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“Should he walk scot-free because I don’t want society to mock at me and want to desperately keep up the image of the perfect happy couple? Would I really be happy after knowing the truth?”
I looked out of the window and repeated to myself, “everything is under control, everything is fine, life is perfect”. I looked at the picture perfect photo frame lying on the mantel piece.
Our wedding photo – we looked just perfect, made for each other as we looked into each other’s eyes and held hands. Yes everything is fine. This is just some silly notion stuck in my head. My husband can never do such things. He is such a gentleman. We have a perfect life together. Let me not ruin it by doing something silly. Repeating these words to myself I dozed off in the chair.
The dream came again. I could see a little boy running in the meadows, he threw up his head in the air and laughed. He looked so happy, full of life. All of sudden dark clouds loomed over. He looked up and frowned. Someone called his name – a man in a sweet singsong voice. And I could see a shadow emerge.
The little boy cowered with fear – no please don’t do this to me. I don’t like it. It doesn’t feel nice. Shhhh said the man – I could see his silhouette now, I struggled to see his face but it wasn’t clear. The little boy was in tears now, he shivered. The man bent down slowly and started unbuttoning the boy’s shirt and unzipped his pants. And then the boy let out a ear piercing scream.
At that moment a flash of lightning hit the sky and I saw the face of the man. It was Ankit. But he looked so different. No longer the sweet gentleman who was caring, sensitive, the perfect life partner I always knew. Here was a stranger, a menacing evil spirit whom I did not recognize!
And with that, I woke up as usual with a start. I was perspiring all over despite the air cooler being at full blast. I wiped of the beads of sweat and drank some water from the bottle at my bedside. I knew trying to sleep would be futile. I decided to make some coffee and went to the kitchen. After a few minutes I was seated by my favorite spot in the balcony clutching my mug of caffeine and the events of the past few days ran before my eyes.
Kamala tai our domestic help who had been working with us since almost a year came running to me all in tears. “What is it, did your husband rob you of your money yet again?” I asked her.
“No tai!” She looked scared, confused and looked like she wanted to confide something in me, but was uncertain if she should. Though we shared a formal relationship of employer and employee officially – as 2 women we shared a very unique bond. I respected this gutsy 35 year old woman who was uneducated but was fiercely independent, worked hard to earn her bread, and had big dreams for her only son Raju whom she had enrolled in an English school nearby with my help.
She used to seek my advice on Raju’s studies and how she should invest money for his future. She helped me learn the basics of cooking and managing the house as I was completely naive about this. Her son Raju was a studious boy who wanted to fulfill his Aai’s dreams. He sometimes came along with her to our house on Saturdays and animatedly told me about his school while he munched a biscuit I had given him. I quite liked the boy.
“Tai,” she said, “I do not know how to tell you this. I have been unable to sleep the whole night thinking about how to spill this news to you. Please do not take this wrongly. I feel embarrassed telling you this though I feel I must be open and not hide this from you.”
Raju has been quiet for a few days. Earlier I thought maybe something at school. But day by day he has become quiet and has been withdrawing into a shell. I kept pursuing him to open up and finally he broke the news to me last night – Ankit dada has done something very bad to him.
He took him to the bedroom the other day when I left him over to go to Shah madam’s house for work and you had to leave suddenly for some work. Dada took him to the room and told him he will show him some fun stuff on computer. There was some cartoon going on but after a while the cartoon turned dirty and Raju started feeling uncomfortable. Then Dada started groping him and put his hands inside his pants. Raju was completely shocked he did not know what was happening but he felt dirty. He started sobbing and told Dada please don’t else I will tell Aai I don’t like this. Immediately Dada held him by the neck and threatened him – ‘dare you tell a single soul. I will make sure you are punished and will inform your school principal that you were stealing money in my home. They will believe me of course and then you will be rusticated from the school. What will happen then to you and your studies? Think about it. Go home now and keep your mouth shut. We will watch another interesting cartoon next week. Go now’. Raju came home and has been disturbed ever since. Tai, I know this is very tough for you but believe me I want you to know the truth”.
I couldn’t believe what I just heard. Was this some movie script? What the hell was she talking and that too about Ankit? Why on earth would he do such a thing? My husband – a pedophile? A child molester? I couldn’t imagine that in my wildest of dreams. The woman has gone mad, she is hallucinating. I know Ankit since so many years; he can never do such a thing. He is a gem of a person, in fact since past few days we have been thinking of having a baby and when I expressed my wish of becoming a mother to him, though I know he himself is not very keen on having kids he decided to go with my wish just for my sake. How can this be even remotely true?
I realized she was looking at me and waiting for my reaction – I gathered all the patience I had and calmly asked her to leave – “I do not believe you, I do not say you are cooking up a story but your son is imagining things and you are gullible to believe him. Go home now”.
Though I tried to brush aside this thought from my mind I couldn’t. I was suddenly reminded of the little urchin boy Rehan who used to play in our backyard. He was a little ball of joy, around 4 years old. I would sometimes stop by and give him a packet of chips or an orange. Ankit would usually smile and speak a few words. I had noticed that since the past few days he was not to be seen. Initially I thought he must have gone to his native place for a few days. When I saw him after a few days, he no longer looked the same kid. Something had changed but I couldn’t place my finger on it.
I decided to ask him – one day I found him looking forlorn and gently held his hand and started talking to him. Looked like he was about to tell me something but suddenly he spotted someone and froze. I turned behind and saw Ankit smiling at him. The little boy did not reciprocate though, his body went cold, and his hand was icy cold. Before I could open my mouth, he let go of my hand and ran as fast as his legs could carry him. I was confused then, but now something made me put the pieces together.
That night Ankit was going for a reunion with his school friends. I decided to snoop around. It made me feel like a bloody offender; what kind of a wife was I? I was snooping over my hubby and that too not suspecting him of having an affair but of molesting young children. I must be mad.
I went through his closet, laptop etc couldn’t find anything concrete. Of course I wouldn’t if this was an ugly truth he was hiding from me, he would be doing it smartly and would not leave all the evidence out there for me to see. I thought a lot and remembered that box in the attic – he told me it was old school and college memories and when I was eager to see them, he diverted my attention and shoved the box in the attic. I had to find that box. After 45 minutes of puffing and panting, I finally found it. I was in a state of mixed emotions. What was I doing? Should I open this or just put it back? This cannot had true but what if it is? I had to find out. With shaky hands I opened the tin. It had photographs of his school days, with his parents, cousins and friends.
There he was a little chubby boy of 8 in Shimla on a trip with his parents and this one at a friend’s birthday party cake smeared on his face. As I looked at those pics I couldn’t help smiling. I turned to the next memory and I froze. There were nude pictures of young boys, with their genitals circled and some more pictures which are too horrific for me to describe in words. I saw things which made me feel sick in the stomach, I almost puked. I heard a sound and quickly regained my senses. I shoved the tin in its place. It was time for him to return.
I pretended to be asleep. I was not in a position to confront him. I needed to sort out my thoughts. I spent the next 2 days running these events through my mind. I thought about our courtship days, our marriage, life after marriage. He had always been the perfect partner, helping me around, cheering me, standing by me and encouraging me. We were the envy of every party. The chic couple who complemented each other perfectly, had money, fame, love everything.
I toyed with the idea of just forgetting this damn thing like a bad dream. Maybe we move to a different house, a new city or how about going abroad? He had an opportunity to move to London. I could ask for a transfer. We would have a baby and our life would be beautiful just as it was till a few days back. I just needed to get this damn thing out of my head.
I was reminded of a case I read in the newspaper a few days back when a famous actor was arrested on charges of molesting his maid and his wife had stood by him claiming that he could never do that. I wondered if she was telling the truth – what a wife would go through when she realizes her husband was guilty of such a ghastly crime! The faces of the 2 boys – young and innocent flashed before my eyes. Could I really build a happy life knowing what had happened to them and choosing to remain mum about it? There may be so many such young and innocent boys who went through a similar ordeal and how many more would go through it? It wouldn’t stop I knew that for sure.
If I confronted him, he would deny but would have to accept it when I threw those pics on his face. But what next? What would I do? He would plead and I would forgive him? And move on? What was the guarantee he would mend his ways? What about the trauma the innocent souls went through? Should he walk scot-free because I don’t want society to mock at me and want to desperately keep up the image of the perfect happy couple? Would I really be happy after knowing the truth? I knew the answer and I also knew this would have serious repercussions on not just him and me but our families as well. But I knew I owed this to the Rajus and Rehans of the world and I would not be able to see my face in the mirror if I chose to ignore this. I had made my decision and my heart felt lighter.
I calmly picked up my phone and dialled the number.
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Choosing to tell this particular story in first person, from the perspective of a close family member of a paedophile was a very good idea Akshata. Just like in this story, members of an offender’s family are sometimes oblivious about their devious minds and actions. But more often even when there is an incident family members come to know about, they selfishly choose to look the other way or even defend the actions of the offender, simply for self centred motives(such as current gains from wealth or status of the offenders) or socially defined obligations (such as respect or loyalty to family etc) The moral dilemmas and options for action faced by family members in such cases are very similar to the ones you’ve mentioned for the protagonist in this story. So there is so much reality portrayed efficiently in your story, including as often is the case, the hope that moving to a new place or starting a new life -basically ignoring the problem, may somehow make it go away. The climax in the last two paragraphs and the last line of the story, is of course the best part. It sends a message to the reader and tells of heroism-of making the right choice, rather than the best choice and of choosing the noble priority(perhaps more difficult) over the selfish one. This is a good moral story.
Thanks a ton Sonia. I have seen a lot of stories and articles written around this subject but all of which is about the victim. No one talks about the situation when the perpetrator is right in your home , thats why this story is what I wanted to tell
A heart wrenching story Akshata. The lines where the protagonist fights her own demons compelling her to resign to a fresh start were vivid.
True Sangeeta fighting the inner demons is never easy
Robert L. Stevenson wrote “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and Joachim Fest
wrote “Hitler”. The fundamental in both the books is evil in Man.
That applies to all humans. Those who do evil to others and the
who see the evil and look away. One should take the trouble to
read the lines which Pastor Niemoeller said after the war in a
church. Akshata struggled with her conscience and finally decided
she cannot look away. Admirable. Millions still shall continue t
not complain and do something about such and similar deeds by
the Hydes and Hitlers amongst us.
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