I was only seventeen years old when I was involved in the greatest tragedy I know. It started a year earlier when my parents, my brother and I went to a popular restaurant in Bangalore. During our meal, we met a man. It turned out that he was the owner of the restaurant. He treated us with a lot of kindness. In addition to the kebabs and ghee rice we ordered, he even gave us free bowls of sauce and gave. Of course, we had a great day. As time went on, he became more and more close to his family. It soon became customary to visit the restaurant once a week. This visit was a respite from the usual devastation caused by the family drama Sait.
One day this man casually mentioned to me that he didn’t want me to call him Uncle. ‘Call me X,’ he said with a smile. I had a funny feeling in my stomach, but nothing really changed. Every once in a while, after dinner, we would all hop in X’s Mercedes and drive away for a sweetie paan and chatting. A new friendship was being built; my brother Danish and I would crack jokes with him or test him with puzzles we learned in school. Mom also felt comfortable enough around him to tell him about our private family matters. Once, while she was talking to him about her financial problems, she cried. He took his mother’s hand and said kindly, ‘Mamadi main hain na? fikar mat karo [Mamadi, I’m here, am I not? Don’t worry.]. ‘ And just like that, he gave her a bundle wrapped in a newspaper that had enough money to get us out of trouble. She sighed with relief; he immediately took the burden off her chest. This man helped his mother without interest, lending her money at zero interest. This sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? You’re right if you didn’t think so, because life is not a fairy tale.
When Mom sighed at the delay he gave the money, I sighed too. Just then, a hand slid into the back seat of the car where I was sitting and picked up my dress. X, who was no longer my uncle, smiled as he rubbed my thigh. I was stiff at that moment. The newly crowned prince from our family has just removed the financial burden from our shoulders. X continued his ‘acts of kindness’ towards our family. He started visiting our house and mom would laugh and cook for him. In front of her he would kiss me on the cheek and say, ‘O my Kubrati, you are my favorite little one’. Although I was uncomfortable, I was silent, because I found relief that there is peace at home.
Then, one day, the shit started hitting the fan. Checkbooks, pens and papers were thrown away. The screaming and shouting gradually intensified. Mom was crying and Dad was threatening to leave the house. I stayed up all night. In the morning I went to the PCO and called X. I yelled at the phone telling him what was going on at home. ‘All right, all right …’ he said, ‘tell me what you want me to do.’ ‘Call mom and tell her you’re going to solve the money crisis,’ I said. “Okay, I will,” he said. ‘But I’m worried about you, Kubrati. Don’t go to college today. See you at the Richmond Hotel. I’m there to… we’ll take care of everything. ‘ He drove away and took me to a hotel. He stroked my face and muttered that I looked tired. Then he kissed me on the lips. I was shocked and confused, but I couldn’t say a word. This was not supposed to happen, but it did happen. I should have screamed, but I couldn’t. I should have run for help, but I was shocked. The kiss grew. He assured me that this was what I wanted, that I would be better off. He repeated this until I turned a deaf ear, and then he unbuttoned his pants. I wasn’t sure what exactly was going on, but I remember thinking, I’m losing my virginity. It was a big deal, but also my shameful secret. She’s not the kind he could giggle about and talk to his girlfriends about.
From that moment on, X grew like a virus in my home. If I resisted him, he would stop accepting my mother’s calls. When she asked him why not, he would say, ‘Ask your daughter, Mamadi.’ And mom would come and scold me, ‘Phir se lad liye do jane? Nahin karna beta. See how much he does for our family. He is more than family. [Fought again, you both have? You should not, child…]”I was sexually abused, and no one near me could even say.
X was married and had a child. In the two and a half years he sexually abused me, he became the father of another child. He kept telling me how much he loved me and that he would destroy us if I told my family or mom about us. I believed in his every word. Looking back today, to be completely honest, I don’t know if I would have done something different if I had been dealt the same cards. The truth is, you can’t be sure. What I do know is that at that moment my mind, my soul, my truth, everything, absolutely everything, felt dead.
When I graduated, I wanted to move to Mumbai, but my mom suggested Dubai instead. I agreed to Dubai, not because of potential opportunities, but because it would keep both my family and X away from me. When I got my first real job at a cookie shop in Sharjah, it was, in the true sense of the word, a metamorphosis. I took off the old layers and it was painful. The torment, the relentless complaining voice that told me I was worthless disappeared only after years and years of working on myself.
Many years later I told my mom what happened between X and me. In our house, under her nose. We drove from Mumbai to Pune, and I think I took the opportunity just because I felt she couldn’t escape the conversation. I saw tears running down her face. She recently received an apology from her. But then again, I didn’t expect that.
Excerpts from Kubbre Sait’s ‘Open Book: Not exactly Memoirs’ courtesy of HarperCollins.
The views expressed above are those of the authors.
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