For all my new friends who have recently started following this blog.....please start at the very is a good place to start to get the full impact of this fascinating tale.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Leopards Spots etc etc

Me and my sister Juliet with Deepak (RM's old family friend). 
I met RM through mutual friends. We were both dating other people at the time, but the attraction was immediate and strong and we ended up dumping our respective partners and getting together. Things were good and he was wonderful and we quickly became an accepted and popular couple in our group.
His parents were very fond of me and they suggested I move into the small room over their garage, since I was spending most of my time at their place and it would save  the rent I was paying. I was thrilled at the idea and promptly moved in, bag and baggage, without a second thought.
Once I had settled in, RM's behaviour began to change. He became extremely possessive, moody and unpredictable. The first time he hit me over an imagined suspicion I was too shocked to react. The next time he lashed out, I hit him back and threatened to leave if he ever raised his hand again. He begged forgiveness and blubbered that he did not know what came over him, and I struggled to understand. This pattern  began to repeat itself again and again...the violence followed by weeping and crying for pardon, and me always relenting because I sincerely believed that he would change, or that I could change him if I stayed.
RM proposed we get married and I agreed to an engagement, convinced the circumstances would improve if he was more secure, but they only deteriorated over time. My parents tried to tell me that I was heading for disaster, because if he was so violent before the nuptial knot was tied the situation could only get worse.
 They never forbade the relationship or asked me to come home - they believed I had to make my own choices and bear the consequences.The hardest thing for them was to see me in pain, and it took a Herculean effort to stand by and  watch and wait, until hopefully better sense prevailed. I asked my father much later on why he did not command me to end the relationship. He said in the state of mind I was in I would only have resented him for interfering and would have done exactly what I wanted. He claimed it was only when self realisation dawned could one do the sensible thing, however difficult that might be.
I did have my light bulb moment eventually and decided to end the relationship when things got really unbearable. I retreated to Saraya, licking my wounds and swearing never ever to leave again, since I seemed to lack the ability to cope with the world and what it threw at me.
The positive that came out of this episode was my meeting Deepak Edwards, who was an old family friend of RM's. Our lives intertwined in strange and mysterious ways, so maybe it was this friendship and what came out of it, that was the reason I had to go through what I did. Today Deepak is a kind and loving father-in-law to my daughter!
The life lesson I learned from this experience is that one cannot change the basic nature of another human being. If unfortunate enough to be in a relationship where there is even a hint of abuse - verbal or physical, it is wisest to move away and save oneself greater trauma at a later date.
Lesson two is succinctly put by George Bernard Shaw " I disprove of what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it."  I might not have always agreed with people but I have never imposed my beliefs on any one. I would only hope to offer a word of advice or a point of view, but at the end of the day each individual has to make up their own mind, and live with the aftermath of that decision. I have always respected choices and given the same unconditional support, regardless of the road opted to travel down.

Friday, 20 January 2012


The next year was spent in relative tranquillity in Saraya. I gave my Intermediate exam privately and when talk about choosing a college began, I felt complete panic at the idea and refused to even think about going. As a result of this unreasonable phobia I remain till today, supposedly unlearned and unqualified for all intents and purposes.
My aunt Kiran whom I affectionately call Kay, lived in Delhi , and it was decided that I would go stay with her for a few months until I decided what I wanted to do with my life. I landed on her doorstep, waif like and lost and she immediately took me under her wing.
The first stop was the beauty parlour where I had never been before. I was  given a cotton  gown to wear and then firmly ensconced in a chair, where Mr V was told to give me a head massage followed by a hair cut. He began to do the needful, and then whilst kneading my shoulders, suddenly  reached down and whipped his hands much lower than he should have. I glanced in the mirror expecting to see an evil glint in his eye, but was only met with a stony blank stare. I presumed then that the touching of taboo places was part of the 'maalish', so stared blankly back at him, as ever so often he ventured downward for a quick swipe. Once we got home I told Kay that I never wanted another head massage because I was uncomfortable with strange men touching certain body parts. She was furious and exclaimed that it was definitely not part of the deal and I should have shrieked blue murder. I told her sheepishly that I did not want to appear like a village idiot so had held my tongue.
Darling Kay was my ideal in those days and I wanted to be just like her. I tried to dress, talk and conduct myself like her, whether I was comfortable in that avatar or not. I tried hash and opium and  puked violently after every session, so these social drugs were avoided. In fact I was lucky enough to react badly to every thing I experimented with, so never ever got addicted to the more dangerous and heavy stuff, unlike so many of my less fortunate peers.
My parents decided that I should make a trip to Mauritius to spend time with very close and dear family friends - Uncle G and Aunty S. Their son SK, whom I had known all my life, was in Delhi at the time and was supposed to put me on the flight from Delhi to Bombay, from where I was to catch the connecting flight to Mauritius. Tickets had been bought and all arrangements made, but en route to the airport he began to lecture me on how I was expected to behave while I stayed with his parents - no bad language, no freaky clothes, no smoking. I decided on the spot that I did not want to go on this trip at all, and told SK to drive me back to my aunt's place immediately. I refused to listen to any reasonable argument put forth by the poor man and defiantly landed back on Kay's doorstep a couple of hours after I had left, while poor Uncle G waited at the Mauritius airport and my parents tore out their hair in frustration at my unreasonable and impulsive behaviour.
I stayed on in Delhi for a few years after moving out of Kay's flat and finding  accommodation of my own. I enrolled in the secretarial course at the YWCA which bored me so I left half way through. I worked for a while at Jean Junction in Connaught Place, which was a hep and happening place back in the day, but got fed up there as well and quit in a few months.
Days were spent hanging out at The Cellar and nights were spent dancing at Wheels in the Ambassador Hotel.  "The Exorcist" and "Omen" were released and this genre of movies were a new experience for die hard horror fans like me. Money was saved to buy records - Saturday Night Fever, Fleetwood Mac and Giorgio Moroder's From Here to Eternity were the hits of the day while Donna Summer's Love to Love you Baby made hearts beat faster. CP was where one wiled away time and Nirula's was THE joint where one ate. I had a good looking boyfriend from Jalandhar who would drive up to Delhi most weekends in his red Mercedes and life was great.
But knowing my penchant for misfortune it was not long before trouble found me again.

Thursday, 12 January 2012


Kathmandu - in happy times

With mind and spirit in turmoil after "the rape" I came to the conclusion that I needed to get away to sort myself out. There was no way on earth my parents would have allowed this, so the next step was an elaborate plan that I hatched to run away from home. The destination I had in mind was Kathmandu, which was a place I was familiar with, and where there were enough freaks roaming the streets so  I would fit in perfectly.
I left a note telling my parents not to try and find me and that I would return on my own when I was ready. My mother recounts the sickening sensation of shock and disbelief that she felt at reading this terse missive, since it was beyond her comprehension how I could be capable of doing something so drastic and unthinkably selfish.
I crept out of the house in the dead of night and caught a bus to Sonauli from where I crossed unchecked,  into the border town of Bhairawa in Nepal. I then took another ride up to Kathmandu where I blended into the throng of hippies, junkies and other strange people that made the Mountain Kingdom so notorious in those days.
It was just a week later that I  met up with a budding pop singer, TB, who introduced me to his family and offered me a decent place to stay. It was not long before I knew that things were very wrong. The family realised where I had come from, and who I was and decided that it would be lucrative for them to keep me under lock and key. The days that followed  passed in a disjointed haze in which I seemed to spend most of the time sleeping, so I presume I was being  given some kind of sedation.
My mother in the meantime had made a number of trips to Kathmandu to try and track me down, but only met dead ends wherever she went. She received a number of strange, frightening phone calls from unknown voices in the middle of the night, telling her not to worry because "they" would ensure I was returned to her safely. My parents lived in terror for the month that I was missing, not daring to hope for the best and trying not to think about the worst.
When my parents could not trace me, they sent a trustworthy Nepali gentleman who was employed in Saraya to try and find out where I was. He somehow, through local contacts, managed to locate me and a deal was struck to let me off in exchange for a large sum of money.
I staggered into my mother's arms a little over a month after I had so thoughtlessly walked away. I had not bathed  in all that time and my hair was a mass of stinking tangles. I was in an emotional vacuum, not really comprehending how lucky I was to have got out of this dangerous situation relatively unscathed.
For the first time in my life I saw my father cry when he met us at the Bhairawa airport, and that was a sight that shattered me completely. I never heard a word of recrimination from either of my parents, though the hurt in their eyes at what I had put them through was very much there.The only reaction I got from them was unconditional forgiveness, understanding and immeasurable amounts of love.  I deeply appreciated this but sometimes wished they would shake me up or even bash the hell out of me, since this kind and understanding behaviour only fuelled the guilt I felt and my down spiral just got worse and worse.
Looking back at that chaotic period of my life I feel I was actually going through some kind of breakdown. The whole journey was so surreal and almost like an out of body experience. I sometimes felt as if I was looking down at myself from a different plane and barely recognised the person I saw.
The first life lesson I learnt from this traumatic episode was the legacy of infinite understanding and support that I got from my parents, which I could in turn hand down to my own daughter. Luckily for me she was not the problem child that I was, but the lessons learned served me in good stead when she went through her own share of teenage trauma.
 The second lesson I learned was the ability to be completely non-judgemental. People were quick to gossip and speculate about the wild child I was, without having any idea of what was going on. Behind every unexplainable action there  is usually some sordid saga which accounts for unreasonable behaviour, and nobody should ever have the right to play God.
If I knew then what I know now I would tell the young girl in the picture to be careful where she sits! You never know when a rude finger can hurt a vulnerable body part!

Thursday, 5 January 2012


I have spent hours pondering on what the next chapter of this blog should be. It would have been the easier option to just say the next ten years were traumatic ones and leave it at that. After much introspection, I decided to dig up old noxious memories and put incidents down as they happened, without going into too much sordid detail. Each event that took place had an impact in shaping the person I am today, so with that in mind it becomes necessary to put facts down as they occurred.
After leaving Ramnee my life spiralled downwards, completely out of control. I was filled with a sense of guilt at letting my parents down, who were the only people in the world whose opinion ever really mattered to me. I would spend hours locked in my room, listening to music at a deafening volume, doing nothing more than sitting and mindlessly staring into space. I became a social recluse, who only spoke when spoken to and hated leaving the house or meeting people.
 Losing a very dear family friend, RB, who was in the Air Force during the 1971 Indo-Pak conflict, followed by the sudden and untimely death of my Granny Anna, also made me realise for the first time that those around me were mortal and would not be there forever. I spent sleepless nights working myself into a frenzy, worrying how I would cope if anything ever happened to my loved ones.
Then there was rape. The gory details are immaterial -  the why, how and when don't matter. What matters is the desolate empty feeling of abuse and shame. When I was young I had infinite faith in the basic goodness of friends and family, and it came as a rude shock when that trust was cruelly betrayed. I personally believe that if one has to be put through the agony of this traumatic situation, it is better to have to go through it with an unknown entity. The sense of disbelief and outrage that a family friend could do this, was almost too much for me to handle at the age of fourteen.
In those long ago days, in a small village like Saraya, I did not have the luxury of psychiatric help and the only person I could confide in was my mother, whose expression of horror and pain tinged by disbelief I can still vividly recall. She spoke to AKB, the man involved, and forbade him to ever enter the house again and all he did was hang his head and look at his apology or explanation was given....not that it would have made any difference. We decided to keep this ugly episode from my father because I  could not bear to imagine the consequences of his knowing, and we were sure he would have killed the rapist in cold blood for what he had done to me.
Out of all the confusion  in my mind there somehow grew an even more overwhelming sense of culpability. I convinced myself that I was responsible in some way for what happened, since there was no other reasonable or logical explanation for a seemingly  good and kind person to turn into an ugly unrecognisable beast.
What followed  was a period of self loathing and complete withdrawal. I struggled to come to terms with what had taken place and endeavoured to make sense of the whys and wherefores, but never found  answers that made any sense. It was decades later that I came to the conclusion, after a lot of soul searching, that I was not to blame, and I should stop castigating myself for something that so changed my thought process and outlook on relationships. But by the time this revelation occurred I had put myself into so many complicated and unsavoury situations, that in hindsight it seemed almost like I had a death wish and needed to punish myself in harsh and diabolical ways.
I developed the strange habit of pulling out my hair. I could not curb this strange compulsion and it was years later that I found out this form of self mutilation had a name - Trichotillomania! It is an impulse control disorder sometimes affecting those with low self esteem and depressive inclinations. Today this peculiar problem is treated with psychiatry and medication but in those days I had to bumble along, yanking and pulling, on my own. I did manage to eventually wean myself off this quirky behaviour, though I find my hand still creeps to my hair in times of stress, though I  rarely actually pull out a strand any more!
Many years later my mother received a letter from my abuser apologising for what he had done. He claimed nothing had gone right in his life, and wanted to meet me to make amends. She asked if it would help to bring closure to the sordid episode to meet him face to face, but I did not feel the need, since by then I had buried my demons as deeply as the spectre of rape can ever be laid to rest.
The life lesson I took from this  repulsive incident is that no matter how much parents try and protect their progeny, bad things do happen. I believe awareness is the gift we should give our children, rather than wrapping them up in cotton wool to keep them safe. With mindfulness comes a deeper and clearer understanding of the realities of life which are intrinsic to survival, and gives the strength and ability to better cope with difficult situations.
If I knew then what I know now, I would tell the young girl desolately staring into the mirror, that life would be good and she would only be stronger, wiser and  gentler in spite of what she had been through.