When I was abused as a young student
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These days the ‘Me too’ campaign has thankfully caught on fiercely amongst the educated class the world over, but my story dates back almost 30 years or more when I was still an almost wet behind the ears, eager to please teenager, bursting with the importance of my own newly discovered sexuality.
In those days I used to take private coaching lessons from a Sir, who incidentally was a Sir to all the young budding girls, in the vicinity.
It was sort of mandatory in those days for a girl who cleared her 12th standard to learn this particular craft from this particular Sir. It was, in fact, almost a ritual, a tradition.
In my case, I think I enjoyed the attention he showered on me. Right from day one, he praised me for my eagerness to learn, my quickness in picking up the lectures, and often gifted me tiny booklets on the subject.
Related reading: Why can’t we admit to being abused, in our country?
Was I to blame, for leading him on?
I was not sure of how much I was to blame (I guess each victim’s secret shame is similar), because most of my classes had become almost a delicate teasing attempt to win his approval, and soon collective classes started getting rescheduled to individual classes, sometimes by him, and sometimes by me.
The cat and mouse game (if it had been a teen love story this would have been called the wooing phase) would have gone on longer perhaps, but one day, in the middle of the rescheduled individual class, he slid his index finger right down my cleavage.
I don’t remember being angry, or afraid, but I do remember telling him firmly enough this must stop, blushing even while saying it.
That class and further classes, continued as usual, till it ended with completion of the course. As if it had never happened.
I simply stopped rescheduling to individual classes.
Would anyone have believed me?
One part of me was of course, ashamed. The other part wondered if I would be believed by anybody, because so many students before me had no such issues, and yet another part remembered my distant friend Mala, who had suddenly stopped coming to his class, three months ago.
I wondered if Sir had something to do with it. The official story told to me by my mom (spread by him, I am sure) was that she was not happy when scolded in front of an audience.
But now I had my doubts.
I caught her, and asked her what had made her quit.
“Nothing, it was too far away,” she said, but the discomfort in her tone and her eyes made me wonder if she was hiding what I was hiding too.
It was almost six years later that my neighbour’s daughter Saraswati quit the class in a week’s time.
The story my mom gave was that she insisted he (“imagine, he is my father’s age”) was flirting outrageously with her. Mom again insisted it was cock and bull, arguing, “Even you studied there, did you ever feel like that?”
I don’t know if Mom ever guessed from my tone and eyes what I was still hiding. It seemed too late in the day to say ‘me too’.
It seemed too late in the day to say ‘me too’.
After all these years, of marriage, children, being an independent working woman stuff and all that, it is still one of my deep regrets, that I had been manipulative, and not innocent like Saraswati, not brave like her either to call a spade a spade without wondering whether I would have been believed or not.
This is sort of my ‘Me too’ cry.
Yes, me too, me too.