A quick background
Born and raised in Bengaluru I am more of a Kannadathi than a Malayalee.
My parents fell in love with this place and have gelled so well with the culture here that someone could easily brush them off as Kannadigas unless they start speaking Kananda with some heavy innate nasal sounds!
Just like many other middle-class working parents they too yearned to give the best to their girls. I studied in one of the finest schools here and made a great bunch of friends who spoke various Indian languages and this, fortunately, groomed me into a linguist.
I still remember the roads that I traversed after school and the regular pit stops that I took for recreational activities like- flipping stones, ambling aimlessly to enjoy the aesthetic beauty of the tall flowering trees, storing a few red plump berries from the Mutingia trees (Gasagase tree) into my empty lunch box and plucking colorful flowers from the wild creepers on the way just to place it into a fancy gripe-water bottle that I myself converted into a vase to beautify the creaky study table in my bedroom-these were a few of them after shortening the exhaustive list .
Those five and a half kilometers of adventurous walk every day to reach my school and back home made me an effortless power-walking pro! I always presumed to know everything under the sun in this stretch- everything here became my perfect tiny little world.
Being a true Bangalorean we celebrate most of the Indian festivals irrespective of the religion it is attached to. The celebration might be slightly our own way, yet we celebrate! A ten-day-long Onam celebration was also on our list by default!
The floral arrangement for all the ten days at home was my favorite segment. I had always been the self-proclaimed flower collector who used to proactively find various flower sources in my area. To get the largest and untouched share of flowers I never hesitated to wander alone as early as 4 am even after the usual parents’ caveat of not venturing out at such odd hours. It was around five-ish in the morning on the seventh day of my flower collection venture; as usual, I swaggered listening to the tinkling of my own silver anklets prying hard to see through the dense flower bushes that grew in a swampy land which was a kilometer away from my house.
The dilapidated building next to the flowery swamp looked eerie as it seemed to sway in the morning mist to the tunes of my anklet.
Trying to ignore my silly thoughts I realized my hands weren’t moving as fast as the usual days while plucking the luscious red flowers from the thorny bushes,due to the bleak morning weather. The plastic flower basket in my hand was almost full with my booty. Finally, I became quite oblivious about my surroundings in the melee of grabbing the last few leftover flowers in the bush. Out of the blue, there was a sudden thrust from my back and I felt I was encroached by something strong-which was stronger than any monster I could imagine.
Within fraction of seconds, my mouth was clasped by a rigid hand to silence me. I moved my hands frantically trying to push myself away from the clutches of this unknown monster whose hands smelt of pungent kerosene.
I felt my body being forcefully dragged into the monstrous building close to the swamp that I always feared and this gave me a spur of energy to push away the kerosene laden hand off my mouth and dig my teeth deep into the beasts hairy hand and shout out aloud-”Kaapaadi Kaapaadi”(help me in Kannada) several times. My eleven-year-old body was weak but thankfully my voice wasn’t. For all the alarm that I raised, mysteriously the monster remained mum, hiding behind me like a coward. Slowly I felt my body getting squeezed into the snake-like arms of the monster who was trying to pull off my hoop earrings maybe along with my ears too! I wanted to shout out loud that it wasn’t gold but by then my foot was mercilessly stamped with his heavy gumboots. Fighting back the excruciating pain; I felt him breathing into my ears and by then I had calculated- this was a man- an awful monstrous man!
Suddenly I heard a muffled voice of a lady saying-” Yaaradhu?”(who’s that) and the voice kept approaching me. Realizing that there was a third person around, the beast desperately shoved my face on to the pile of sand next to the wretched building and vanished into thin air. Jittery and perplexed I picked up the dusty flower basket and pranced towards the miraculous voice expecting a beautiful fairy.
On the contrary, there stood a cat-eyed lady with a broom, clad in a scruffy saree chewing paan as she gestured and quickly thundered at me to go home. I gazed into her eyes with gratitude and ran towards my house without looking back. With a deep fear that someone was following me, I quickly closed our metallic gate and looked through the darkness to find nothing. I feared my haven now.
Tears rolling down my cheeks I quickly wiped off the dust from the old Kinetic Honda’s mirror that had been parked there by my neighbor for a long-time. I looked deeply into the mirror and tried to vigorously rub the finger marks on my cheek and then discovered that my hands and legs were also bruised. I noticed my left ear bleeding too. I grabbed the rag hung on the broken tap and tried to wipe off anything that made me look hurt. Every minute something from within me cautioned to check around for any unknown perpetrators. I looked outside the gate into the darkness fearing the unknown. I stepped into my house and masked my feelings and acted normal and cooked up a cock and bull story for reaching late. My innocence didn’t let me reveal the true incident to anyone fearing if I would never be let to pluck flowers again. “Nothing can go wrong with me in my tiny little world! “-Maybe this belief of mine saved me on that fateful day!
Time healed my wounds, but not my fear. I feel it hidden deep inside me triggering unnecessary panic attacks to date. Even without a catastrophic ending, I am still suffering its repercussions- what would be the plight of the numerous girls who have been traumatized without a miracle to save them?
[Picture credits — Google images]