25 July, 2012

I turn 26 today; I have but one regret

(This blogpost won the Women's Web "I Stood Up" Blogathon Contest. Yay!)
I was six when he came to stay with us. He was a relative, close & trustworthy enough to be allowed to share my bedroom. He was sixteen, an age when hormones are usually playing havoc with a male's sanity. But that does not absolve him of his heinous actions.

He was fond of me, quite affectionate in fact. He would buy me candies & would never hesitate to give me piggyback rides. (In retrospect, my mum should have got suspicious right then. You see, I was almost double the normal weight for a six year old :P). Whenever my mum would leave us home alone, while she ran out for   an errand, his favourite game was "tickle-you-tickle-me-everywhere". This game would be played only when no one was around, mind you.

The first night I remember, was a hot & muggy one. I was a sound sleeper then, I am one still. I was jolted out of my slumber by a particularly unpleasant nightmare of being piggybacked on a horsie that had a prickly saddle. "Night"-"mares" have had a different meaning altogether for me since then.

I drifted back to sleep only to be woken up by a searing pain. I lay awake & aware of him lying next to me, his cold hands seeking crevices in my body. I did not know what he was trying to do. He was hurting me. He knew I was awake. He tried to lull me back to sleep. I did not go back to sleep that night.

The next time he woke up, I ran crying to my parents' room, but stood sniffling at their door, not knowing what to tell them. I walked back to my room, hesitated at the door. I knew he lay awake, his prying fingers intact. I went back to my parents' door.

I was six when I had my first bad secret. Though I did not know that I'd been sexually abused, I knew that something bad had happened to me. I did not tell my mother anything, except for vehemently protesting against sleeping in my own bedroom. My mother never prodded any further. She did not know any better. I was just six after all.

I was six, too young to have stood up for myself. Too young to have brought into open his actions.

But I'm twenty-six today, in fact writing this just after cutting my delicious chocolate-snickers birthday cake.  I know that 53.22 per cent of all the Indian children face one or the other kind of sexual abuse. I know that 79 per cent of these children choose to keep quiet. I know that 50% abusers are persons known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility.

I might not have stood up back then,but I stand up today for all young six year old children, girls & boys; boys too. I want parents to face this elephant in the room. Sexual abuse of children is prevalent, maliciously so.

I watch my nieces, six & two years old,like a hawk. I know that there are dirty old men and women lurking around, I have clearly spelt out to the elder niece the difference between a bad touch & a good touch. She knows she can come to me & share anything that makes her uncomfortable.

He thinks I was too young when he did what he did. He knows he left no proof. He's right. There are no tell-tale fingerprints & the likes left all over me. To that, add the fact that I kept quiet all these years - it was the perfect crime.Welcome to the world of sexual abuse.

He may or may not stumble upon what I've written. But this is not for him. I'm writing this to let those who read this know that in a room of twenty people, ten would have been sexually abused in their childhood by close relatives or friendly uncles or lascivious teachers. Teach your children, nephews, nieces, younger siblings to speak up, to stand up & raise their voice if they feel they're being exploited in any manner.

Writing this for catharsis & as a part of the  "I Stood Up" Blogathon by Women's Web.

20 July, 2012

Hair today, gone tomorrow!

Women! What could you say? Who made 'em? God must have been a fuckin' genius. The hair... they say the hair is everything, you know. Have you ever buried your nose in a mountain of curls... just wanted to go to sleep forever? 

Al Pacino immortalised these words in the 1992 movie "Scent of a Woman" & also broke my heart when as a jaded 18 year old I watched this movie & realised that no man would ever get to bury his nose in my non-existent "mountain of curls", because,let's face it: those prickly and scant bristles that grew out of my scalp could not really accommodate the nose of a man. 

My mother tells me I was a completely bald & slightly overweight baby. I can proudly claim that these things about me did not change for the next 25 years!

Having grown up watching Bollywood movies of the 80s & 90s, my eyes would remain transfixed on the luxurious,glossy manes of the leading ladies as they were wooed by the macho heroes in gardens & around trees with flowers & bees for company.

Then there were my girl friends in school, all of whom seemed to have an abundance of hair that required just a single twist of the hair-band to hold them in place. And I would trundle around, bob-cut in place, without the option of haughtily tossing my hair around like other girls as they flirted with the boys.

By the time I turned 16 however, I decided to grow my hair out, so what if they were as scanty as the greenery in my neighbourhood, as wispy as the tufts of Old Man's Beard that often floated into my balcony.

That was just the beginning of my hair problems. How else would one define the dilemma I would often find myself in when stuck with a mop of hair that would lie long, limp & lifeless. Undeterred, I soldiered on, growing my hair inch by inch - only to tie them up in a messy knot every time I stepped out. After all, you flaunt it only if you have (enough of) it, right?

I was 18, I was in college, I met the love of my life -in other words- I met the man who magnified my hair troubles by passionately declaring a couple of weeks into our romance that he absolutely loved long tresses on women. His words & the Al Pacino's dialogue haunted me every time I brushed my hair & grimaced at the the sheer volume of the strands left behind in the brush.

"Oliver Herford couldn't have said it better - A hair in the head is worth two in the brush", I would mock myself mercilessly.

As our romance flourished, the volume of my hair diminished. No, there was no relation whatsoever between the two phenomena :|

I turned 22 & wiser and realised that if I couldn't as much as control my hair, how would I ever go about controlling my life! They say that life is a maze full of struggles & impasses until you find a hairstylist who'd smooth away all your tangles as would a straightening iron.

And that is what happened with me. Through twists & turns in my life, which I can only term as fortuitous, I landed up at a saloon and met him. All I remember is gliding over to him as if in a dream & being guided into a chair more ergonomic than any I've encountered in all the office spaces I've been in. I spelled out my hair-woes to him. He listened, as would a priest in a confessional. And he pronounced his judgement: Length was something my hair could just not carry off; did I trust him enough to get bold with my hair. "I do", I whispered. He took over from there. My shoulders relaxed, I felt the tension ease out from them, down my fingers. I felt my worries float down along with my wispy hair that he, so deftly chopped away. His voice was gentle, the staccato notes of the scissors re-assuring.I closed my eyes & let myself go.

A year before I was born, Vogue quoted Givenchy thus - Hair style is the final tip-off to whether or not a woman really knows herself. 

When I opened my eyes to look at the woman who stared right back at me, I knew I had found myself; and that was the end of my hair problems!

This is my entry for a contest by Dove & Indiblogger : ‘My Beautiful Hair Story’. You can vote for it, if you like it :)

And girls who want to become more "hair-aware", check out the Dove Hair-Aware App to know better!