She sat before me, eyes expressionless… breathe coming short and rapid. Mouth agape, and she seemed to be gulping air. The eyes were expressionless for labeling intense feeling she felt was opening a putrid can.
As for me… I was totally confused I didn’t know what brought this blankness and what the daze. I knew she was going through a rough patch with her marriage, and she was worried about her children. I knew the mild cardiac infarction she had as her 56th birthday gift which she had not shared with anyone. The only reason I knew it was I saw her taking the medication.
But this was beyond that she woman who stood strong through all these turbulences I don’t know what to say. Usually when I am stuck for words Anagha Deshpande the playwright gives me the words, but now the person who lost her voice was someone I could not connect to.
‘Yami Gautam, put it rightly…I froze’ finally the sentence emerged after nearly an hour’s silence.
“The movie” she replied
“What?’ I was startled again.
“A Thursday…. I watched it…I should not have” finally she looked at me raising her lids, the eyes were still blank with no expression at the same time there was pain, shame, anger maybe like the color black that absorbed all the colors and presented a single unified color all her feelings were assimilated into that blankness.
Maybe it was the shock of a forgotten memory opening up.
“How many women like me do you think would be out there”
“In the sense”
“I had forgotten the pain, the shame for the past 50yrs of my life. Watching this single movie brought back all the pain. An insight that touches to me meant violation”
I did the only thing I could do and I never did all these years heard her pain. Maybe I should have reassured or consoled her but I had frozen too.
“No amount of trying to explain why I did something… forget about explaining to others, I could not even explain it to myself… how could I? I didn’t know what was going on inside of me, so how could I explain it to anyone?”
“Smiling being friendly meant you have stepped out of the very narrow lane that good girls are supposed to stay within. And girls who stepped out are ‘sluts’ it was a monologue ‘sluts, are loud, messy did you know that is was slut originally meant? An untidy woman. Ha! But women by the rules of the world have to tidy in all ways, be quiet, obedient, agreeable, available and of course never aggressive. If I were to say I refuse to cook dinner because I have been in surgery for 6hrs then I have stepped outside that bloody line… from Hail Mary I go to Magdalena… ambitious woman… is a messy woman so the S word is thrown to keep us line’
She had begun to thaw and her anger coming out… no rage coming out. Strange being touched violated her it violated me too in a different way.
“Family is harsh, in pointing your faults “
Being beaten because the elders in the house did not have the energy to negotiate somewhere told me if people come close, they are going to hurt you. the best thing to do was to build the fortress and keep every bloody human being out. Both of us needed to feel that touch was safe both of us violated both of us were similar yet so different.
Sometimes I wonder if I draw a an ardhanarishwara on a board as ask the men to write out on the side of shiva what steps they would take on a daily basis to prevent themselves from being sexually assaulted what would they say?
Maybe sneer at me? May nervous laughter a smart Alec might say “oh! I’ll stay out of prison” anything beyond that? I doubt. Max maybe well I don’t think about it.
Ask a woman, and it will begin with keep the door open when the service staff come so that if need arises you can run out. Pepper spray, safety pins. Women take care not to leave their drinks untended. There are girls who don’t jog early mornings or late night. Speaking to someone all through the cab ride. park in well-lit areas. Don’t use parking garages. Don’t get on elevators with only one man, or with a group of men. Vary my route home from work. Watch what I wear. Don’t use highway rest areas. Use a home alarm system. Don’t wear headphones when jogging. Avoid forests or wooded areas, even in the daytime. Don’t take a first-floor apartment. Go out in groups. Own a firearm. Meet men on first dates in public places. Make sure to have a car or cab fare. Don’t make eye contact with men on the street. Make assertive eye contact with men on the street.”