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Why that is the attacker always gets the benefit of doubt but not the victim? I will not call myself a survivor because I haven’t survived it, yet…
The first winner of our July 2020 Muse of the Month contest is Rajlakshmi Kurup!
Anuja woke up startled, as if someone pulled her up with a force. She felt the sweat oozing from her brow. Ma had switched off the AC. She looked for her phone on the side table. It was only 2.30 am. Still, many hours for the morning.
Nights weren’t Anuja’s best time for many years now. Neither were days for that matter.
But for some months, the medications were working. The alternative therapy was also proving to be a relief.
Anuja looked at her mother. Her eyes swelled up. Poor thing! This seven-year battle was as hard for her as it was for Anuja.
Though Baba and Angad also competed to shower her with love and care, Anuja knew how much her mother suffered through her, with her.
At times, Anuja wished her family wasn’t with her, for then, she alone would have had to suffer. She could have given up when the pain became too much to bear.
As clouds gathered her mind again, Anuja tried to get back to sleep. She shut her eyes tight, then tried counting sheep and later, prayed a little. Nothing was helping.
How much ever she tried, she was not able to calm her mind. It was pretty much the case for some time now. The only difference was that earlier, the scenes were dramatic with some action but now they were mellow. Anuja smiled. Over the period, sometimes she was able to laugh at her misery. The doctor said it was a big step. Really? A step to where?
There were moments Anuja would imagine a normal life. And wish that her past wasn’t a nightmare, or at least she could free her mind from the brutal imprisonment it was in. She thought of her school friends, all of them busy studying, having fun. Except Nikki, not many stay in touch. Some of their own will (“afraid to talk to a mad person”) and some weren’t allowed to speak to her (“she is a bad influence”).
Words can be soothing at times but they can hurt bloody hell as well! They have the power to pierce through you like a sharpened sword and cut through the most delicate parts of your heart, forcing out blood and nerves. The attackers don’t stop there, they go on pushing the weapon hard into you and finally, when you fall to the ground screaming for help, they walk past you, blissfully unaware of the damage done.
When a person is murdered, the attacker only kills the body but poisonous words can kill your soul. Yes, it is possible, Anuja clenched her teeth.
Why me? The thoughts were starting to flow. That was a warning sign. Should I wake up Ma? No, she rarely gets any sleep as such.
Anuja knew this night would not be easy and it wasn’t for a few days. This night though was a little different for today Anuja felt stronger. Yet, the heart strings still pulled, a nerve hit a little more.
Why me? The question seemed to take the form of cruel demons and danced around Anuja. She wanted to scream, but the words wouldn’t come out but disappeared deep into her, pulling something inside her. This pain was heart-wrenching.
By now, Anuja was tired of the constant battle with these demons, some around her and some within. There was no point in fighting with them. Instead, she let them consume her for a while and then she would reason with them.
Tonight, she was a little different. She had done something that was feeling like a closure. For the first time in seven years, she had done something to help herself.
For some days or was it months? Anuja was trying to look for that face, that ugly face on Facebook, but often she would leave it half way. Not today! She managed to find him and his family, his wife, son and daughter. Today was his daughter’s 18th birthday and this was the best gift Anuja could give him.
Though the realisation that his daughter was only a year younger than her seven years ago and still, he could stoop to such low, was a blow to Anuja’s already broken mind. The shock remained the same, that day when his wife begged before Baba and Ma not to go to the police. “We have a daughter almost your daughter’s age,” she had wailed. Ma had slapped her hard and screamed – yet he did this to my poor child.
I had thought for a second that Baba would lose his control but then the woman placed her toddler son, at his feet.
We did not go to the police, not out of sympathy for the baby or the woman but by then, I was completely a wreck. There were two options before my parents – a long, arduous court battle and pushing me into the cruel glares of the system or keep a child alive. They chose the latter.
Aunt Shaila, Baba’s eldest sister, was happy and so were a few others in the family who knew what had happened. Her daughter’s marriage was fixed for the next month and ‘a dirty legal battle’ would have ‘ruined’ family’s reputation.
How was an assault on a 12-year-old a blot on her family? Shouldn’t people be shaming the attacker? Anuja was too young and inside her shell by then to realise what was happening or what were Aunt Shaila’s opinions.
But, slowly she understood, people like Shaila regarded Anuja as a lifeless human. Whenever she visited, she would blurt out sentences like ‘Oh, thank god, she was not raped,” “She will overcome this, it was a small incident,” and she would leave.
Those words would later coil around Anuja as a python and pulled her flesh, leaving her to scream and bang her head against the wall. Her parents and brother could only hug her and cry together.
As Anuja stared at the lifeless wall before her, she wondered about many things. An assault is an assault. Why do society and law have to give it different terms? He was my father’s age and he had pounced on me like a lion would jump on seeing his prey. I was saved from a ‘rape,’ sure. While trying to ward him off, my fingers poked into his eyes. He stopped for a moment and that was enough to help me run.
I was weak but somehow the familiarity of my own home helped. My home embraced me and kept me hidden. Yes, he did not ‘penetrate’ but his vicious hands were able to damage a child’s sense of being forever. Why isn’t the trauma and pain counted? Why that is the attacker always gets the benefit of doubt but not the victim? I will not call myself a survivor because I haven’t survived it, yet…
Anuja felt something soothe inside her. The re-visiting of the dreadful incident wasn’t as devastating as it was earlier. And today, for the first time, Anuja felt vindicated. She was proud of herself. After all, today, she had put her heart out on a long Facebook post and tagged the man and his family. She did not name him in the post but she had described him well. She also made sure she let his daughter know who that man in her post was. The pain that Anuja felt for years, that piercing pain which leaves you breathless or at least a fraction of it would find a place in him and his family, she hoped.
Her eyes drooped and soon, sleep came embracing her as if it was also waiting for a closure.
Anuja woke up on feeling a loving stroke on her forehead. She opened her eyes to see Ma looking at her as lovingly as she did for years now. Anuja smiled.
“Is she up?” Angad entered the room. “I have got some plants, a couple of them are your favourite purple flowers. Shall I start planting them?”
“No, wait,” Anuja got up. “I want to do that.”
As Angad and Ma stared at her, Anuja stepped out. Today was a bright morning. There will be scary nights, Anuja realised, but then there would also be such beautiful mornings to let her know, there is a better day out there waiting for her in her own garden, with the flowers she had helped raise. The sun shone bright.
Editor’s note: Malala Yousafzai has been an inspiration for girls all over the world since her story became known. At the age of 15, she survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban. Patriarchy most fears a girl or woman who can read, think, and has her own opinion, and will make her own choices. This was taken to an extreme by the Taliban who were on a mission to eradicate all forms of learning for girls and women.
Malala has since then been in the spotlight for many reasons, most notable of which was the Nobel Peace Prize she shared in 2014 with Kailash Satyarthi. She has also lent her voice to many whose voice wasn’t being heard.
The cue is this quote by her: “At night, our fear is strong but in the morning, in the light, we find our courage again.”
Rajlakshmi Kurup wins a Rs 500 Amazon voucher from Women’s Web. Congratulations!
Image source: by Sofia Garza on Pexels
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Rajlakshmi Kurup is a freelance writer. An introvert most of the time, she loves some
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