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Dennis S Jesudasan
So, yeah. It happened when I was a Class 3 or 4 student in a prominent school in my native Cuddalore in northern Tamil Nadu. It was one of those school functions that would extend the day up to 8 or 9 pm in the night. Most of these functions be it annual day, sports day or any other would be organised essentially on a Saturday so that the extending function does not affect a following working day.
On this day, I was not taking my cycle to school for whatever reasons. The function got over and it was well past 8 in the night. Mindful of getting late especially without my cycle, I was walking my way back from school.
When I was walking along a long, dark and secluded road called Judge Bungalow Road, a man who looked like in his late 20s offered me a lift in his cycle. But, when I tried to sit on the steel carrier behind him, he asked me to sit in the bar (the one seen in what they call gents cycle). I could not refuse since he was the one offering me a lift.
Few minutes into our ride, he asked me about my name, class and parents. While I was answering him, suddenly I realised he was caressing my thighs a bit under my half pants. I did not mind as it felt normal yet strange. Nor was I told about sex and related abuse by my typical conservative middle-class family.
By the time we crossed half that poorly-lit road, the animal in the man pushed his left hand into my trousers and held my private parts. As this was something I have never experienced in my life, I was perplexed. My repeated whining and forceful removal of his hand from my crotch under my half pants failed and proved feeble against his aggressive desire.
Now, I jumped off the bar from the cycle. He stopped and said he will tell my parents that I was disobedient. (Now I laugh at myself for that). After promising me to take me home fast, he lifted me and made me sit on the bar again.
But this time, he did not do anything since we had passed that road and entered Beach Road with bright street lights and bikes passing by quite often.
In a junction, he dropped me. I thought that was the last I saw of him. But, I spotted him again in my school another day. “Ah, he is that one,” my conscience told me. He must have a son or a nephew who he was dropping at school everyday. He did not recognise me or pretended to not know me. Though I felt violated, the experience slipped my mind since I did not see him thereafter.
Not until I was educated about child sexual abuse through posters during my college days, I realised I was a victim too.
I am 26 now and it was long back, yet I remember his face very well. Dark, tall, thin with a furtive face. To me, that was the first face of sexual abuse.
It was unacceptable – not for being a victim on an unexpected night, but to have remained silent when I spotted him the second time in broad daylight in the midst of students and parents.
Few years later I found myself in an incident helping a woman to catch hold of a molestor. And this, helped me forgive myself. I did not remain silent this time, even if I wasn’t the victim.
I was about to board a Cuddalore-bound bus from Puducherry during my college days, when a loafer who had groped a woman’s bosom was trying to get out of the bus. I held him in the entrance while the frail ashamed woman was crying in her feeble voice. Soon as I held him near the entry gate, people gathered and took him to her feet.
His face was ugly not because it was unclean and unshaven but because it was nervous, shaking, looking down and not brave enough to face the crowd for his act. That was another face of sexual abuse.
So, the next time you come across an offender, catch hold of the violator, gift a couple of tight slaps if proven guilty and chant in chaste Chennai slang – ‘Aiya, moojiya paaru!’ (Ah, look at your pathetic face)
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