Tag Archives: Child abuse

The World Will Always Have Crying Children

I was watching Greenleaf, the Netflix show about Black Christianity. The episode showed a young child born with health complications and having to undergo numerous operations to live and a family struggling to let him go and be released of pain. Every time the sleeping child was shown on screen, I cried. The series also tracks a serial child predator. Nothing gory has been depicted (yet) but these seem linked. The child on the operating table was probably just the story giving its viewers a chance to cry and grieve over the fate of children.

In a life where nothing seems to be real or honest anymore, the only thing I feel moved by, is children. Children in hope, children in pain. I carefully avoided writing about or thinking too much about Asifa Bano earlier this year. I know I was being self-preservationist. That was okay too lately it hasn’t been feeling right.

Last week I was reading a book called Rust & Stardust, a true crime account of the events that inspired Nabokov’s Lolita. It brought up so much and I think that is still continuing. I always thought triggering things took a person back to an experienced past trauma of the same nature. I did not expect to be reliving violence, gaslighting alongside the sexual abuse I’ve experienced. It was a lot.

I remember where the story of my abuse stopped. The actual actions had ended years earlier and with minimal pain. Now that I know other survivors, I know I was lucky — I was not related to my perpetrator, he did not penetrate and my family believed me when I told them what my guitar teacher was doing. I was so lucky that gaslighting was not added to the trauma. Years later, I saw my guitar teacher at the doctor’s clinic. And he looked so old and tired and fragile, I could feel nothing but pity for him. Pity. In The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf tells Frodo about Bilbo that

“Pity stayed his hand. Pity probably saved his life.”

(I can’t find the above quote in exact in the book so I guess I’m remembering the movie). Pity definitely saved me from living a life inside a horror movie. I know this because I lived with someone who does that, who can only see monsters in love and has turned into a monster themselves.

Back then, I also remember reading Lolita, possibly around the same time as my run-in with my music teacher. The book also changed my life. It allowed me to see him as just a man, a human being and not a larger-than-life demon. It allowed me to stop being afraid, if that makes any sense.

 

 

 

I was silent for nearly a decade, probably because I really was okay after that and maybe that’s also my way of processing. Ten years later, The Vagina Monologues triggered the memory again, allowing me to take it out and examine the feelings at work there. When I said Lolita had helped me get over it, I encountered a lot of upset reactions. People got angry, people felt self-righteous then remembered I was a survivor too so got self-conscious.

Speaking to Harrish Iyer was one of the saner parts of this journey and possibly how we became friends — because we had each made decisions to not be victims in the situations that we found ourselves in.

When I read the story of Sally Horner, I was horrified at a whole new level. The story Lolita is a tidy, sweetened account in comparison to what happened to the actual victim. I felt I owed it to her and other victims like her to read the book.

It is making me go all volcanoes and lava inside and then the exhaustion of tears. It’s bringing up memories of other traumas I’ve suffered. And the world around is not made for dealing well with it. This week someone I considered a close confidant (who had sat with me as I cried through the book while reading it) told me that I was being paranoid and negative and imagining that the world was against me.

ALWAYS MAKE ROOM FOR THE FLOWERS This was shot at a 2012 Open Mic at IBar. I was neck deep in a bad life. I had quit a respectable life 2 years earlier. I had wandered into Open Mics that had just begun and quickly fallen into a relationship with someone I met there. Before I knew it, I was stuck inside a cage, tiptoeing around the explosive emotions of someone who did not really like me, hated anyone who seemed like competition. I stopped performing (or reading since that's what we used to do then) because it was just easier than dealing with the punishment. I also stopped going out and meeting friends, stopped talking to people. This was partly because he didn't like it but also because no one in the world was interested in knowing that a human being still existed under the label of 'girlfriend'. I had committed the crime of being single till 30, then dating someone younger than me and living with him before marriage so I was made to feel like I should be grateful I was not getting whipped in the street. My only outings beyond domestic chores were the fortnightly Open Mics where I was grudgingly tolerated so long as I played his adoring audience. On one such Monday, I waited all day for evening to come. It had been a very difficult few days, struggling to cope with his family's 'Hum to ladkewale hain' misbehaviour, his gaslighting abuse and my own financial worries (I couldn't work but all expenses were still split in half). We left in total silence and walked to the road. As he hailed a cab, I said, "Wait" – the first thing that had been said all evening. I turned and bought this flower from a seller on the road. He raised his eyebrows, smirked and then fell silent, probably deciding to save his barbs for his rap set coming up later. I know it's a weird thing to carry a flower in your hand just because. People assume that a woman with a flower has been gifted that by a man (everyone at the venue cooed over how romantic he must be, noting the engagement ring on my finger as well – also visible in the picture). But that night, this flower held my hand like no lover or friend ever has. #nostalgia #flower #memory #abuse #gaslighting #IPV #GBV

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This time round, I know what to do. I ended that conversation. I was angry with this person that day but now I am not. They are unable to deal with a world that is so ugly and I do not judge them for it. But I do not need to bear the trauma of their gaslighting in addition to my own.

I also think (and I can only speak for myself here) that we must be mindful of triggers but we don’t all have avoid them. I must face these triggers when they occur — maybe slowly, selectively and in my own ways. To avoid them would be to live fearfully which is not something I want to be, a creature of fear. It also dishonors the traumas faced by people to avoid and thus invalidate them. I’ve had it done to me so many times, I am not about to do that.

Sally Horner died in 1952, Asifa Bano in 2018 but what happened to them, happens to countless other people in hundreds of different ways, every day. Adults hurt children, men hurt women physically and emotionally. I cannot change the world (though I want to think I’m damn well doing my part with XXFactor, SXonomics and more). But at least I can make sure to honour what happens and bear witness to these lives.

A little ornament for my mirror. This is my Upsy-daisy to remind me that at least my reflection will smile at me. It has been a hard two days. First I made my way through a very triggering book on child abuse, for work. It brought up so much baggage, I'm still bruised internally. Then I was cut out of two different conversations about a trauma I had suffered. I met another friend to take my mind off the wounding stuff only to realise they were going through something very hard. And finally someone I considered a confidant who I had spoken to about being abused tried to convince me that I was just being 'negative' and 'paranoid'. Okay, this is not okay but I am. What does that mean? It means happiness and trust in this horrible world are distant dreams for me. But I'm not letting the people around me project their fears onto me. Maybe we are all monsters inside but some of us can live with that. This is for the flowers that still blossom in this city, regardless of its hate, its greed and pollution. #crochet #flower #flowers #daisies #crafts #craft #craftsmanship #craftswoman #craftswomanship #needlework #crafting #Ideart

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Let the tears flow. Let the flowers bloom. Let the children cry.

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Torn

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Stars Under The Rust

I haven’t said much these past few months, have I? Most of my time and creative energy has been taken up in the shows that SXonomics has been doing on various themes of gender sensitivity. It has been intense, time-consuming, demanding and emotionally draining. I also fall into habits of writing a certain way and in a certain rhythm.

I remember when I first chanced upon 55 word stories and took to them with such passion that all I felt about to produce was them. I had to push myself to say things with more words or less and stop myself from counting if they had gotten to the exact 55. Something similar happened when I first started writing fiction and I found myself unable to write the poetry that I’d spent most of my writing life producing. Now, three years ago I started performing and more recently gender-politicised commentary in a witty form. It’s proving to be difficult to come back to blogging, this way.

Reading ‘Rust and Stardust’ recently helped. This book is a chronicle of the true crime story that inspired Nabokov’s Lolita. In 1948, a 52 year old Frank LaSalle abducted 11 year old Sally Horner by telling her he was the FBI and was arresting her for stealing a notebook from a shop. For the next two years he travelled with her, posing as her father and repeatedly raping and abusing her. The book actually begins earlier, chronicling Sally’s hard childhood with an embittered mother, herself a victim of a runaway husband, then a suicidal second husband and painful arthritis. Sally is literally starving for affection, attention and validation, not to mention a fundamental right to live. Her sad tale of neglect, abuse and prolonged torture was hard, very hard to read. I spent 5 hours reading through it in one go and crying at regular intervals. I told myself I was reading for research and because I had to review the book.

But also, in this emotion-searing act of reading, I found myself tapping into parts of myself I haven’t accessed in a long time. A place that feels deeply and profoundly. Writers and other creative people exploit their own traumas and personal tragedies for their art and gain, yes. This means as one, I also need to frequently clean out the internal machinery and remind myself to honour the emotions and experiences and not just run them through the creative mill to churn out material.

I’ve already written a review of the book itself here. But it brings up so much more that I don’t feel able to articulate in words. I relived my own intimate tragedies while reading Sally’s story. I lived through the moments that felt like I would not be able to breathe again, experienced anew the situations that held me down choking and I thought I would never see light and the world again. The despair, the desperation, the anguish — all of it sprung forth again. And then, they faded. Do we keep picking at our scabs or do we keep sifting through the mess of our insides trying to make better sense of it? I don’t know.

But today has been better. I met a friend for lunch. We met when we were both 20, through some acquaintances. We lost touch but she found my blog almost a decade ago and we’ve had intermittent conversations on social media and occasionally in person when we’re in the same city. It’s a delicious adventure examining who you were and how far you’ve come, along with another person. From the 90s down to today, we talked about love, about selfies, about the writerly identity, about toxic masculinity, about accents, about personal expression. I told her about being in love at 20 and in devastating heartbreak around the time she met me. Later she said,

“Why did you put up with it? You are so much more intelligent than he is.”

This is a question I’ve answered to myself several times so I had the response. And in its telling, I found a bit more of myself. I hadn’t lost these pieces of me. It’s just as though they had been sleeping (or maybe I was, if it is possible to be partly asleep within the context of certain memories and abilities only). Parts of me felt like they were waking up.

Last week, The SXonomics Show performed its season finale of its three month run. It’s been an exciting, gruelling experience. And in all this growth, all this living, I’ve put my head down and worked hard so as not to get derailed by the hostility, the hatred and negativity around me. Several people I know came to the final show — a teacher who changed my life, a friend who I didn’t even know was a friend until she asked me to come to her mother’s funeral, a former love and a couple. This couple have been my people, as individuals and as a couple, for years now. But I seem to keep forgetting all these people, that they exist in only goodness and goodwill for me. It meant so much seeing them there. Another room in my head opening. It’s been there all along. I didn’t even realise when it shut firmly.

What's next for me?

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I guess I’m just glad these doors are opening and I’m waking up again.

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Poisoned

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

The Word SHOULD

The word SHOULD
is a stick that stains red
and claims its territory
over bruises, tears and
a scratched up childhood.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

Tiny Tales: Luka

I wrote this for an Alphabet Sambar prompt. Several members of the group said they did not get it. But two others did and liked it. Tell me what you think. Also, to keep from biasing you, I’ve posted the prompt at the bottom of the story and not here.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

Luka

The man clutches the bottle to him, his spirit hungrier than his stomach, for succor. The glass is warm, from hours of holding and caressing. But it stays unyielding. He clutches it closer. The drink is long gone and he has no money for more. But he is convinced that the magical respite it brings, has seeped through to the bottle. He will take the bottle with him. He has paid for it, fair and square.

The fingers of his left hand close over its neck and he picks it up. His right hand supporting its base, he curls it up inside him, warm from the weather outside.

“Mine.” he croons.

On the street, an old woman stares at him. Her hair turns to hissing snakes as he passes, but he knows she is harmless. Medusa fallen from the grace of a Greek god. She told him her story once, how her lover had cut her and dropped her like garbage, because his mother didn’t approve. She was a kindred soul in agony. She frowns at him now.

“What you got there?”

“A handful of wishes.” He replies, allowing her a peek at the lovely succor his coat has been hiding. But only a peek. Kindred or not, he won’t share.

“Mine.” he mutters.

“Won’t bring her back, you know.”

He gives her a gentle smile. He knows, of course. It’s the first rule. Or maybe it’s the second. No wishing for love, no wishing to bring back the dead. But she’s looking at the bottle so hungrily now that he moves away. No one must know what he has.

He reaches his building door and looks up. He strokes the bottle but nothing happens.

“LUKA!!” he says.

The noise in his right ear gets louder and he stumbles. Then, two small hands reach around his waist and start to pull him up the staircase. He reminds himself to recast the wishes better in the morning. He doesn’t like being kept waiting at his own door.

“You’re late, Luka.”

“I fell asleep.” says the little voice, slightly muffled in his jacket.

“Djinns don’t sleep.”

The man smiles. He remembers his training. Djinns are very sly creatures but they are pure magic. This one has an angelic face. He looks exactly like a nine year old. Luka. But Luka is magic. He can make wishes come true, provided those wishes are correctly framed. Mostly he is really very good. But with djinns you never know. He has to keep an eye on the bottle at all times.

“Mine.” he whispers again. His elbow knocks against the djinn’s head, as his grasp tightens around the bottle and he hears a little cry. The djinn looks up at him, eyes filling with tears. He puts his left hand on the little head and strokes the hair. Such a guileless face. The eyes just like hers.

They reach the door and Luka lets him go. Immediately the man crumples, his knees buckling. The bottle falls out of his hand and rolls away. He lunges after it in panic and grabs hold of it, before it hurtles over the staircase. Luka is still standing at the doorway frozen.

“You little shit. You made me fall. Trying to break the bottle, are you?”

He gets to his feet, not unsteady anymore. The bottle has given him some of its power, from four hours of holding.

Only the old woman on the street hears Luka scream.

~O~O~O~O~O~O~

The prompt was:  Dijnns are cursed malevolent entities known to twist innocent wishes. Dijnns are like temptations; fulfilling wishes without hard work. Dijnns represent the ‘easy way’ to get our wants. So this prompt is to write about the wishes that Dijnns can fulfil or can’t fulfil. You can write about Djinns and or wishes, together or individually. Write about you as a Djinn and the interesting journey you have had. Or write about a conversation that you may have with a Djinn. Or go personal and write about personal wishes. How your wishes make you different from others, and how much you are willing to risk to fulfil your wishes. Or go all psychological, ‘Why do you wish what you wish?’ Also remember, “Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.” Couldn’t resist the song, from pussy cat dolls :).

*If you’re a lover of words and like the idea of prompts, join Alphabet Sambar. We’re always happy to meet new members. Alphabet Sambar is on Facebook and Twitter. To attend a meet, shoot me an email at ideasmithy[at]gmail[dot]com.

MOVIE: I AM – Sensitive And Raw

I first heard of I AM from Harish Iyer (on whose life one of the stories is part-based). After that, I’ve watched this project grow from an idea into a social media venture into an honest-to-goodness film. One of (and it’s only one) I AM claims to fame is the fact that it is an entirely crowd-sourced film. The movie has over 500 producers from all over the world, people who caught the idea on their social fora/networks and decided to add their support to it.

(Please note this review has spoilers)

Another way I AM stands out is that it adds to the multiple story genre (only sporadically experimented with, by Bollywood with Dus Kahaniyan and Darna Mana Hain/Zaroori Hain). It’s not just comprised of four stories. These stories also have links to each other, no matter how tenuous in the vein of LSD (Love, Sex Aur Dhoka). The key characters in each story appear briefly in the other stories, as support characters. The format is an unusual one and itself bold, considering how the aforementioned films fared at the box office.

Which brings us to the question of whether the movie manages to retain any of that bold attitude when it comes to the subjects. That’s tricky to say, since there are after all four stories to be judged (each by a different director), not to mention a glittering star cast. Each of the four stories deals with a shift, even a crisis of identity through stories of child abuse, single motherhood, homosexuality and war refugees. As diverse as these situations may seem, they are held together by the human condition of dealing with love, loss, betrayal, death and rebirth.

The first story, I AM Afia features Nandita Das in the role of a recently deserted woman who decides to bring meaning back into her life on her own, through motherhood. While the acting was competent, I thought the story’s sensitivity came from the way the situation was laid out. Purab Kohli as the eager but awkward student donor was a refreshing surprise, being as one is used to seeing him in relatively superficial roles.

The second story, I AM Megha was what really caught my attention. After all, what’s a story about Kashmiri Pandits doing in a film about human relationship issues? To my pleasant surprise, it turned out to be the best story in the quartet. I was already impressed by Juhi Chawla’s second actress avatar in Teen Deewarein. I AM only cements my belief that a talented actress was wasted because she arrived in Bollywood about two decades too early for a role that showcased her talent. Juhi superbly brought out the tightly controlled angst, the suppressed anger of a war-displaced civilian as well as the awkward joy of an adult coming home to the place she knew as a child. Contrary to the style of her days in Bollywood, there were no histrionics, no OTT expressions or exclamations. All of this done with a tightened pair of lips and tearless, crying eyes. Manisha Koirala, (perhaps a little luckier with the roles she had a chance to essay in Bollywood) also held her own as the Muslim girl who stayed back in Kashmir even through the atrocities meted out to her family. This story underlined the idea that serious film-making need not be heavy or sluggish.

The third story, I AM Abhimanyu was the one that I really went to watch the movie for, based as it was partly on Harish’s life. I have to say I was rather disappointed. This time, it wasn’t the acting that fell short. Indeed Sanjay Suri as the tormented victim and Anurag Kashyap as his step-father portrayed their respective roles as best as could be expected. But I thought the story itself set out ambitiously, then got scared, tiptoed around the issue without ever facing it and withdrew rather ungracefully. The ending of the story was wrapped up a little too tidily, too quickly for it to seem real. Victims of child abuse struggle to face what has happened to them. Talking about it does not come easily, least of all to a parent on whom rests the expectation of protection. A death brings its own share of emotional upheaval, unwanted baggage and an entire layer of new, hard-to-deal-with feelings. Tying off that story with an emotional outburst in such a situation just seemed like a bad hat-tip to Bollywood at its worst. Possibly because of my high expectations riding on this one, I felt almost angry at the thought that I AM Abhimanyu seemed to parody rather than embody a very tangible, very horrific reality of families. In this one story, the actors saved the story from sinking into a seedy, dark mess. My most vivid memory is Sanjay Suri saying,

“He was looking for a widow. One with a small child.”

Maybe because of the emotional roller-coaster of the past three stories, I was worn out by the time we got to I AM Omar. In all fairness, I did not give it as much attention or patience as the other stories. I AM Omar must face the brunt of its placement at the very end of the movie which magnifies even the slightest of slips. Rahul Bose was probably the only one who could keep this story from bombing. My only real grouse with this story is that it was more about betrayal than gay rights. The narrative was more in the vein of a confidence trickster plot than a human interest story. Still, I guess the film-makers tried to depict something other than the standard familial opposition/ straight marriage/ childhood bullying aspects of homosexuality in India. Full marks for innovation then.

I saw the movie over two months before its release in the theater, courtesy their marketing team. At that time, I was told that some of the feedback could be used to make alterations. I haven’t seen the film in the theater after that so I don’t know if much has been changed. But I would think there wouldn’t be any modifications in major elements like plot and acting. One of the recommendations was to tone down the background music, since its volume and pace completely shattered the sensitivity and subtleness of the stories’ portrayal. I’ll hope that suggestion has been heeded since sound can really kill or create the right mood with the audience.

All in all, I’d say I AM is worth a watch, if only for how many restrictive norms it breaks. It’s hard to speak objectively about something that’s so close (based on a friend’s life), that at least tries to tackle issues most film-makers wouldn’t even talk about and does these by telling a genuine story instead of guilt-tripping the audience into watching because ‘it is about an important issue’. I’d say go watch it and judge for yourself.

I AM elsewhere on the social media: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Wikipedia

A Music Lesson With Lolita

Good evening sir. Isn’t aunty home? Oh, I see.
Thank you, I’m going to a birthday party, that’s why.
Yes, I chose the dress. Thank you, sir.
No…
Please don’t.
I’m not sure if you should.
I’m not sure what is right.

Yes, I practiced last time’s lesson.
Well, 3 times this week.
You are older than I, and an adult.
And hence you must be right, and I wrong.
But some voice inside me is screaming.

I had to do homework. Really, I practiced thrice.
No…I wasn’t meeting any boys. I don’t have a boyfriend.
I must be really bad for resisting what you tell me.
You can only be doing this for my own good.
Tell the voice to stop.

NOOO!!!!
Shut up shut up shut up why the hell did I wear this dress?
Those are words I’m not supposed to say.
A well-brought up child does not say shut up.
A good girl takes what is given to her and says thank you.
A child should not be screaming when big people are saying something.

Please don’t…I beg you, don’t make me…
I know I’m very naughty, I promise I’m sorry.
Its my fault for wearing this dress.
I promise I’ll study hard and I’ll never lie.
I promise on God and mommy and daddy, I’ll never be bad again.
Please make this screaming go away.

Okay, I will..
But why do I feel wrong?
Mommy will get angry and daddy will too.
I don’t want to displease them.
No, please don’t be angry.
I’ll be good, I promise.
Yes, I know I promised last time..I’m sorry, really am.
Please forgive me.
Here, is this how?
NOOOO!!!!
I’m not screaming, see I’m smiling.
I’m not crying, no I promise I’ll never tell mommy and daddy.
Nonononononononononononononononono.
Yes, yes its over.

Thank God, thank god, thank you god.
I’m a sinner for being glad it is over when its all for my own good.
It’s a punishment for my sins and I should be glad for it.

Thank you sir, yes I’ll practise this song for next time. Goodbye.
Yes, I’ll wear dresses like this more often.
I hate you, you bastard.
Shutup shutup, a good girl does not use words like this

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