“Life can only be understood backwards……” Part 3

Previously on Masala Chai, we brought Sameer’s story to you. In case you’ve missed these, the links are:

  1. https://masalachaimusings.com/2018/06/15/life-can-only-be-understood-backwards
  2. https://masalachaimusings.com/2018/06/29/life-can-only-be-understood-backwards-2

Today we bring you the third and last post in the series from Sameer where he reaches back into the deep recesses of his past.

“You look like Mandakhini”

Sameer continues………..“There was an incident that happened with me when I was young, I had almost forgotten about this, but when I probed my memory for the kite incident, I remembered this as well. Perhaps I was very round and pretty when I was growing up, some may have thought I looked like a girl, I was also fair, so may be that is why these things happened to me. This was when I was 12 or 13, when I didn’t have any facial hair. Those days we used to go for night trips to temples at navratras time, and the bus used to take us kids around Delhifor a tour of the temples. I was never interested in temples, really, but these trips were fun, so I used to go along but mostly never went inside the temples. I remember this one night, we were outside the bhairon mandir and as usual, I didn’t go in. It was early morning and I curled up to sleep on one of the seats of the bus while everyone else went inside. Suddenly, I felt someone on me, it was my best friend, and I was woken up. I was amused, but quite uncomprehending, he was my best friend, what on earth was he doing? When he lay on me and remarked that I look like an actress, “Mandakhini! You look like her” and he pecked me on my check and tried to get closer.

I was the youngest in that group and was indulged by everyone, I was chanchal (playful), and people would pick me up and carry me and take me along. But I realized that this as something different. It was only later, after the kite incident, that I grasped the meaning of this episode. I think this friend of mine didn’t do this intentionally. It was early morning, and he was growing up and I can understand it was not intentional, I pushed him away and turned and went right back to sleep and forgot everything about this encounter until sometime later. When the other incident  happened, I was around 13 years of age. I was enrolled in school, but my mind was completely in sports, as I mentioned to you before. I used to eat, sleep and dream about sport. I was so fond of sport that (at that stage, I suppose this happens) I wanted to drown in it (doob jaane ka man karta hai).

Those days there were no mobile phones. I used to collect little bits of money, and one day I remember I had collected 20 rupees that seemed like a lot of money at that time. One ball was for three rupees and we used to get turns to play with it……it was fun. I was also very fond of kites.”

The sweet trap

“When I was just entering my teenage years, there was this young man who befriended me. He met me somewhere, and then started coming home and spending a lot of time with my family. He made a dramatic impression on my father, who appreciated his smooth manners and respectful style. I think he used to work somewhere, and in the evenings, he would drop by at home. I liked him because he would take me to eat doodh jalebi (milk with a sweet snack mixed) every day, EVERY day! I remember, he used to say that if a person is to become a successful wrestler, bodybuilder, or sportsman, you should be given doodh jalebi, and since I was wanting to become one, he felt that I needed to be indulged: “Yaar, you play and jump around, you need some strength you need doodh jalebi. Gain some weight, gain some strength, become a wrestler! Then you will play well, look good and do well.” I was really not interested in what he was saying, I was interested in eating (laughs). I also think that he realized that I really liked this dish, in fact I was crazy about it; and he gathered that from my conversations, and repeated it back to me. I would sit and long for the moment when the dish would arrive, and I would place the warm, sweet liquid in my mouth. I didn’t care much about what he was saying, but I remember feeling really good after that. Now that I think back on those days, I think he was preparing a scene, something that I was not at all aware of. I was so naïve in those days. One day, two days, every day……whenever he used to invite me, I never refused him. I would say “chalte hain, aaj shyam ko chalte hain” (Let’s go, let’s go this evening). This shop that made the best ones was a bit far from my home, and I never went there alone, and this became a regular routine for a while. In any case, my family members used to refuse permission to go too far at night, but they trusted this guy and I was allowed. This lasted for months and months. Gradually, he started to make such an impression on Papa that I started hearing things like: “You must learn from him, be like him. See how he speaks, his words are so measured. See how you speak and look at him, learn from him how to speak. You should become like him. Look at his views about life and wok, they are so good, you should be like him”. Obviously when Papa was talking about someone in such terms, it would be natural for me to “bend” for this man, I think what he didn’t like about me was that I would reply him back, and this young man would not. He was about five six years older than me and yet, I would stand my ground and this boy wouldn’t.”

“I didn’t have a distant clue about what could have and did happen to me. Maybe it was my age that didn’t permit the awareness of sinister intentions. I took everything at face value, I think. At that age I had nothing else on my mind, just games, sports; some interest in eating of course, some quarrelling at home; that is all (Laughs).

Those were also the days that my father started telling me to become like this older boy. I think because I respected my father so much, I became somewhat impressed with this person. For his part, he also realized that after sustained effort from his side, my interest had grown and that I was beginning to admire him over and beyond the food trips. I was even chatting with him a bit more, so he started inviting me home. He would say “Come to my home, we will sit and chat”. His house was in a place I found a bit awkward, an area of a different community, so I used to ignore his invitations. But maybe, now I am thinking, maybe he did begin to believe that I would give in because I had started chatting with him, and my family had accepted him. I believe he thought I was just hesitant for some insignificant reason, and believed in the end that I could be persuaded. Maybe I was a bit wary and didn’t know why. When my mother also accepted him, and agreed with my father about his manners and style, that is when he started staying for meals as well, that’s how close he became to the family.”

The other kite runner

“Around 15th August that year, I developed a craze for kites. I really wanted one and I asked my father for some money for a kite. He refused outright, saying “Nothing for you”. I questioned his decision and asked him again, pleading “What is there? It’s only a kite”, I said. Papa assumed that kite-flying was a wasteful indulgence, a waste of both time and money, a bit like…..maybe ……..gambling or something. But when I look back, I know it was not a harmful thing, I was a child, I just wanted to fly a kite. It was something I wanted to do and I don’t think it’s like gambling at all. But then, I didn’t fuss, didn’t become stubborn over it or anything, I just left it. In my mind, however, the desire lurked, and unknown to me, this was sensed by X (let’s name him X). He said to me “You want a kite, I have many at home, and I will give you one, but you have to come home”. I asked him to bring it over to my place, but he argued, “I won’t, your father will get mad at me. If he comes to know I’ve given it to you, he will be angry and I don’t want that”.

I thought this was quite a reasonable point and didn’t suspect anything outside of his offer. But I did want to bring the kite home, I told him. I will bring it at a time when Papa is not at home. X said he would be home the next day and that I was to come, saying “You slip out at a time when your father has gone for some work”. The next day, I went to his house for the first time. I remember clearly that there was a gate on which the house number was written and to the right side, there were three rooms in a row. Beyond that there was a large room, straight ahead from the entrance. The doors of the three adjacent rooms were on the right, and I’m telling you this because it is significant. I realized the main door was ajar since it opened as I knocked. I heard his voice call out from inside “Come on in, it’s open”. I was focussed solely on the kite, full of excitement about flying one, owning one and had nothing else on my mind, just like I would enter any other friend’s home and as I usually did with my friends, I barged into the house quite cheerfully.

I heard his voice from behind a closed door. I remember that it felt a bit odd that he didn’t even come to the door. As I pushed open the door, I saw him lying on a bed, and as I entered, he arose, patted the bed beside him and asked me to sit. That is when he got up and latched the door from inside. “Why is he doing that to show me a kite?” I wondered. I still didn’t have any suspicions about what would happen to me, I recall being more puzzled than anything. Naively, I asked “Why do you have to close the door to hand over a kite to me?” “Oh, someone might come” he answered. Again, I thought to myself there seemed to be no one at home, what was his concern? Anyway, I did become slightly uneasy, but I had my heart set on getting the kite from him, now that I had come this far. I imagined how it would rise with the wind as I tug at it. Finally, I thought, I would have a kite of my own. After latching the door, he came back to the bed and lay down next to me, and suddenly reached up and wrapped his arms around me “Mujhe bahon main bhar liya” (Filled me in his arms). I realized this was something really very odd, and I got scared. I realized something was seriously wrong, but I didn’t fully understand what it was. I had had no prior experience with physical relations, so I was completely at a loss. As I hesitated and tried to free myself, he forced himself even more intensely. However, I was strong, and resisted his attempts to remove my clothes. At first, when I tried to scream, no sound would emerge from my throat, it felt dry and no sound emerged. What has happened to my voice, I thought. I tried again, and this time, the yell for help came out so loudly that both of us were taken aback. Yet, since I was in the innermost room, perhaps my voice could not have been heard by anyone. I resolved that I had to somehow free myself and leave. I pushed him aside and got to the door to open it, my hands were trembling and I was not successful. This time, he pulled me back and I fell onto the bed. I knew then that it was now an emergency. Despite the fact that he was older, and that my family really held him in high regard, I had to somehow get out of the situation. By then X had taken off all his clothes and I was really awkward and upset. It is hard for me to say what I felt at that time….. meaning……I was really uncomfortable, afraid……maybe then I yelled again, and this time he fell back. Somehow, I was really lucky, this time my desperate cry for help scared him and he stepped back. This was the small straw of hope I needed. Once this cry worked, I just kept yelling to the top of my voice, and kept on and on and on. I think this time he felt that someone would hear me and he stepped back. He quickly dressed himself and tried to pass it off as something inconsequential “Listen….listen…I don’t want to do anything wrong…..just listen…..shh shh. Quiet, stop shouting, shhhhh…shh.” Emboldened by this minor victory I became more assertive and said “I don’t want to listen to anything, I just want to go home, just open the door, I want to go home.” “At least listen to me, he said, “I am your friend, and I only wanted to be friends with you…” “I don’t want any friendship,” I retorted, just let me go, let me go, LET ME GO. Just open the gate I want to go home, forget the kite, I want to go home.” He still persisted with trying to calm me down. I refused, and would not move from near the door. He was holding my hands to stop me from opening the door, but I kept on and on insisting. “I just wanted as a friend to teach you something” I kept repeating “I want to go home”, over and over and over again. He opened the door, but he still didn’t leave my hand, he kept holding on to my hand as he opened the door. As soon as I saw the door was open, I decided that having come thus far, why should I forgo my kite? I then stuck to my ground, with one foot at the door and said “Now I want my kite, you promised me a kite” (Tapping the table as a gesture of determination as he spoke). I stood at the door and didn’t budge. “I want my kite and I want to go home.” He said “….but you must not tell uncle”. “I don’t care”, I replied, “I want my kite, NOW”. He rushed to the cupboard and picked out some kites and urged me not to speak of this to anyone. I was now occupied with what I would tell my family, surely they would notice that something had happened from my face. I thought to myself that I have to have an excuse when I get home, someone may ask what did you go there for in case I was spotted? I needed these kites to also prove that this was the reason and none other. That I went to get kites from X, I would be scolded for sure, but not too much, I hoped. I began to feel a bit safe and my confidence took a huge leap. I snatched up the kites and ran out of the house and all the way home.

Whenever I reached back home, I would be asked where I was, and I never lied to them. The next question would surely be “What did you go there for?” I have been asked this so often that even in a situation like this, this question would come up and I had to have a reason. Even if I tell them everything about this X and my close shave with him, it was I would have had to explain why I went there in the first place, I would be held accountable. I needed those kites to prove my point.  If I shared this episode with them, they would first ask me “Have you no sense? Why did you go there in the first place?” I didn’t take the kites because I wanted to fly them anymore, I wanted them to protect myself. If I went home empty-handed, they will think that I am in the wrong, somehow I felt they would know about what had happened. That trip that I made from his house to my home, I was so weighed down, so heavy with what had happened to me and I believed that everyone’s eyes would be on me. I kept thinking as I ran, “How will I reach home, how will I enter my home?” I was thinking all the way. I remember feeling so guilty, not that something had happened to me, but that I had done something wrong. I think that although the world would not even have noticed me, I felt that I was being watched by everyone, and that everyone knew what I had been through. I even began to feel that I had done something wrong. My home was not far from his place, but only I know how I crossed that distance. I did question myself about why I had gone there, and I did feel guilt. When I reached home, I found that my father was back from work, I slipped by without catching his attention, and went straight to the terrace. Fortunately he didn’t ask me anything, I felt that the first hurdle had been crossed. Usually he would always accost me at the gate asking where I was coming from, what had I been doing? The next hurdle was crossing my mother, I could never hide my feelings from her. She was in the kitchen I think and didn’t even look up as I passed. Once I reached the terrace, I burst into tears. I was relieved, I felt safe, and wept, perhaps on account of a combination of reasons. I think for about two-three days I cried, I would go to the terrace by myself, find a spot where no one could see me and I would cry. I remember there were no questions, no answers, no thoughts, just the desire to cry. X vanished from our lives, he never appeared at our doorstep again, though I would sometimes see him around, we completely avoided each other.

I remember then, that I made a distinct effort to become more responsible and mature at that time. After all the crying ended. Even though I think I was still quite ignorant, I tried that no one else should get to know what I had been through and that I have to overcome my feelings, this situation that I had found myself in on my own. And I had to be a bit more discerning, but I resolved that I would not let it affect my relationships with friends, I would still make friends. I didn’t look at others suspiciously, but I did become more careful about my own movements. I felt that I had had a narrow escape, anything could have happened. Whenever I crossed paths with X, I used to turn away and change my route. My father would sometimes ask after him, about where he had disappeared. I would just feign ignorance. That was the end of X. I never talked about him to anyone outside of this session, with the exception of my wife. I felt that I had to tell her, as our children, a boy and a girl are growing, I felt that it was important for me to caution her about the possibilities that children can face and how it was important to be vigilant about where and with whom the children engage.

My kids need to know

About the incident, I felt that kids needed to know, when they grew up and started visiting others and going to school, I felt they should know the risks, then I told my wife, but I also hinted to my children, I wanted them to be aware. I wanted my wife to be vigilant. This happens, even the person who does it is not really aware of what is happening, but I never denied my children a kite!

 

Image source: https://prismkites.com/product/stowaway-diamond/

 

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