This is not a sympathy seeking post. If you assumed any such, then please do not read any further. This is a story representing those who are unable to articulate. I am sure that some surrounding me, cringe when I write this way but now it is their problem really. I have no shame being judged. I have had fair share of my own misdoings. But I’ve learned not be a coward. Yesterday, I happened to read that a 15-year old girl committed suicide in India because she couldn’t stand eve-teasing anymore. I would have been that if I didn’t allow the so-called society I lived in as a young adult to what they thought was ‘boycotting’ me. Thus began my stories of being a social reject.
The neighborhood we lived in until I was 17 years old had no street lights from the bus stop through my home. There were open potholes into which if I accidentally fell, no one could even figure my first scream or my decomposed body. I seldom had friends over because no matter how spacious our home was, everything around was disgusting and filthy. And I lost on many friendships because of this social strature of ours. My parents acknowledged that very much but were super lazy to move out of the government provided accommodation. Not just them, so were the parents of all my neighborhood friends especially the girls who faced similar issues like I did. Well, the living situation wasn’t even the real problem.
When I was in 7th and 10th grades, I took extra tuitions after school. Which meant that I walked through those ill-lit streets at night. Although it was not an unearthly hour but certainly after dark, there was not a single day that I went without being eve-teased. When I resisted the hooting, hollering and the sexual advances with the choicest of ‘ma-behen gaalis’, I got beaten by cricket bat, cycle chain, got my ass whacked in the dark and ofcourse the hair pulling was their favorite. I just couldn’t tell who it was even if we were to complain. There are still some permanent bruises on my body (forget the state of mind) that remind me of that monstrosity even today. Mom and Dad even though were much older compared to my friends’ parents, were very progressive in thought and rebellion. I shared with them my every experience sans the physical abuse part – a definite lapse in judgement on my part. My dad would then wait for me at a pre-determined time at the bus stop to bring me home. All was good until he couldn’t anymore. The tactics I garnered fending for myself may have not been the best but I didn’t know any better.
It was rather easy to hang out with boys at that time who would walk or give me a ride home safe. In the process, I gave way to slut-perception, a characterless tag and so many other things a 12-year old shouldn’t have been exposed to. No one that was near or dear took the leap of faith to get to the bottom of my so called ‘behavior’. A majority accused me of having too many boyfriends with the exception of my parents who understood but did not get to figuring out how to help me more. Yet, they were very supportive when I proudly shared my ‘adventures’ of squishing of b***s o in an over-crowded bus because he tried to stick it in my friend’s ear all while making ridiculous noises, or poked another with sharp objects because they were calling me ‘baby, baby, what’s beneath your dress’ or that I kicked someone in their groin when they tried to touch me inappropriately. There was an instance where a bus conductor refused to give me half-ticket to ride on the bus because his complaint was that my boobs didn’t look like an under-12. That day, came out of my mouth some words that I am ashamed to even be reminded after decades. My mom turned pale next to me. Even though I caused so much anxiety and embarrassment, they were always by my side. When people told them I was a bad girl, shunned and treated me like an outcast, my parents never stopped trusting me. Grades were pathetic for few years and I felt like I was a burden to them but they understood. I kept myself alive and never let my inner demons take over as a gratitude for all that they were doing for me. Every now and then an over-zealous friend or cousin still tries to squeeze in a story of my then behavior to my mom but she smirks and doesn’t care.
Lately, there have been such barbaric violations of women because they’ve rejected someone’s proposal or wrong advances. It is beyond sad but I heave a sigh of relief that nothing inconsequential happened to me when I was tormented. After all, I was someone who was low on the ‘moral barometer’ and would have been an item of gossip and not sympathy. I got myself out to a boarding college the first chance I got. That was my ticket to escape. And true to that opportunity, I made some life-long relationships, garnered a lot of power skills under some top notch tutelage even through exploitations and massive rejections. Rising through adversities became a habit and success was survive the ugly. It was during my undergraduate studies that I outdid my confidence and there was nothing that would create fear in me…not eve-teasing, not character assasination, nothing. I knew what my path forward was going to be, clear as the blue skies.
It is an innate feeling of being human to be loved and accepted by others. Desiring support from parents, siblings, relatives, friends or acquaintances may look like craving for attention but is the essence of our well-being. There are a lot of us who suffer from anxiety and depression by random acts of social rejection. A completely normal looking person may be on a path of no return. Illiterates are quick to call them ‘mental’ while some educated may ask them to snap out of it. What goes through them is a horror of the worst kind. Physical pain manifests but mental bruises don’t. The judgements make them worse. It is time that we don’t look the other way and take steps in eradicating this social epidemic and its symptoms. “Let the rock bottom become the solid foundation in which we rebuild our lives.” In order for that to happen we need a punctilious society, benevolent relationships, unadulterated expectations, genuine feelings and courageous social underpinning of human vulnerabilities. Einstein had said that the world is a dangerous place not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing. Let’s prove him wrong and make more success stories of social rejections and rejects like me.