This story is part of the 16 Days Of Activism campaign against sexual harassment. People are invited to share their experiences and shift the onus from the survivor to the perpetrator. To know more and take part in the campaign click here.

They were my favorite the 2 bhaiyaas (brothers) and one didi (sister) from the neighborhood. They would often come home and play with me and my sister. Sometimes we would go there and turn their house upside down. The older one among the two brothers must have been 21 and the younger one around 18. Their sister was the oldest.

My parents were both working full-time, six days a week. Unfortunately there wasn’t much middle-class parents like mine could do except for spending most of their time working hard, as they constantly thought of a better life for their two daughters they loved more than their own lives. The pressure to work was so much, ever-since I turned 3-months-old, my mother had to request relatives from Kerala to come down and take care of me while she went to work.

I was around 10-months old and under the care of a relative when one day my mother incidentally came home early from work, only to find me tied to one of the table legs. I had started crawling around that time and the woman was apparently lazy so she did what she thought was the best: tie me to a furniture leg. I peed and pooped there all day long and she paid no attention. The moment my mother discovered this, the woman was immediately sent back to Kerala and a new nanny was hired.

Days, months and years went by and I finally started going to school. Things became easier for my mother for I would spend half of the day at nursery and by lunch time, she would also return to feed me and my sister.

However, there was still a need for an adult to be around. My father traveled 30 kms to reach work in those days when we didn’t have a car or proper roads, thus his coming over to take care of the kids was ruled out. When the need for an adult was felt more and more, the neighbor bhaiyas and didi volunteered to take turns to come home and stay with me and my sister till my mother returned from work. Since the neighbors were really friendly and kind to our family, my mother had no second thoughts on taking this offer.

I was 4-year-old around this time, when one day my Rickshawala dropped me outside my house and my favorite neighbor bhaiya (younger of the two) was there to pick me up and baby-sit me. It was a wonderful day (like any other day) for my hyperactive-self. At some point that day before my mother arrived back from work, Bhaiya picked me up in his arms and made me sit on his lap. He started playing with me and from where I remember, he started tickling me a lot. I remember laughing hard. He tickled harder and I laughed harder and suddenly I felt his fingers slip inside my panties. I fell quiet because it hurt. He asked me if I liked it, I said no. He asked me if I will tell anyone what he just did to me, I said yes and he tickled me again and slipped his finger in my panties again. It hurt more this time but he didn’t stop. I am not sure for how long this went on but finally I managed to break free and run to the bedroom. He came after me and I was so scared, I crawled and squeezed myself in a corner under the bed. He tried convincing me to come out but I refused. I did not know what he was doing was wrong, but I sensed it wasn’t supposed to be this way. The next thing I remember is that my mother was home. He must have exchanged some words with her and left. I never ever uttered a word to my mother or anyone about what had happened. It was an isolated event and never happened again.

After that day, I had forgotten about that incident until I turned 13 and read my lessons in science only to realize I was abused. The realization made me furious. I wanted to question him, tell his family who he is and what danger he posed to children around him. Yet I could not gather the courage to tell my parents of what I had just realized. Fast forward to age 17, I heard he was getting married and we were invited. The moment I heard the news of his wedding and the idea that he will father a baby too, I was filled with feelings of anger, victory, doubts and relief for some reason.

The day finally came when I got to see my perpetrator and stood in front of him: his wedding day. We all went to congratulate him and his bride. He looked happy, his bride and all the family members looked happy for the special day. He greeted my parents and my sister and I deliberately kept standing as close to him as I could, to make him as uncomfortable as I could and in fact I congratulated him, but he never once looked at me. All I heard from him was “Thank you” with his eyes lowered, as if fixated to the ground.

Perfect ending to my story. I could have left it here. Yet, there is a reason I share this story today with the world after all these years of keeping mum. I share this story to tell everyone that we NEED TO TALK. Sweeping matters under the carpet, going hush-hush the moment someone discusses sex, sexuality, gender, desire, body parts, or anything does not achieve anything. We have out and loud sculptures of our gods indulging in sex at Khajurao. Stop with this hypocrisy already! Kama Sutra is a product of our own holy land. There is nothing to be ashamed about! We need to teach our children not to shy away from talking about sex and child sexual abuse or discussing anything. We need to talk about CSA, we need to make our children comfortable with discussing absolutely anything they feel is wrong, right, immoral, confusing, harassing, tormenting, or even pleasurable. It took me years to gather the courage to speak up.. But I wish for a world where no one else, not a single child suffers silently.

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