When I was six, you were the rickshaw walle bhaiyya who passed by me muttering, "Mere saath chal". Six. I was six. I left my play things where they were and ran inside to my mother. She told me it happened because I was playing too close to the road. She did not want me to believe I was at fault I'm sure, but that was the best excuse she could find for what you had done. You brutally taught me I had to be careful now, that I could no longer be a child.
I grew up with constant reminders of you.
You were always there. When you grabbed me on a crowded metro, when you pinched me on the footpath, when you passed by asking me to get in your car, when you followed me all the way back to my flat- all those times I went back to when I was six, it was a time travel back to square one. You said and did what you wanted to, and fled like a coward. And there I was, with a roller coaster of thoughts leading to a single thread, "What did I do? Was it my clothes? My face? The way I walk- what?"
But it didn't stop there.
I realized how I was to be blamed for what you did. I was blamed for all the time you yelled abuses at me from your car or called me a whore when I refused to dance with you in a club. I was the whore when I did not want to be with you or if I chose someone else over you. I remember telling a friend about what you'd done and she asked me, "What were you wearing?" and all I could yell was, "That's beyond the point!" That's what you have always instilled in the people of my race, that somewhere it's our fault.
It was you pulling me down, it's always been that- right from the age of six.
Does it seem like I'm poaching into your territory? When I am free and let my hair down, when I wear what I want, when I come and go as I please, does it not sit right with you? When I drink and smoke, dancing the night away, does it seem like I have taken away something? When I'm the working woman who lives alone, when you see me driving down a deserted road, does it seem like the power you held is wearing out? Is my freedom the pin that pricks the balloon called your ego? Is that what makes me a whore?
Then let it. I have had to learn my freedom.
I had to give myself time to learn that I can be where I want. It's not been easy, you made sure of that. Until I made the choice that I won't let it terrify me, I won't let you terrify me. So, here's to the man who called me a whore, you lost. Don't you see what that word defines? Each time you call me so, it's going to be an affirmation that I have gotten far ahead of where you'd want me to be. That's my prize.
Design Credits: Rohit Jhaku