As I sit down to write this, the first thing I do is to try and think about how to convince people why I am writing this in anonymity. This might prompt many of you reading this to doubt the credibility of the serious “allegations” I am about to make. But I think I trust these times enough to know that there will be at least a fraction of people who will believe me and my story.
This story has been stuck inside me for too long now, aching to come out. It is definitely not an easy story to tell. It would often spring out of me during rare nights; mostly during drunken conversations with female friends – then I would find momentary solace, and the story would recoil back and sleep inside me. I think this story seeks listening, understanding and more importantly; closure.
This happened when I was 17 years old. I was a confused teenager, an introvert, highly awkward in social situations. But I was still privileged enough to be exposed to a circle of artists, journalists, writers and filmmakers who frequented my home in Kerala, thanks (?) to the social capital my father had earned by then.
Now, let me cut straight to my story. One evening, my parents, my younger brother who was then 11, and I were out in a park. There, we met my father’s very close friend and acclaimed journalist Gouridasan Nair. He was with his 10-year-old son. During those times, Gouridasan Nair used to come home very often. He would drink, sing, and discuss things with my father. All the while, his presence never intimidated me or I have never felt uncomfortable when he was around. There have even been instances when he had dropped me back home safely at night. Maybe that is the reason why what happened that evening disturbed me so much.
This particular evening, as we were about to wrap things up and go back home, my parents had some urgent thing to attend to. So they asked Gouridasan Nair to drop my brother and me home, and said they would be back home after the matter was taken care of. As my parents left, my brother, me, Gouridasan Nair and his son started walking towards his car which was parked a little far off. Night had started to set in and there was barely any light where we were walking. I remember my brother and his son were jumping around and running in front of us. As I was walking to keep pace with them, I felt this man’s hands around my shoulder. Something sparked inside me and I felt it was wrong. But the trust I had in him was so immense that I ignored my own intuitions. Slowly, he started brushing his hand against my breast. Then I definitely knew it was wrong. I froze, filled with disbelief.
I tried to shrug his hand off, but he wouldn’t stop. He continued to press my breasts with his hand harder as we walked. My eyes were filled with tears and I didn’t know what to do. I could see the two kids laughing and playing in front of me. I wanted to cry out loud and run away. But I didn’t do that. Don’t ask me why. I was just praying we get to the car as fast as possible.
Once inside the car, I thought things were over. But then he started asking all kinds of questions. Like what time do I get back home, what time my parents usually come home, who picks me up and drops me from my tuition class. This scared me even more. As we reached home, I was relieved to find that my parents were already there. I ran upstairs to my room and cried and cried. I felt dirty. My body felt dirty.
The following evening, I had just come back from school. It was just my brother and I at home. And then the phone rings, it’s this man. He asks me how I’m doing and if I’m at home. This was my limit, I felt I just couldn’t take it anymore. I hung up the phone and quickly dialled up my mother’s number and asked her to get back home immediately.
I told my mother and she understood. So did my father. The man came home two days later and apologized. I felt funny when he did that. I mean the damage is already done, an apology meant nothing to me. Maybe it was to clear his own conscience and of course to mend ties with my father – an important link in the malayali cultural network. He can’t afford to lose that, can he?
I would like to believe I am over this incident. But sometimes it comes back in waves, haunting me. The next year, I went to college in another city and rarely visited home. The next time I saw him was in 2013, ironically in a seminar on women’s representation in media. He was one of the main speakers. I don’t remember what he spoke about. I only remember sitting up straight and looking him in the eye. I would like to believe that he stammered a little at the beginning of his speech. It made me so angry to know that he was still being accepted and celebrated even. I wrote out my fury, and put it in a blog I used to maintain back then – without naming him of course.
That same anger resurfaced in me again, after reading Yamini Nair’s blog post. It made me want to tell my story – once and for all. It is time to build new alliances, give each other strength and call such abusers out. Because this is abuse of power and privilege. The privilege being an articulate, well-read savarna male at the helms of Kerala’s cultural circles. The privilege of male bonding, of thinking you have a safety net of men guarding you no matter what you do. And no, his contributions to the world of journalism don’t matter one bit. It is founded upon violence. I reject it out rightly.
“The notion that sexual misconduct within the Left can wait until the revolution, is a great incentive for sexual abusers within the Left to actively ensure the revolution never happens, delaying it the best they can. What a shit strategy. Try again,” said Raya Steier, the first to start a #MeToo wave in India.
It is many thanks to women like her and Yamini and many female friends, that I am finally able to say this.
My story can rest in peace now.