By Anil Kala
[I saw Amir Khan’s show on Indian TV about child abuse with some interest. I suppose I qualify for victim of child abuse therefore the interest. My case appears curious in the sense I don’t feel I was abused at all. I am telling this story so that we do not lose sense of proportion in demanding punishment for offenders. Remember some fellows asked for death penalty for rapists.]
When I look back through the hazy tunnel of time, picture of this curious but very vulnerable kid crystallizes in clear focus. Even though that kid was me in distant past, I can’t quite identify with him anymore for we have moved so far apart in character and attributes that he could be just any vulnerable child. Yet, I know this child very intimately; a shy fellow, fidgety when meeting strangers but compensates that with extra effervescent with those he was familiar. When alone strange thought would occupy his mind making him abruptly look around to check if he was queer! But, for now, I am drowned in an overwhelming urge to reach out and take him in my protective cover.
The child was looking intently at that mysterious door, a wide single panel light brown door at the corner of the big room. The building used to be a barrack but now converted into four dwelling units side by side. The door on the wall separated the two neighbours. It was latched firmly from both sides. A large wooden box painted black with address stenciled in sharp white lay snugly between the frame of the door as an additional measure lest the door suddenly open and invade our privacy. An identical box was set similarly on the other side of the door in our neighbour’s house. Neighbour had three children, eldest a boy in class eight or nine, the girl seven years old and my class mate and the youngest one, I have no memory. The family appeared to be in sexual over drive. Husband would chase wife around the house and the girl, big and full, would often grab me in tight grip. Even though it felt heavenly in girl’s ‘aagosh’ (I will use the word ‘aagosh’ instead of hug, for it connotes that transcendental joy, warmth, comfort and security of womb) and yet, like a total jerk, in reflex response I would try to wriggle out of her grip. The big girl would laugh hysterically at my feeble attempt. Sometimes we would run away through the trees at the back of our house to the boundary wall of campus. A fallen tree trunk on the wall made bridge for us to climb to the top of wall and sitting there we would watch single propeller small planes flying away from the runway of an obscure flying club across the road behind the boundary wall. Sometimes we would sneak below the tree trunk when this girl would whisper conspiratorially ‘let us talk dirty’ a euphemism for getting undressed and exploring each other.
Memory of brother is sketchy; an ocean of maturity separated us. I guess he was remote, business like. He had crooked lips; when he smiled, he seemed to leer. Once he cornered me in the room with that queer door on his side of the house. Talked casually then dangled a glistening fountain pen. We were not allowed to use pen, only bland pencils. ‘You can have it’, he said. Then we discussed the details of the deal which was wrapped up with me declaring incredulously, “is that all?’ I was supposed to undress and lie face down on the large box set against the door. When I shrieked in pain, he was rattled, quickly retreated. I have little memory of the rest but I did get that fountain pen. This thing happened one another time.
Once in the evening lights went out, the whole cantonment sank in darkness. We were playing near the temple, lots of trees and bushes around there. We began to play hide and seek when this boy cornered another kid and made that indecent proposal. The little guy freaked out and suddenly all the kids began to talk about him. A few had stories to tell. Here it occurred to me that the arrangement I had made with him was taboo, socially sinful. I don’t remember if this was the reason we never had such encounter again or our family just went away on transfer to another station.
The point is, this episode left no permanent psychological scar. In fact the memory remained dormant in some very remote recess of my mind but for this TV episode it would have remained buried there. Now I look back and remember this incident amusedly.
This post, submitted by the author, appeared earlier on his own website.