Written By: NandithaRamadurai
July 13, 2015
Often, the earliest memories shape the way someone thinks or feels about a particular subject for the rest of their lives. These memories could be as delightful and as simple as the first time you tasted chocolate ice cream and how you never wanted to try anything else- or as traumatizing as the instantaneous fear creeping throughout your body when you need to climb a ladder ever since you fell down when you were five. Incidents, and memories of those incidents, become an inseparable part of you- kind of like those two best friends who act as though they’re joined at the hip. Life’s funny like that. Even the smallest actions can lead to huge impacts in the future. I’m probably flooding with my memories since fourteen years ago but there is one particular memory that comes into my life like that one uninvited guest who shows up every so often.
It was back in 3rd grade and I was normal little girl living with my family in India. We just moved there from rainy Paris and I was a very happy and clumsy little girl. My family had recently hired someone to wash our two cars once every week but then, the man started acting weirdly around my sister and me, coming to our house to “clean the car” but ended up talking to me and laughing at me. Later, he started putting his hand in my shirt when my parents were busy inside the house. You think that I would have screamed, yelled, or told her parents but unfortunately, I didn’t know what he was doing- I was eight years old after all. I know he did it a few time before I told- I still recall my mother’s reaction with poignant clarity. That one day, the evening breeze was cooler than usual and the air had that “earthy” smell that I loved so much. Me, my sister and my mother were walking outside our cozy home and somehow the topic arose. I told my mother what happened and I still don’t know if my mother was scared, angry or both, but, she called my father as soon as I told her and we asked him to leave saying that we didn’t need his assistance any more and tried to clear our minds of it. I forgot about it for a while when we moved back to France but every visit to India soon became an overwhelming experience where everywhere I turned, I saw eyes fixed on my every move. Grown men looked at me like I did something wrong and so I usually stayed in my grandpa’s air-conditioned room for many days in a row afraid of something happening to me again.
It’s been seven years since it happened but I’m still affected by it. I’ve become extremely careful and I still get extremely nervous walking around in front of boys or men. Sometimes when I see someone is looking at me, I’ll think there is something wrong and start scanning myself- is my skirt flying? Is my shirt too low? Are my shorts too short? But then I’ll keep on walking pretending nothing happened at all and I try to act as natural as possible. The incident has changed my entire thinking and I woke up from my fantasy to the harshness of reality. For societies like ours where so many of us are forward thinking, creative, and actively making many advancements, it still baffles me how we lack basic decency towards other human beings. Many other girls have had to live through far more painful and scarring incidents than me even though they did nothing to deserve it.
But as my parents reminded me, not all men are bad. You may just run into a few of them who are. There are actually many positive aspects that arose from that. For one, I’m growing to be stronger, and more powerful. I’ve learned never to be dependent on someone or something and to always be careful and I now accept the fact that memories such as this one helps to define me as a person and I can never be seperated from them.