In Focus 29th July, 2016
The shame of saying certain words.

I was fifteen years old. I lived in a gated colony. All my childhood I had been living in such colonies. My routine had a very specific component of going out to play in the evening or spending time with friends. One evening when I was returning from a friend’s place, I saw a different car parked below my building, with a fidgety man sitting inside it. As I kept getting closer to my building’s entrance, I also saw the man come out of the car and lock it. I thought he must be visiting somebody or must be someone’s driver.

I lived on the second floor of my building. I took the elevator because that’s what lazy me always did. The fidgety man entered too. He stood behind me in one corner and I stood right in front of the lift keys waiting to get home. It was one of those closed door lifts. I am generally awkward in social settings and so I hadn’t even bothered to notice that man’s face properly. But right from the moment I had noticed him something did feel odd.

As the lift doors closed, I heard a sound. It was the sound of something moving rigorously. Initially I could not figure anything. Then, I realised it was the man making that sound. The moment that realisation dawned upon me I froze. I think I knew what he was doing.Was he masturbating right behind me? I did not have the guts to look back. I just wanted out. I stopped breathing in those moments and as soon as the doors opened, I rushed out,turned right towards my house hoping the door was not locked. And it wasn’t. I never looked back. But I knew exactly what had happened. I was in a lift with a man who was masturbating.

I went inside my house. Still unsettled by what had happened. I thought I must tell my mother about what happened. She was in her room. I went in but then suddenly my head was filled with all these doubts and questions.What will I tell my mother? A man was masturbating behind me? Is it okay that I know what masturbation is? Or should I just say that I man was doing something behind me and I felt scared? What if she probes and asks more questions? Do I even want to have this awkward conversation? There were just so many questions. I was so hesitant that I chose not to tell her. I just told myself that I will be more careful. Take the stairs, as a safety measure. Maybe the whole thing was in my head. Afterall, I didn’t look behind. Maybe he was just playing with his keys.

And that was that. Days passed. Years passed. The incident became a bad memory. And my parents still don’t know. But as I grew up I knew what had gone down that day and I also realised the risk I put myself in each day after that day by not telling anybody that there were predators as close as five steps away from my home.

When I was growing up I never got the official “sex talk” from my parents. These conversations did not happen in my house. But I knew things. I always joke about how I just always knew about things. What sex is, what periods are, la la la. In most probability I picked it up from my surrounding without being directly told about these things. As adulthood dawned upon me, a lot of the things I knew were confirmed right and a lot of myths were busted. Even growing up I always had friends and the internet to confirm things, but then did my friends know the right things? Did I click on the right link online? Who knows? I got lucky and no harm ever came my way because of being misinformed. But experiences like these are constant reminders of how I was traversing a very risky path, all alone, almost dangling on the edge without knowing that there was an alternate nice paved path waiting for me. All I had to do was ask for directions or be given directions.

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