Tuesday, March 15, 2016


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"I still happen to think that running away and getting married was the better option", SHE retorted to Leena aunty as the latter bombarded her with statistics about how much her own wedding had cost a few years ago. SHE had been on the edge ever since she arrived at her parent's home which had been bedecked lavishly for the wedding.

"The vivid blue skies of Goa. A white imposing church with a fleet of stairs leading to the top. Me in a LWD and sneakers. Rohan in blue jeans and a leather bomber jacket. A no-fuss ceremony. And finally riding into the sunset on a Harley Davidson. I had it all planned to the minutest detail. But that was before the elders had jumped in and turned it into a circus albeit with the clowns taking center-stage in designer wear", SHE added to nobody in particular before storming out of the room. The over the top decor and the ever preposterously dressed folks were making her irritable.

Everyone had been discussing the weddings in the family and how the imminent one (her own sister's) took the crown when it came to the exorbitant amount being spent . Everything just had to be 'The Best'. Even if it came with a ridiculous price tag. "Poor thing. She does realize that there are no free lunches. Or dinners for that matter. Even if it is one thrown by your own parents. It can always be leveraged as a bargaining chip on a later date", SHE pitied her sister as she looked around for some respite from the crowd.

Finally SHE found a tiny balcony connected to the store room on the first floor. It had the strategic advantage of being located right at the back of the imposing house. Nobody could see her lighting up in that forbidden nook. As SHE inhaled the acrid fumes, the cold breeze soothed her frayed nerves. SHE was the one used to analyzing people and not the other way around. But it was not something SHE could avoid at the family gatherings. SHE was relieved that this function was being held in her own family instead of being one in her in-laws family. The judging would be much less but nevertheless it would still be there. The nicotine rush braced her for the pain even as her thoughts threatened to travel back to her own wedding.

SHE had known it. The memories would be back with a vengeance. The atmosphere of the house would stir up her subconscious and not just for the fleeting seconds of a passing nightmare. That SHE could handle. As SHE had been doing for the last few years. But living it out 24 X 7 was going to be tough. Could SHE do it ?

SHE had noticed the little girl crying and had beckoned her. The kohl smeared around her round eyes and the striped frock hugging the tiny frame gave her the appearance of a frightened raccoon. It surprised her that nobody had noticed the kid's tears. SHE could not spot the mother anywhere nearby so she had taken it upon herself to soothe the kid assuming that the latter was feeling neglected. Something that could easily be rectified with a small bribe. And it had helped. The huge chocolate bar (sneaked into her room by Rohan's cousin at his behest) and a beaded hair-clip did calm down the child to some extent.

But then the little one had talked between sobs about the 'bad uncle' who had hurt her. It numbed her at first and SHE was almost tempted to brush it off as some kind of story concocted by a kid's fertile imagination. Then SHE saw the evidence. The kid had innocently exposed the bruises while demanding a Band-Aid from her. "Don't you have a Band-Aid aunty ? Mummy always keeps one with her", the words flooded her brain. SHE struggled with a reply. But somebody had suddenly barged into the room to check on the new bride and everything was forgotten. At least momentarily.

Sadness. Shock. Anger. Hatred. Disgust. A plethora of emotions rioted though her mind. But SHE kept her calm and decided to consult the parents before confronting the offender. Had it been another place another time, SHE would have been leading the mob. But today SHE was the bride. And weighed down by strict instructions from everyone in the family to confirm to the designated role-play.

The girl's parents had decided to keep mum about it. And it did not come entirely as a surprise. What shocked her more was Rohan's reaction. He had brushed it off casually. And it was his continued camaraderie with his cousin which made it all the more painful. Doubt had crept into her mind. "Had he been the right guy in the first place ?". SHE had put an abrupt end to that train of thought. It was just the second day of her 'blissfully wedded' life.

"Ohh". SHE dropped the cigarette as the embers almost brushed her fingers. SHE had been consumed by her own thoughts and had failed to take notice. Lighting up the second one, SHE allowed herself to think about the little girl for the first time in many years. SHE had come across the child, now a introvert pre-teen, on a few occasions after the wedding. But each meeting had been short and thankfully did not allow for much interaction. But the mother has passed on the disturbing information. A steady decline in academic performance, unexplained fits of anger, a growing fear strangers and retreating into a shell most of the times were some of her complaints. The classic symptoms were there for all to see. If only one had the guts to look at it for what it was.

The guilt was all too familiar and it almost choked her. "I have failed myself. For the second time", the words were an angry lament as she snuffed out the stub and sprayed on some mouth freshener before shutting out her thoughts. SHE was determined to survive the ordeal for the next few days. And the random psycho-analyzing could only harm her cause.

Note - 1 out of 3 girls and 1 out of 5 boys will be sexually abused before they reach age 18. And 90 percent of these offenders are someone known to the kid.  This is a sad reality that we need to accept. In schools, daycare centers, in school buses/vans (especially those without female minders), in play areas within posh gated communities and even in the sanctity of their own homes, kids are a vulnerable lot as they do not realize the enormity of the violence to which they are subjected. But while these places are the usual suspects, most kids are especially vulnerable during the big family functions when they are exposed to loads of relatives. Yes, there is an ugly side to the big fat Indian weddings which we are reluctant to talk about. And that has been the sole objective of writing this piece. 

Read HERE to learn more about the symptoms of child abuse and the long term trauma suffered by the victims.

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