happened, I knew it was wrong and that it was my fault. I’d never tell. Not even when Amma and Appa went away leaving him to baby sit me, even though I was afraid. Not even when I’d seen my cousin, Shanti, crying after Govind uncle took her “shopping for toys” during a family wedding.  I knew he had made her do the same thing that he had made me do.  In a way I was glad that it wasn’t me anymore. I was relieved to see him go for his higher studies to London.

I refused to attend his wedding. My parents attributed it to teenage rebellion, and I was okay with that. The truth is I didn’t want to see him. I was still scared. And I still kept my shameful secret.

I remember the day I finally understood. The revulsion and disgust that had spilled out of me into the toilet bowl as I retched out, trying to escape the memories. Knowing that it was a part of my life story, and that no matter what I did, I could not erase it. It was written in stone. I felt dirty and soiled. I hated myself for allowing it. I felt worthless.

But I didn’t tell. What was the point? It was a part of my life that I was determined to keep hidden. None of my achievements and awards, not all the happiness in my life, could ever make me feel whole again. Nothing could fill the void that he had mercilessly cut into me.

“Meenu…are you even listening?” My mother’s annoyed voice brings me back to the present.

“Are you okay?  You look sick. What happened?” she asks, concerned.

I think of my Vaishu, sleeping innocently in the other room. She deserves to have her unsullied dreams. For her sake, I must tell.

I swallow the dryness in my throat and say, “Amma, I have something to tell you.” My untold story spills out, and as it does, I’m surprised. After so many years, I am finally at peace.

Pic credit: Alberto Ortiz (Used under a CC license)

Vijayalakshmi Harish is a book blogger and writer. To paraphrase her librarian, she is a

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Comments

14 Comments


  1. Such a poignant tale! Very…very well crafted and excellent take on the prompt!

  2. no wonder , this came out as the winner…. excellent!

  3. Excellent story and very well told. Child abuse is, horrifyingly, becoming too common these days.

    • Thank you Prasanna 🙂 In my personal opinion, child abuse is not a new phenomenon. It has always been there. But it is only now that people have begun acknowledging it, and that ia good because the greater the awareness, the better we will be able to prevent it.

    • Such a beautifully written piece.
      It sadly is the reality that we have ignored, in this country for a long tome. I have two little daughters and I feel so protective about them. The worst thing is that in our culture physical contact with kids is an accepted norm. ” Jan uncle ki godi mein baith jao”. I have been firm about preventing such contact but get a lot of negativity from near and dear ones. I guess ignorance is bliss as long as u r not the affected party.
      Oh! And I worry for my son too.

    • Thank you Vijay.
      Yes, we must be careful about how others treat our sons and daughters. In this respect, we can protect our children best by making them comfortable about talking to us about anything. I remember that as a child, I was advised by my mother that I should come tell her in case someone touched me in an inappropriate manner. We must teach our kids to differentiate between a good and a bad touch and trust them if they bring something of this sort to our attention.

  4. Anju@TravellingNoodles -

    A well written article. ..

  5. Very well written…wish I could know what happened after she told her mom about the ‘secret’ and how that ‘uncle’ was unmasked, if at all… This line made me terribly emotional – “I think of my Vaishu, sleeping innocently in the other room. She deserves to have her unsullied dreams. For her sake, I must tell.”

    • Thank you Sangeeta 🙂
      One would like to think that Meenu’s mother was supportive, and that the uncle was stopped from hurting others. But irrespective, Meenu’s burden has been lightened and she is more capable now of protecting Vaishu.

  6. So poignant. A nighmare that so many of us go through that it resonated instantly.

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