Childhood. That part of our lives that we faintly remember but greatly miss. Innocent, naïve, gullible and yet, always happy. Scared of no one except the monster under our beds, always knowing how to keep it away – by tightly tucking our feet under that all-powerful blanket.
When I was child, I’ve been told, I was a happy kid. Always smiling, ready to dance at the drop of a hat and capable of singing Roja’s “Rukmani, Rukmani, shaadi ke baad kya kya hua?”, much to the embarrassment of my parents.
But what most never knew, was that I was also a troubled kid. My parents were loving, yes, but with each other… they were another story. Always fighting and constantly bad-mouthing the other.
Around those who were new to me, I was the reticent kid prone to bullying and ridicule. And my only respite, was sleep.
That was also a time when we lived on rent, which was a major reason I had no friends. But, that was until I met her - my first ever ‘friend’. We’d laugh together, dance in the rain together, watch PowerPuff Girls together and go for long walks together, babbling about whatever came to our minds.
One day, we saw an old couple walking their dog, and that day I found myself my first ‘best friend’. I called him Biscuit, unaware of the concept of clichés.
That day on, we were almost always with Biscuit. Spending our evenings walking him and our Sundays, bathing him. Whenever I’d be upset about something, Biscuit would be the first to know. He’d lick my feet, my face until he made me laugh, and everything was happy again. As we grew closer to Biscuit, we also grew close to the old couple. They’d tell us they were like grandparents to us and treated us to juice and cookies, every day.
One such Saturday, my folks had been fighting since the night before. I remember crying to sleep and waking up to familiar screaming voices. I took a quick bath and ran to my friend’s place, only to find she wasn’t home. So I went off to the couple’s house to get Biscuit.
It was the man who opened the door – aunty wasn’t home. He took me in as usual and offered cookies. I declined and told him I had just come to take Biscuit out for a walk.
He told me to get him from the room and excitedly, I ran to the room where my childhood was about to lose its life.
He followed me and closed the door behind him. I remember finding that odd. But that was just… the beginning. He came closer and asked me to sit on the bed – calling me ‘beta’ the whole time.
He started with fondling, then touching and pinching me. He went on to pull off my red and white frock as I froze in fear. He wet his handkerchief and repeatedly rubbed it over my body, especially my privates, telling me I needed to be absolutely clean for him. And then, when he satisfied with his work, he proceeded to unzip himself.
Suddenly, he was on top of me. Minutes later I remember feeling sharp pain rip through every nerve in my body. Every time he moved my head would throb in pain. He pulled my hair, dug his nails deep into my arms but I felt none of it. I was numb and his hand over my mouth was muffling the slightest screams I could muster.
After what seemed like ages, suddenly the pain stopped.
I told him, I had to go. When he stopped me, I promised him I’d come back. I told him that my friends knew I was here and that they were waiting for me. He almost ran to his room and came back with my clothes. And just as quickly, he literally shoved me out of the house.
I was seven and I did not have a clue about what he had just done to me.
I never told a word to my parents. I was scared. I was scared of what they’d do to me when I told them.
It didn’t end that day. He managed to find his way to me, many times, even after that. One time, I was standing next to my father when he found me. He called out to dad and said “your daughter is just perfect” and then proceeded to rub my cheeks, while my father stood there, not knowing what it was exactly that this disgusting excuse for a man was doing.
Eventually, we shifted out from the neighborhood and over time, I managed to bury these memories. It’s funny how I remember nothing of my childhood since then. It’s as if I fast-forwarded 6 years ahead without living a single day in the middle.
I was in eighth grade when I first came across the word ‘rape’ in a newspaper. Out of curiosity and my love for English, I looked up its meaning. And then, it hit me like a ton of bricks.
It took me about five years to accept that it wasn’t my fault; that I had done nothing to feel disgusted with myself.
A couple of years later, during a regression exercise in a meditation session, our instructor told our group to revisit our childhood and to tell the 11 year old us that everything was going to be okay. I couldn’t do it.
I was hit by flood of memories that I couldn’t put away. I was 20 and ready to give up, again. I contemplated suicide too many times before I finally opened up to a friend, then another and then another. And finally, somehow, I found some strength.
I’ve come a long way since, in a very short period of time. But the one thing I haven’t been able to do, is forgive or forget.
Every other night I wake up from the same nightmare. I re-live that day, that piercing pain and that familiar fear. Those words that he whispered to me, they echo in my ears even today.
“This is Romeo and that is Juliet and we need to bring them together.”
(Disclaimer: The author has chosen to not reveal her identity.)