You don’t sweat in Delhi because you get burned. The heat from the sun pokes deep inside and 70% of water in your body evaporates. It sucks out the soul also. That’s April in the national capital.
Our school was surrounded by big neem trees. On the ground you would find these small yellow colour fruit/seed. We would collect them and sit in the corridor and suck it without washing. It has a sweet juice. A bitter tree bears such a sweet fruit.
We would look for mynas and, If you didn’t see a pair then it means, it’s going to be a bad day. Before any exams I would religiously look for the pairs. If I could spot only one I believed that I would fail, even if I had prepared well. Once as I was sitting and enjoying my neem fruit also known as neemboli, I saw three mynas playing in the lawn. I showed it to a friend. She said this means that you would have a guest. I got excited because I have always loved having guests over.
My dad, being a journalist, had people coming over frequently to discuss different policies that they believed could change the world. I used to wonder why they were not ruling the world. They seemed to have answers to everything. But, I guess the world isn’t fair, is it?
One day, when the school bell rang all my classmates got ready to board their buses. I stayed back because my brother had an extra period as he was in the junior building. Moreover my brother and I used to stay back in the school until 4pm. My mom then worked in a nearby hospital and she used to pick us after her work.
Normally every day, I would wait for my brother. Once he was done with his classes, we would have our lunch at the reception. The receptionist, Ms H, was very close to our mom and she would take care of us like her own.
My mom was extra careful about our well-being. For her school was the safest place for us. It was our second home.
After everyone left, I started to play hopscotch in the corridor of the kindergarten building.
After sometime, I saw a shadow fall on my hopscotch drawing. I turned around to see a senior bhaiya (elder brother) standing behind me. He was much older than my brother, most probably from the senior building. He was tall, fair, had his shirt out because he was playing football.
He came to me and said, “Hi, aapke papa aapko bula rahe hai.” My eyes lit up, “Papa aaye hai?” I asked. Now the three myna made sense I thought.
The tall lean bhaiya continued, “Yes and he asked me to drop you at the gate.” I was confused. I told him that my brother isn’t here yet. For that he said, “Woh wahan direct aa jayega (he will come there directly).” I looked at him and he had a caring, concerned aura. I asked him a few more questions like why my father didn’t come here to pick me. He patiently answered all.
At last I told him let me get my bag. He said he would get late to get his bag hence let him just drop me to my father soon. I said okay and started walking with him.
He held my hand and we started walking towards the end of the corridor which ended at the bathroom.
My steps slowed down and asked him pointing at the opposite side, “Isn’t the gate that side?” He said he knows a short cut.
Suddenly something struck me and I asked him how he knew that I was my father’s child? And he said, your dad had told me there would be only one sweet girl playing in the corridor and that’s his daughter.
Even though I was taught to not talk to a stranger or trust one, here was no candy and clearly he wasn’t a stranger. He was my school’s senior. He wore the same uniform that I wore and sang the same school anthem that I sang. In the school we are all brothers and sisters…
I trusted him and had no more questions for him. My kindergarten was a two story building. The ground floor corridor turned left to the bathroom. We walked towards it. He was holding my hand and I was hoping and singing some song in my mind. Our body is more powerful than we think, as we were approaching the bathroom I could sense something was not right. He took me to a corner and held me against the rustic wall. He looked at me. This time it was different. He held my cheeks and said I was pretty. I felt happy hearing that because in India we aren’t raised with a lot of compliments- this was new.
I asked him where my dad was? He said he asked me to wait here.
I stood there for a second. The off-white wall’s paint was coming off. There were flaks like dandruff.
The bhaiya was observing me. He slowly moved his hand towards me and felt my shoulder. It felt weird but I couldn’t understand what was going on. He asked if he can show me something and started to open his pants. I said a loud NO! Though I didn’t know what he was going to show me. I was slightly annoyed with him and irritated with my father for getting late. I told him by this time I could have got my bag. He didn’t say anything. He bend down and kneeled in front of me. This is my first memory of seeing lust.
He came close to me and lifted my uniform. I was in shock and didn’t know what to do. This made no sense. Back then we weren’t taught about good touch and bad touch, but I still knew this wasn’t right. He made some excuse which I couldn’t understand as I was bombed with a lot of emotions. He pulled my underwear down and I resisted. My tiny floral panties were below my knees. He started looking as if he was searching something. I looked down and honestly that was the first time I had “observed” my private part. He opened it as we spread the flower petals. My heart started beating fast. Now I can say It was more like visiting a doctor who is going to examine your throat. Here it wasn’t my throat. As I started getting restless he stopped but asked me to stay with him. I said I have to go back.
My dad would have come looking for me. He continued to ask me to stay. I started to scream. As I did that I was reminded of all the Bollywood scenes where girls scream bachao bachao. I didn’t know why I did that, here was a bhaiya (not some Shakti Kapoor) who was taking me to my Dad. He put his hand on my mouth. I tried to push him. But it wasn’t of any use. He started kissing my cheek. I screamed little louder but the voice didn’t come out.
The school bell rang. He moved his hand. I think he got scared. I was about to scream again but he came close to my face and bit my nose. I shut my eyes in fear. When I opened, I saw him running away. He almost slipped. I laughed. I couldn’t believe I scared a big boy. I touched my nose it had his saliva. I wiped it off, straightened my skirt and stepped out.
I walked towards the corridor to look for that bhaiya, but he wasn’t to be seen anywhere. I walked towards Ms H’s office. She was sitting on her desk and going through some papers. I was holding my nose. I walked towards her and asked if my nose was fine. She looked up and said yes. I asked her if my dad came to see me. She looked up and said no. I don’t know if I was more upset about getting bitten by a senior or that my dad didn’t come to pick me up. I sat on the steps of the corridor waiting for my brother.
For the next few days I looked for that bhaiya because I really wanted to know why he lied to me and why he bit me, but I haven’t seen him since then.
Did I tell this to my parents? No, I was scared because something told me I would be scolded. After all it was just a bite. I can live with it. Lesson learnt was people don’t always come with candies. So just don’t trust anyone.
Years later, when I grew up I realised that wasn’t just a bite. The thing about such incidents is that it grows with you. I remember crying over this, years later when I first came to know about what’s rape. Because a small bite and a lie had another meaning then.
Anyway at the age of 33, I can go to any part of the school but that corridor makes my heart beat faster. The thing is Memories may fade, but body never forgets. Just like the scar have on my elbow from a fall from a cycle, we carry a lot of emotional wounds. They change shapes but still remain as part of me.
I have had many incidents – a poke from the back in the bus to boob grabs, flashes. I have grown with them.
Next time when someone tells me that Hey! it was just a friendly touch or words- I would like to say I’m sorry my body knows better.