She was already worried about how to make him sign her maths test papers. After all what would a 11 year old girl worry about other than scoring low in tests that were marked unfairly and homeworks that did not let her watch Nickelodion in peace.
As she held her cousin sister’s hand tightly while crossing roads she felt the urging need to feel more responsible.Being older and being an adult was not bad at all…people trusted you could cross roads and make your younger cousins cross roads too!
Today is a good day she thought so she would show the test papers tomorrow morning after breakfast so the scolding would be less.She was happy about everything today because her favorite show ‘As told by Ginger’ would be aired on TV and she would not miss it because of less homework.Even her annoying cousin who also happened to be her neighbour did not seem annoying to her today.
As she dropped off her cousin to her house she notcied a man staring at her.
He looked at her strangely,his toungue licking his lips.She had not felt the kind of insecurity he made her feel.She knew something was wrong so she hurried her way to her house which was just 20 steps away.She secretly prayed her grandma was watching from the window like she usually did but she could tell noone could see what was happening and the path was alarimngly silent except for her own footsteps and the rumble of the tiffinbox with half eaten lunch in her bagpack.When she looked behind to see if the stranger who made her feel strange left she was shocked to see he was right behind her with his right hand between his legs and his left hand on the pant zipper.
She was about to scream but she could not.She felt like the ice cubes her mother took out from the fridge when Abbu demanded ‘whiskey on the rocks’.The strange man put his arms around her and muttered something she did not understand underneath his breath.She wished she had not skipped all the P.T classes to sit and gossip about Kasauti Zindagi Ke with her freinds,maybe she would have been stronger otherwise.She did not quiet understand how she got away from the man and was hanging on her house’s gate because she could not open it considering how short she was.But the man ran away hearing something so loud and shreiking.It was her,screaming on top of her lungs she realised after she gathered her senses.
After her mother opened the gate to a frantically crying child she asked what was wrong.She could not talk about it because she did not know how to explain what had just happened.The anxious mother who had never seen her child so shattered ran for a glass of water to calm her down and her ever calm abbu finally looked up the paper he was reading as he adjusted his glasses.
‘What is wrong Maeeruuu Jaan? Did Nazaneen do something wrong again?’ he said raising his eyebrows as thick as caterpillars Maeera saw today in the green leaf that the school’s gardener was throwing away.
‘Aabbb……bbuuuuu’ She stammered and started sobbing,words had never felt so heavy and tangled on her lips before.It required so much effort for her to say anything other than that….but if she had to get that man slapped by abbu she would definately have to explain what had just happened.
‘A man just grabbed me and held me from behind’ she finally spitted it out before gulping down a sip of water from the glass her mother had just given her.
Abbu finally put away his newspaper and cleared his throat,his eyebrows as straight as the lines her maths teacher drew in geometry class.He put down his glasses as if he needed to see the words she said to understand it better.
As he cleared his throat again he said ,’How many times have I told you not to jump around while coming back home?You must have done something to provoke him to come and hold you!’
She could not beleive what he just said,she thought Abbu would be angry and mad and stand up and run outside to look for the man and slap him like he slapped her when she scored a 6/10 on her science test.But he did not,he just sat there with his fingerss entertwined and his face showing nothing close to anger,dissapointed drawn in the fine lines under his eyes he shook his head.
‘Tell your daughter to learn how to walk properly when she comes back from school or else she will not leave us with a face to show the society someday!’ he said sternly to her mother.’She is all grown up now! she should behave decently.’
Tears that felt like thorns trickled down Maeera’s cheeks as they burnt her skin with each touch.The lump on her throat felt like that one time when a small bone of the fish got stuck in there once and she could not breathe just like that one time she had drowned in the swimming pool at 9.
Her Abbu was supposed to be mean to the man who grabbed her not HER!
As she climbed up the stairs to go to the bedroom she shared with her grandmother,she saw her sleeping soundly so she did not want to disturb.She went to the bathroom,she felt ‘f r u s t r a t e d’ for the first time,a word she did not even know how to spell and got a minus mark for the incorrect spelling three days ago in her English Spelling Test.
She started crying again but not the loud ones,the kind of cry that a helpless brown woman cries on the Indian Daily Soaps she used to watch with her ‘didi’ when she can not do anything for herself.When she caught her reflection crying back at her she did not like it…not even a tiny bit…not even as much as she disliked the karela that her grandmother forced her to eat.
She started worrying again…….not about her maths test paper,or if she would miss ‘As told by Ginger’ on Nickelodean but about how she did not have to do anything beyond walk back home to be harmed by strange men she had never seen before.
What does an eleven year old worry about anyway when even her father does not help her feel protected in her own house?