It was a bright Sunday morning. I was sitting on the window seat, sipping on a ginger tea, going through my half completed manuscript. My teenage daughter was sitting next to me, cutting pictures for a story I was writing. She believed that the pictures would help me to write and untangle my thoughts. Yes, I know, my daughter was creative and wise. And I can without any doubt, claim that we are best friends. She had been quiet for sometime… I wanted her to talk… I sipped on my tea quietly, watching her intently moving the scissors. As I knew, she spoke – “Thank you…Maa.” She said.
I kept my mug down.
“For what, Natasha?”She looked up at me – her eyes reflecting my eyes. A strength that I had missed in her eyes before made my heart swell. I didn’t interrupt her.
“For listening to me, Maa… I don’t know how I would have survived.” She said, her voice, soft and slightly nervous. I was still, her mother. I sat down next to her, closing my laptop, as she continued cutting series of pictures – beautiful fields, dresses for my new character. “You would have. I was there, just to support you.” I stroked her hair. “No one else would have.” She said and gave me a tight hug. My heart filled up with emotions and my mind went back to the time, when she had to live through the worst moments of her life.
12 months before. Natasha – 14 years old, growing, becoming prettier, becoming a woman.
We had gone to a relative’s marriage. The house was filled with people. Distant relatives, men, women and cousins unknown or forgotten, had gathered. Natasha and Aayush were excited to attend the marriage, to meet everyone and have fun. My husband and I had let them be, reconnoitering on their own. On the third day of marriage, the bride had to be sent away for Vidaai in the morning, but the kids were tired and insisted to sleep together with all the other cousins. I was occupied with the preparations and my husband had to be part of the marriage rites, so I permitted them. Little was I aware, that my daughter would be prey to that hideous man who had been asking me about her and trying to talk to her. Natasha and I had looked at each other, my eyes warning her to stay away. I should have kept her with me, but kids are rebellious. I didn’t want to control her too much. I kissed Aayush and Natasha goodnight as they tottered away excited with their gang – looking like an over populated pajama party. I sat with my husband, we performing the rituals together and remembering our marriage, unaware of the horror that my daughter would be going through, that night.
At 6 the morning when the bride was finally ready to leave, I went to wake up both my children so that we can leave as well. I entered the huge hall, where my kids were asleep. Natasha was not there. I automatically assumed that she must have gone to the washroom. I took the narrow hallway to the washroom and not much to my surprise, Natasha was standing there…but something in my heart broke at her sight. Her eyes were puffed like she had been crying and her lips were bruised. I ran to her as she cowered at my sight.
“MOM, don’t touch me!” She yelled. I froze. I knew there was something wrong. She was crying and panic gripped my heart. I put my hands up and slowly moved towards her…and hugged her tightly.
“Mom…I didn’t do anything. I promise. He did. He did…I was in the washroom alone. Last night…he did…that man.” She frantically whispered in my ears…clutching me tightly. I knew which man she was referring to. I wiped away her tears, for I knew how it feels. Wasn’t I abused once? When I was 8? I wouldn’t let my daughter alone. I helped her wash up, applying medicine on her cut lip and hugging her all the time. This was not the time to ask her the details. She was weak and she needed me. External bruises were not much, but internally, my daughter was scarred and I will not shush her like my mother did. We stuck together through the wedding…I told people she slipped in the washroom. The man had left in the wee hours of the morning…after that filth touched my daughter.
Natasha was quiet all the way back home. I understood her pain, but I had to wait for the right time. We got back, my husband asked me a few times and I told him she was going through a blue phase. I needed to talk to Natasha before telling anything to my husband or not. That night, I went to Natasha’s room. She was curled up on her bed, covered from head to toe in a woolen sweater and pajama, her hair pulled in tight pony. She had a haunted look on her face. I nearly threw up. My daughter was abused. I had to help her. “Nat…” I said. She looked at me, her eyes filling up with tears. “Mom…why??” I held her for a very long time, while my daughter wept in my arms. I let her cry out her entire sorrow. I was alone when I was abused, I had battled the feelings forever, my mother never understanding – incessantly asking me to just forget about it. And when the sun came up, lighting up her room, she told me…
“Mom…He was there with all of us. He sat next to me. I asked Aayush to come and sit with me. He kept cracking jokes, playing with him and talking. He touched my arm and…my…chest…Maa…as we all made beds. I just…I just gave him a dirty look and moved away. But…when I woke up in the night to go the loo….” She looked at me…her eyes filled with terror. I couldn’t keep my tears to myself. She wiped my tears and spoke, “He came behind me and blocked…blocked my way. And…pinned me…to the wall…I couldn’t scream because…he…bit me…” Oh Dear God! I hugged her…tightly. I didn’t want her to go away from me…ever. “Shhush…I am here. He won’t do that ever again. I will see to that.” “Mom…am I dirty now?” She asked me afraid. I could see the fear of rejection in her eyes. “No, you would be loved more…you are NOT dirty. It wasn’t your fault Natasha…it wasn’t. You are here, with me, strong. It wasn’t your fault. You will be loved, like always. You will be sweetheart.” Natasha and I lived that night, bonding as best friends and not as mother and daughter.
Sexual abuse leaves a scar no matter what. It doesn’t matter if the touch was a mere brush or full fledged touch. In my case, I was alone, battling my own fear, hatred because I was told that every girl has been abused once. I don’t care if every one has been. I cared that I had been. It was me who would never be whole again…for every touch would remind me of the times I had been abused. And love, patient hearing and understanding at the right time, can heal the person. I wasn’t so fortunate before. It took years to find that love - love of myself. My daughter won’t go through that. A woman like me, learnt to push away the pain, as I was aware that I alone had to live with the feeling of self-loathing and self-hatred.
Women, in fact, humans feel a sense of false comfort in self-degradation. I lived with the feeling. It took me years to accept the fact that it was NOT my mistake. The past still haunts me. Any sort of physical violence, be it towards a girl or a boy, should not be ignored. It takes a heart of steel to live through the mental trauma especially if you have been subjected to it regularly. It takes time to heal - a lot of time. People tend to judge. Abused persons can be withdrawn, introvert or extravagant and physically active. Why? It’s more of a psychological pattern. Assurance of being good is needed all the time. I needed it, especially since I had a very strict family background. My father is a typical father and one could imagine the fear of male kind that was ingrained in my heart. I needed to know that I was a good person. However, meeting a motherly figure and letting my fears out helped me a lot. I can say I am healing. DO NOT hate yourself. I learnt the fact that the experience made me stronger. I could read people better. DO NOT self-pity. Believe me, it’s degrading. You will start to feel unworthy of love and yes, it will make you paranoid to know whether you can be loved. The truth is, once you start loving yourself, you will know that you can be loved. You are to be loved.
Let me tell you, abuse affects us mentally and that is what it is – fear. You can not remove the feeling of being touched, intruded upon. Solution? Stand before the mirror. Look at your body. Love yourself. Believe that you are beautiful, no matter what happened. Remember, the power is in YOUR hands. I couldn’t do much as I was a child. But as I grew up…I learnt and accepted the fact that I was alone…in fighting the feeling, but that didn’t mean I was not human, I was not a woman. I was, I am. I will not lie about being brave and marching up to the police station and declaring an open war. It is downright scary. So, I decided to make myself stronger. The good thing that happened with me was that the man met with an accident and lost his legs. Not that I am happy that he lost his legs, but I was happy that justice was done. I would not say more, but I can assure you that if you give yourself a chance and live life, once again, you will not regret it. There will be someone, always, who will love you, no matter who you are, what you are. Believe me, you will be surprised.
Before I leave, let me conclude by saying this – the story above was heavily based on truth. Let me also say this, abused persons do not need sympathy. They need love, equal treatment and not false sense of assurance that they are different. People subjected to the terror are strong enough to live and they all need only one thing to make their lives beautiful – love.
PS: I wish I had the courage to write like Dragon did. The abuse story of mother is true and daughter is what is fiction.