The Muted Screams And The Burning Scars (Ages 14 to 18)
To her, it was life. It was perhaps how every woman she knew became a woman she knew. The redness on her thighs, her aunt, said was natural. Her aching back, her swollen knees, and her weighing chest was all natural. Her mother and her aunt, let her sleep for longer durations than normal. They would have her drink milk every three hours, although she hated that. One of her younger sisters would wash her with a sponge every six hours. She wasn’t allowed to get up (except once every day for her ablutions) or use the common bathroom just a few steps outside the house. If bathroom seemed like a far fetched dream, then Kitchen was a prohibited area altogether. Akanksha was a woman now, and she had to be clean. After a day passed in her puberty, her mother promptly gave her cloth rolls, made of her old sari, stitched together to form a pad. Her blood would soak in them, requiring lesser cleanup. Akanksha hated being pinned to her wooden cot. Every cousin of hers was playing outside, sometimes Hide and Seek, at times Catch the ball and so on. Summer holidays at Grandmother’s house was meant to be all fun. Not spending days together on the cot, looking up at the creaky old wooden roof, and having no clue what her body was anymore. She felt heavy inside, within her heart and soul. And she felt hollow as well.
Days passed, and Akanksha, who went to Adarsh Boarding School near Chittoor, returned to it after practically having a painful and a tired summer for herself. She slowly understood her body. There was a routine, which she could now identify. She was in 14 now, and her 8th standard syllabus had a faint reference to the things she was going through. A Simple case of Anatomy. She started to accept these changes and became more aware of their indications and eventualities. Akanksha for her part had a good bunch of friends, both in boys and girls. The silent giggles when a boy walked past her, or a slight flutter in her heart when she passed someone she liked, were becoming more apparent to her. She was strangely happy with her awareness. However, it was in the next few months, that her life would take some horrifying turns which would never allow her to be happy with herself, not at least for the next 18 years.
“When I look back, no, staying in Adarsh was good for me. After all, this, if there is something that I can fondly remember, that is my schooling period, especially my 8th standard. There were so many new things to explore and talk about, you know. I realised I had crushes on a boy too. That was the level of innocence I was living under. To me, everything was new and curious. When I look back, some part of me smiles at my younger self, but the other parts hate what I was. How could I be so stupid? Sometimes I feel, none of these things would’ve happened, if only I were, a little bit smart, a little bit aware. I wasn’t, and therefore sometimes I blame myself. What Keshavanna did to me destroyed me unknowingly, but I could’ve avoided it. To this day that is my regret, and thereby my anger. I wish I could destroy Keshavanna, fucking just put him on the road, tie him to a pole, and fucking burn him. But I can’t. I just can’t. I am not weak. No no. I’m strong. I believe in every moment that I am strong. But I hate that person. I hate him for whatever he is. I hate him because he makes me hate myself” says Akanksha falling silent for a moment, and shaking her head, visibly choking her tears within her throat”.
The Beginnings Of An Incident For Akanksha:
As Akanksha was about to finish her half yearly and leave home for her winter holidays, a tragic news struck her. Her cousin sister, Ranjitha, had been struck with a severe case of Typhoid and was admitted to the nearest super speciality hospital in Hyderabad. She was surviving on borrowed time, and every member of the family was intimated where ever they were. Akanksha’s father came to pick her up, right after her Social exam, and brought her back to Hyderabad, to greet Ranjitha for the last time. Ranjitha passed away the next morning. The whole family were thrown into a sea of sadness and grief. After all, Ranjitha was only 18 when she died. Everyone in the family, extended their strength and support to the Ranjitha’s family, especially to Keshav, who was close to his sister. Everyone knew how much he loved her. He was just two years younger to her, but was always with her, taking care of her at every step of life. And now, to see that his sister had been snatched away from him, everyone in the family, consoled Keshav, with all their affection. It was at this point, during the grieving period, Akanksha came to a crying Keshav, and tried consoling him. It was the start of something, which would change her life forever. At that moment, Keshav pulled Akanksha into a hug and embraced her tightly. Although at first, she thought it was the uncontrollable grief, that made him embrace her in such a fashion, as moments passed, she felt something different. She quickly pulled out of the hug and walked away with a million doubts in her innocent mind.
“I’m sure; I felt something. It wasn’t my imagination. I felt it. His hands, rubbing onto my back, and his chest pressing onto mine. Even those I’m willing to forget, but how will you explain the bulge I felt near his crotch. Yes, that was the moment, where I should’ve understood. I didn’t. And when I did, it had left me with just scars on my body.”
Akanksha that day went to her mother and said that Keshav felt weird to her. A grieving brother, who had lost a sister, was finding solace in the only sister left for him, was not exactly bothersome to anyone. There was nothing weird about it. And so, Akanksha’s mother brushed her aside and tended to some other work. There were after all so many rituals which needed to be undertaken. She didn’t have time for her daughter’s weirdness with a simple hug. The family decided to stay there (Keshav’s home), till the rituals were done, and that Akanksha would go directly back to school from here. The holidays had just started a couple of days back and would end in a week. And so, those ten days would be the most horrifying period ever for Akanksha.
“The very next day, he tried to hug me again. Like, we were sitting in the corridor, all of us, and having chai, when Keshav’s mother suddenly burst into crying, remembering something about her daughter. One cry led to another, and suddenly all the women present there were in tears. Keshav who was sitting near his father stood up, and came straight to me, stood beside me, and pulled my face to his waist as if he was consoling a sister. I wasn’t crying, at all. But it looked like he was consoling me, by pressing my head to his tummy. I realised in a moment, that since he was standing, and I was still sitting, he was just looking down to see my breasts. That’s what he wanted to see. My breasts. I looked up, and he immediately turned his face away, as I pulled out yet again. No one bothered about what was happening with me, as their tragedy was inconsolable. But I had started to see some sense in what was going on. He, my brother, was looking at opportunities where he could touch me, or worse even grope me. Tragedy had just become an excuse for him.”
The Horror That Awaited Her Destiny:
Two days later, to bring something from the market, Akanksha’s mother did a horrible mistake. She tagged her daughter to go along with Keshav and talk to the doctors if need be, and more so as a moral support because Keshav apparently had been sad the whole night. Akanksha begged her mother that she wouldn’t go. She started crying and crying, but no one would listen to her. It was in the time of need, that family had to stick around for one another. Akanksha was just being a child, by refusing to step up, and take responsibility towards some tasks. The death ceremony was to be held soon, and everyone had to work on something so that the ceremony went well. After a few scolds from her mother, Akanksha got on the bike with Keshav, as he drove her to the market near Secunderabad. However, he wasn’t here for the shopping of groceries, or for going to the Hospital in Patny centre. He had brought her here for something else entirely.
Keshav and Akanksha entered the hotel. Keshav quickly walked past her, to the reception, and started talking to the receptionist. He explained to him that he and his sister had some work that they needed to do in the evening and that they needed to get some rest before heading out. The receptionist gave him a room. Keshav came back to a clueless Akanksha then and told her that the hospital doctor would be come here, as he wanted a bribe, and he wasn’t willing to take it in his hospital. Keshav further added that the Doctor had asked him to wait for an hour. Although she sensed something wrong, Akanksha believed him, as he seemed to have reformed a bit. Afterall, he hadn’t touched all through the day and had talked to her as he normally used to do before all this. She brushed everything aside, and just thought to herself, that maybe she was overreacting. And so they went to the room on the first floor.
“Once inside the room, it was apparent as to what he was about to do. He forcefully pinned me to the wall and started kissing me. I never knew what it was, and it was burning me from inside. It was as if there was someone else, going through all this, and I wasn’t even there. He was quickly undressing me, as his tongue started licking through my neck. It wasn’t me. It was someone else. But I could still feel, his hands all over me, his lips biting onto my nipples, and his hands, touching me between my thighs. It wasn’t me. I refused to believe that it was me. Although I could feel cold air prick my skin, as I could see my clothes on the floor were thrown at a distance. He swung me onto the bed and unbuttoned his shirt. It wasn’t me, Of course, it wasn’t me. I could feel a tearing pain inside me, which just came out as muted screams, as he thrust harder and harder. And as he left me, I knew it was me. His hand was still on my left breast, and his scars were only growing all over my body. Perhaps it was me but no longer what I was”
The Incident And The Repercussions Later – The Ordeal Of Akanksha:
Akanksha since her rape had gone mute for a month or two. She couldn’t speak, nor did she even intend to. After she had got back to school, she avoided everyone. She would only scream even when someone touched. In the nights, she would lock herself up in the bathroom, and turn the plastic bucket upside down, and wear it over her head. And then she would scream. And scream. And scream. Until she would get tired, and drag herself back to her room.
As for Keshav, his sadistic behaviour, extended beyond the incident. He began stalking Akanksha. He would say that he loved her, irrespective of their relationship. He would suggest that they elope and marry somewhere, and come back after a year so that the family would accept them. Every other weekend, he would come down to her school, wait for her all through the day to look at her during the evening break, and leave some gifts with the watchman while he went away. He would leave gold bracelets, cell phone, money sometimes, and anything he wished. Akanksha would take them from the watchman, and flushed them away through the washroom.
Years passed, Akanksha passed out of her plus two. It had been four years since the incident in the hotel. For four years, Keshav had been stalking her. Fearing him, Akanksha didn’t even go back to her place, during one of the holidays. But eventually she had to, and when she did, Keshav would drop in at her place for some reason or the other. He would try to touch her. Sometimes he would ask her to remember how much they enjoyed in the hotel room. He would assume that she loved him because he did. Another year passed, and Akanksha decided to join into her Degree. By this time, the torture of Keshav had made her develop suicidal tendencies.
“I was in St Francis, Begumpet, doing my BCom. Keshavanna, the horrendous person that he is, located where my hostel was and took a house for rent nearby. He even told his parents that he would be joining the SAP course in Ameerpet. But no, he wasn’t doing that. He would just wait for me to come back to the hostel and create a scene there. I couldn’t bear with him anymore, and I tried to commit suicide by gulping the AllOut mosquito repellant liquid, the whole bottle. I failed in that as well. Then one day, I decided I won’t eat anything. I called up Keshavanna and told him, that I had stopped eating and will only eat if he left the city forever. For the next six days, I just stayed hungry, not touching any food. The issue got serious, and people started getting involved. Finally, my ploy worked, and Keshavanna left the city forever. Today, after almost 14 years of last seeing, I know that I am grateful that I didn’t die for that fucker. I know that he married someone, and she left him a few months later. Today he is a fucking asshole, who can’t work, but feeds off his parents earning. He is a fucking pig, that’s all. But he was just one of the many fucking retards I had met in time to come”.
The Ever Lasting Promises And Long Kept Secrets (Ages 24 to 27):
In St.Francis, Akanksha met Arjun. He was in his second year of Degree, and she was in her third. But they were of the same age. The uneven academics, Arjun owed to his Chartered Accountancy trysts. At first, Arjun hung out with Akanksha’s bunch of friends, as he knew one of the guys in it. In time, he got a rapport of friendship going with all of them, and further, he started liking Akanksha. Akanksha by that time had become a reclusive beauty, who kept to herself (mostly because of the stalking by her brother). Over time, Arjun made efforts to get to know her, as he genuinely cared for her well being. Even when she just bunked college to sit in some library, or go out to watch a movie all by herself. They exchanged numbers, and Arjun would call her casually sometimes, just to talk to her, even though she wouldn’t say much from her side. But the thing was, she never cut the call. Internally, she felt good that someone was talking to her, but she was too broken inside to consider that a leeway to extend friendship. It was at this time that she went on a hunger strike to end her torture and save herself.
After getting rid of her brother, Akanksha, slowly started to muster the courage to talk to people. And because Arjun had been the most persistent, she started hanging out with her. The torture she went through, had made her a slave to alcohol and cigarettes. She couldn’t sleep without them, and Arjun was always ready for company. And so they hit it off. She had survived, but now she wanted to live. Arjun was soon starting to become someone she could turn to for help. And one fine day, they confessed their feelings to each other. They loved each other.
“The thing with Arjun was, and I still think it still is, that he at one point loved me and was fascinated by my life. He wasn’t faking it, that much I can say. We promised each other that we would get some decent earning jobs, before we aged 26. That was our limit. And we both had completed our degree by 23. I had started working as an intern with at Capgemini, and he was giving his finals exam in Chartered Accountancy. Our relationship was now three years old. I had taken a flat for rent in Madhapur, near my office, and he shifted to a new hostel in Gachibowli. His hostel was a formality. Every night he would pick me up from my office, and we would go to the flat which we called home, smoke up a joint, take a vodka shot sometimes, have sex and wake up in bliss. It became a routine. Even our friends knew that we were virtually living together. Sometimes he would go broke, and I used to pay for his exam fee and coaching classes, etc. He eventually got a job as an audit assistant in a CA Firm, in Jubilee Hills. Things were starting to look up when he said that he wanted to get married. Although I was initially very apprehensive because we belonged to different castes, I finally said yes. Then, he left the hostel room for good and moved in. I had long stopped talking to my parents, and to me this was my world. Arjun, Me and our home. That was my comfort zone”
The Promise Or The Dream – Which Was It?:
As Akanksha celebrated her 27th birthday, the next day Arjun left for his native place, a village near Vijayawada. His mission of going home was to convince his parents for marriage. As for Akanksha, she didn’t care what her parents thought at this time. But she wanted Arjun to be happy, and the would be so if his parents agreed to his marriage.
For 45 days, Akanksha waited. She heard nothing from Arjun. He wouldn’t pick up his phone. Neither responded to the mails or the Facebook pings. He hadn’t contacted any of their mutual friends as well. Then one fine evening as she returned home after work, she received a call on her mobile. It was one Ramamma, who turned out to be Arjun’s mother.
“She called me to say precisely three things. That I was a slut, who had a trapped their son. That her son had told everything about her to them, and that Akanksha should have at least some shame to even think of marriage after having sex with her brother. Also, she even lacked the basic morals or shame, and that she had slept with her son, and God knows how many others she had had sex with. They wouldn’t agree for their son to marry a popular and shameless whore”.
Akanksha was then called names and cursed. All through this, never once did Arjun be a man enough to call her and apologise. Akanksha waited for six more months, hoping that he would return or even call her. She hoped that he would at least bid her farewell in person. But no. He never came. He never called.
One fine morning, the house maid, found Akanksha lying on the floor, after having slit her wrists from a glass piece. She was found in a pool of blood, and it was sheer luck that she fought for life again. As life had grappled her neck and hit her down over and over again, she managed to stand up yet again, tiredly, for what life still had to offer her.
Shores & Seas Away And Yet The Sun Never Shines On her (Age 28 to Age 30):
“As you grow old, and you start thinking of the things you should’ve done, you regret some things, you know. I regret not talking to my parents for almost ten years. You see, I was angry at them. I was angry that they did not listen to me when I was crying alone in my bed. That they didn’t care for me when I was drunk and naked on the floor. That they didn’t help me when I needed someone to grab my hand and pull me up, just for the sake of it. But as I said, as you grow old, you grow tired of these clashes in your head. You realise that you’ve gone through more horrifying stuff in your life, that saying Hello to your parents, isn’t going to be that bad”.
Akanksha applied for a visa, two years after her unceremonious breakup. She moved to Kansas City in the late Autumn, hoping that a new world which awaited her arrival, would do good by her. Before leaving for Kansas, she made it a point to stay with her parents for a week. Although she hadn’t forgiven them entirely, she had learned to hide her displeasure better. And so she moved to Kansas City, initially for a six-month course on Business Analytics, and eventually, she got herself a job in Hewlett Packard. Career-wise, coming to the US of A, seemed like the best option she could take. The new country opened up new things for her to explore. She started attending Painting and Visual Arts courses, and today she has a new avenue to explore her deepest scars. As she settled in, she started becoming an active participant in Cultural meetups in the city. Those were the times when she met India in Kansas, not that she was entirely happy about it, but being homesick was always a valid feeling to have. In this period, Akanksha’s parents started searching her a suitor for marriage. She wouldn’t care less, but after much persistence, she decided to meet a few people in the US. Some would ask up front, why she wasn’t married. Some would ask her about her previous relationships and then walk off. Once she even got a match of a Business Consultant who was in a high pay packet, and he told her that he would only marry her if she left her job and stayed home. People who came here from India, were educated, she thought to herself, but rarely knowledgeable or learned or at least aware of anything.
To Marry Because Well She Had To:
As time passed, after a year of searching, Akanksha finally gave the nod ahead to a Biotechnology Specialist from Ohio. Prasad was just a few months elder to her and hadn’t gotten married because of his bald head. To Akanksha, it mattered the least, and she tried building a rapport with Prasad. He felt nice and simple at the start but would pass a lurking comment, on the way she walked or dressed or laughed. It soon became clear to Akanksha that Baldness wasn’t the only reason. And she was too tired to take bullshit from random men and walked off the intended engagement. No man could take her, and she stopped believing in men altogether, validly so.
“As I grew tired in my heart, I left for India for a two-month break. During this time, my parents had searched and picked a guy for me, Anirudh. This Anirudh, who was a family friend, from somewhere, was working at that time in HCL. We met at Coffee Day and had a good enough talk. He seemed a bit ambitious, but he was humble and good. At the end of my break, and I was about to leave to Kansas, our families had decided that we get hitched. I had not many reasons to turn him down as well. You see, once you get used to living in loneliness, there comes a time of point, where it doesn’t matter anymore. Even if someone else is sharing your bed, you feel alone as it is. I guess I wanted to marry Anirudh, just to give it all an end. Just to show my parents that this is it. Some closure. But on the day I was leaving a friend of mine, who was employed with HCL recently called me up. Anirudh had worked in HCL for a year but had left it after a fight with a Team Leader. He had been unemployed for the past six months. That didn’t bother me much, except for the fact that he lied. When I went to my parents with this, they gave me enough reasons never to trust them again. They said that I would remain unmarried if I didn’t take this guy in. He, they said, was my last option. And they started crying. Won’t you let us live peacefully? Why can’t you be normal huh? Why are you doing this to us? My mother wept on the phone, as I landed in Kansas.”
On 25th November, Akanksha married Anirudh in Hyderabad.
On 12th August the next year, their marriage ended.
The Marital Bliss And Other Myths Debunked (Age 30 to 31)
Akanksha’s mind had accepted her husband. Her heart hadn’t. He had lied to her, like other men before him. And so he was not trustworthy anymore, much like those who left her. Thereby, Akanksha with her inner angst, which had no outlet, developed a tragic psychosomatic condition for her. Whenever her husband came close to her, her skin started to burn, and she suddenly got a high fever. Her body had gone through way too much, to accommodate one another liar. As soon as he touched her, she would burn to sickness. It had become her imbibed sub conscious condition. The fever would not go away for a couple of days. Even when he touched her, casually, her hands would grow moist, and she could feel fever striking her. Once, her husband tried to force himself into her, but she felt immensely nauseated and puked across the floor. This incident maddened her husband, and he slapped Akanksha four to five times that night. Later when she took to cleaning the whole room off the puke, she understood that she had become the weakest she ever was. She had given up on herself. She shouldn’t have, but she did. She vomited more, as she kept thinking about her brother, her lover who used her as clay ball.
From that day onwards, Akanksha started sleeping separately, in a different room. She stopped caring about her husband who would come home, drunk as a pig. He would scream at her, or show his anger on different things at home. She understood that there was no point in bearing this horrifying experience of a marriage and proposed a divorce, four months into the marriage. That hurt her husband to the core, and one day he came home drunk, and uncontrollable. And then he raped Akanksha. The same way that her brother did 16 years earlier, the same way her lover did a few years later, and the same way the ignorant society had forever. He fucked her, irrespective of her high fever and shivering. He repeatedly raped her eight to nine times that night. Early next morning she was admitted to the General Hospital. She had almost gone into a coma because of her condition. As soon as she woke up, she thought enough is enough, and slapped a domestic violence case on Anirudh. He was deported back to India, as the case held ground with valid proofs violent sexual assault. The divorce came to fruition three months later.
Life Today Is What My Tomorrows Are Made Of – Present
As we try to understand the horrifying implications of Akanksha’s life, we can only hope to derive hope and inspiration from her. To fight and stand tall today. Today, Akanksha works as a Strategic Developer with Larsen and Toubro in Manchester. Her job asks her to work for 6 hours daily. The rest of the time, she dedicates to helping the down trodden and teaching local immigrants Business Acumen and Analytics. She has become a beacon of selfless help in her locality, as people vouch for her generosity. Akanksha, instead of becoming a dead person living just for the sake of it, has fought her destiny to become something incredible than anyone of us. She paints and produces art pieces once in a while as well, with a couple of Gallery exhibitions to her name today. She believes in extending help to those who need it. According to her, that is the perhaps the only good thing you can do, without losing any essence of your soul. To be helpful, she says, helps her see to the tomorrow in a better way altogether. At the end of everything, she says smiling for the first time, isn’t everything that we do based on an unshakeable faith that our tomorrow is out there, and it is always better than today.
“Thank you, Dear Reader, for reading my story. Thank you VoxSpace, for listening to it. I just want to take your leave by saying just one thing to my abusers all through my life, and I hope the thing I say reached them through the Social Media. They will understand I hope when I say…..”
I am here. And I am alive. You aren’t here. And You aren’t alive. I win.
Why do we need to read this story? Why is it important? We at VoxSpace believe that by one such story, we are addressing the lives of hundreds and thousands of girls, who are even today, afraid to speak out about the sexual abuse brought upon them. When we put out a poster asking for stories, Akanksha texted us that she wanted to speak. Isn’t that reason enough? And she spoke, not because it meant anything to any one of us, but because it would remind us of the atrocities women even today silently are the victims of. We hope that this article serves you as a reminder that not trusting your child, can destroy the child internally and scar him for life. Parents need to listen to their kids; everything else comes later. Remember, good parenting is not provisioning resources, it is about being a part of your child’s life, a part which he or she can come to in times of duress. If a child can’t come home, where shall he go?