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4

This morning, my mother woke me up telling me that my father was no longer breathing. It wasn't entirely unexpected. He was suffering from Parkinsons and had deteriorated rapidly in recent times. And he had suffered. Coming awake in a hurry, I checked him. No breath, no pulse, he was still warm. My mother had seen his last breaths and stayed with him to comfort him before waking me up.

I called the doctor, who confirmed the death and issued a certificate. My father had wanted to donate his body. However the delays with arriving relatives and his extensive bedsores along with having to cross district lines to submit his body to the Anatomy department at JJ led us to decide to cremate him locally.

It was the strangest day I have lived through on many levels.

My father was many people. To his siblings, he was a devoted brother. To his many nephews and nieces, he was a doting uncle. To my mother, he was someone who undermined her constantly and was frequently cruel to. To me, he was Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Someone who encouraged me to pursue achievements and also someone who disowned me in what he perceived as failure. A large part of my adult life had troubles directly born from trying to exit his home. He was the one to go on a tour with my mother while I returned to his home separated from my husband. He gave another key to the home to the husband I was trying to leave. He manipulated me into coming to live with him when trying to exit an abusive marriage, only to force me back with a disabled infant in tow. He has wished my mother and me dead over the years, predicted that we would have long and paralyzed lives and worse.

He was an extremely self-sufficient man and could cook, clean and do whatever was needed to keep the home running. He did not like household help and when my mom wanted to hire a maid, he took over sweeping, mopping and washing utensils rather than hire one. While he constantly berated my mother for not acting more housewifely (any and every reason would do - housework was just one), he most certainly never expected her to be the only person working in the home (they both had jobs and incomes). His abuse was more an issue of control than misogyny. He'd support me to become a brain surgeon, but not to make choices he wouldn't allow, for example. He happily supported my mother going on her own for the Kailash Parikrama, but in routine life, her salary went to his hands on payday and she never had over twenty rupees in her purse till I hit my teens, then, with inflation it became fifty, then a hundred - for emergency expenses strictly. No whimsical snacks or rickshaw rides. Nor did he ever buy her a single ornament if he could avoid it.

To be honest, I've never seen my mother complain other than occasionally when she really wanted something. She lived as frugally as him, initially to repay the loan for their home, and then to save for their old age. Neither of them smoked, drank alcohol or had other habits commonly understood as vices. My dad's addiction was junk and they both loved to travel and lived unbelievably frugally to fund travel without touching savings.

My father was a tinkerer. A compulsive DIYer who haunted flea markets and junk shops to bring home broken treasures to be brought back to life and gifted or used. While I thankfully don't scour the world to bring junk home, I do think I got my tendency to do stuff myself at his knee, holding a solder wire as he fixed something with the iron, helping him create furniture for his home, reading tiny tiny numbers on electronic parts with my sharp eye for him, or using things for purposes other than they were designed for.

He was an avid traveler all his adult life, and organized travel would give way to two treks a year in later decades. There was no such thing as a summer vacation without a tour to some far away place. And then Himalayan treks. Strangely, by the time I grew up, our rift was so deep, that in spite of him having a daughter who did specialized cultural tours and extreme treks in the Himalaya for a living, we have never been on a trek together. Ever.

Perhaps one thing many would appreciate was his successful saving. He purchased his own home in Vile Parle before he married my mother (though both of them worked to pay off the loan well into the marriage). He saved like a religion. And for someone who had only one job in life - as a factory worker (and machine setter at the end) - he saved enough to be still offering people in need money and affording two treks a year and trying to buy a second home well into his retirement (long story). He wasn't rich by the standards of today's upper middle class, but given the frugality of their life, he had enough to cover his needs indefinitely. I did not get this from him. my financial planning is dismal. I may have supported with care in his last days, but to his last breath, he could most certainly afford all he needed.

To his friends from work, he was a mentor. An elder brother who guided them true in their work and life. One of his friends had come today. Tears streaming down his face to see the pitiful state my father had been reduced to, from a fit and physical ex-bodybuilder, ex-factory worker, ex-trekker. I was able to give him some peace when I shared that their visits in the preceding months had brought my father great joy.

He is also the man who hosted ice cream parties for my cousins and me in the summer vacations when color television and VCRs were a novelty so we could watch films and have fun. He was the one to unfailingly rush to the side of his siblings when they fell ill, serve them tirelessly and offer as much money as he could to them.

Today, I would meet many of these cousins. People whose eyes welled with tears to see his body on the floor when all I could feel was relief at no longer having to change dirty diapers for someone who didn't recognize me for most of the last months, and was unlikely to be happy about it if he did. The benevolent figure they lost today, I'd lost somewhere in my teenage. For someone who had lived with him around the clock for the last ten months, I did not recognize the person they were mourning. The person who was lying dead had little left in him that would support life. He had spent the last few months in pain. He had lost control over his body to the point that the last few days before he died, he had even been unable to open his eyes or swallow more than a few spoonfuls. What was to mourn? This was freedom. Freedom for him from pain, freedom for my mother caring for him round the clock in her old age, freedom for me from the exhausting effort of caring for someone you would have preferred to not run into at all again.

Today, my mother looks exhausted, but far lighter than she did last night.

Did I wish him ill? Not at all. The man who had done untold harm to my life was not the slowly dying man who came into my home ten months ago. This was simply an old and scared man knowing he had a difficult future awaiting and knowing there was no way he could escape it. He had all my compassion, but I felt little attachment. Would I prefer for him to have been alive? Not at all. It was time for him to go. For his own sake too. I felt no guilt for not caring, because my conscience was clear that I had done all I could for him while it could make a difference.

I didn't particularly like my father. He was of a judgmental nature and had let me down in some of my worst times in life. While he had been a paragon to his blood relatives and colleagues, at home, he had been cruel to my mother and me as well once I entered my teens. I hadn't lived with him for the most part of my life and frankly had no ambition to be around him at all till his fall last May brought the parents crashing back into my life. His condition had deteriorated too much for them to live safely on their own. My mother was not capable of caring for him alone. I rented a larger place in a hurry while we extended his stay in hospital so we could move him here.

In these months, I saw another side of my father. The monster who kept trying to drive me out of his home was another creature while living in my home. He was a helpless old man who pined to see the home he had purchased with his sweat and blood one last time before he died. A wish we were not able to fulfill, because of his condition, and the fact that we were two women and a disabled child other than him in the home, with no real manpower for the kind of effort it would have to be.

He was also an intensely proud man humbled by circumstances and humiliated by having to live in the home of a daughter he had driven away. He saw many of the curses he had heaped on my mother and me come true about him with his extended helplessness in a bitter twist that life can be. He was often a very frustrated, sad man, and my mother, as usual was the one to bear the brunt of his anger.

But all was not bad. Before he lost his mental faculties, he did attempt to build a tentative and more respectful relationship with me. In turn, I lost a lot of my bitterness and contempt for him, because he simply wasn't the man who had caused them anymore. We would never be close, but we did develop a carefully polite relationship that did not create new hurts and allowed for the occasional casual or even profound conversation, like when he told me that he did not want to be admitted to a hospital no matter what, since what he had couldn't be cured. He would rather not prolong the discomfort and leave my mother money instead of finishing it on a lost cause. Another time, we had a conversation on assisted suicide and even euthanasia which was pretty raw and helpless given that I agreed with him, but both were not options by law. While he never apologized to my mother to his dying breath nor stopped venting his anger on her, he did learn to appreciate the uncomplaining tenacity with which she served him, in spite of being a patient of schizophrenia herself.

These ten months, he got time to spend with his grandchild. Said grandchild adored him, since he was the only one in the home who was slow enough and idle enough to offer endless entertainment. Nisarga used to go into peals of laughter the minute my father started walking - something he never did for anyone else. Perhaps he thought it was exciting when my father did it, because it was clearly so much effort and achievement for him? Regardless, his hysterical squeals would get my father laughing helplessly to the point where we worried if he'd fall from laughing. This was the only thing that could make him laugh, when his face was not even able to smile anymore. And I was glad that they both had this time together.

It was a day where I wanted to burst into a grin while many were fighting tears. And many, many reflections. While not a sad day for me, it was profound. It was also a sort of transition. I'd been promoted by circumstances to the position of the "man of the house" where the other two members were an aged woman and a disabled child.

So today he lay there and we were discussing who lights his pyre. An aunt was adamant that women can and should do it when appropriate, and as his only child, me doing it was appropriate. My mother-in-law disapproved of women at crematoriums at all. My mother thought that the person who took responsibility for him in the tough time prior to his death should do it, which was me (as opposed to me just being his daughter). Me, I'm an atheist. I don't really care who cremates someone. The easiest way to resolve the issue would be for me to murmur that I don't want to do it. It would be a graceful exit. No one would pressure a woman to light a cremation pyre. However, just because women don't do it as per social tradition, I thought I should. I most certainly had the right as his only child in a world attempting modernity (no other women from the family came to the crematorium regardless), and I did it. There were no last rites to be done. Both my parents had done them while still alive. It was a matter of lighting the thing. I did it. I even did it in the traditional manner, holding the torches behind me, for respect of the beliefs of others there.

As we watched the pyre burn, the question came up of returning the next day to collect his remains for immersing in flowing water. I wasn't interested. I didn't see the point leaving my bereaved mother alone (not to mention what impact today would have on her schizophrenia) at home to do yet another rite, and if he'd got his wish of body donation, there wouldn't be remains anyway. I knew for certain that my mother didn't care about this, but said that I'd discuss it with her when we got home, and return for them, if she wanted it done. My lack of interest probably alarmed cousins who consider it as a closure, and one of them found a way of getting it done with a short wait, using the bones of the lower part of body, that burns faster.

Strangely, while I didn't think of it as a ritual closure, I was glad that we did that. It resulted in a nice drive to the beautiful Agashi beach and the release of the bones into the sea. The bones, to me did not matter so much, but after the ugliness of the last few months, the beauty and peace of the beach was a much better scene to close the story with.

Asthi Visarjan
Asthi Visarjan

And thus it is done. My father died today, got cremated and his remains released back to nature. A fitting end, I think for someone who has been a passionate trekker for decades before his Parkinson's flaring up in his last trek to the Everest Base Camp a few years ago.

He is free. We are free.

2

It is one of those snapshot moments. A stock taking of life that tells me I am standing exactly where I was the last time I was at the end of my rope. I am alone. I am not suicidal, not fearing for my life or physical safety, but I just generally feel so low that it just seems like I don't have much fuel left. I am not looking to die in any way. At least not as long as my son is alive and dependent on me.

It just struck me that I have literally no one I can leave my responsibilities to. I had a grand rebellion a few months ago and I decided that I would save up enough money to move out of my home. So far, the slight improvement I could achieve will not sustain me independently. I do not wish to send my son to child care, because he is not able to speak and convey if there is any problem. And typically of me, end of the rope means that it is time to hunker down and put one foot ahead of the other and keep going. What remains is to endure till a better time.

It seems I am always out of time and energy. I have not given up, but this is one of those times when nothing seems to be going right. I have no confidence left in me. That is the truth. Or perhaps I am just weary. It will pass. I have no doubt.

Just wanted to make some things known in case something does happen to me. It doesn't seem that I will have anyone close to me who will know the important bits I would want known even if I succeed in getting my freedom. This is not a "Last Words" kind of post. Simply the realization that there are many things that will go into oblivion with me (even if I go at 90 years), so putting some information out.

  • Most important. My son's medication. Lioresal syrup. Half spoon, thrice a day. No one else will know this.
  • I will be putting a file on the desktop of my laptop with details of my online assets. Web server hosting, domain registration and such. If anyone wants to keep my websites alive they may. The content is creative commons anyway. I am also planning to keep an updated archive of the website for download once I get the content organized - whoever wants can take it - also when I am alive 😀
  • I have no idea who takes care of my son. Which is an important reason why I am not suicidal. I do hope enough people care enough to ask after him. Whether he is happy or not. With any luck, I will outlive him.
  • I don't have many possessions. Mostly a bicycle, phone, desktop and laptop. No specific preference.
  • Any money from my blog, anything in my bank, some gold I have, should all go toward keeping the kid happy.
  • If, when I die, I own a home, it should become a kind of open house where women in need can come and live. Will think through the details of it when I have a home.
  • My son should know that I have a great time with him. He is no trouble. The easiest of my responsibilities and the most joyful. I am lucky to know him. Honored, humbled, enriched.

Most importantly, I have lived to my full and without regrets. I have been me without hesitation, doing what I care about, being with my son. I may not currently be able to achieve the freedom I want, but I still am doing things that matter to me. No matter when I die, I will have died happy.

And hopefully I'll live long enough to get trolled about writing sentimental posts and not following through 😀

PS: I am NOT suicidal. Do not panic. I am also not particularly sad. Just stuck. Not for long, hopefully. Please don't tell me I need to walk out of this home. I KNOW that. I am just not able to make it happen with Nisarga in tow. Sooner or later, I will. Till then I have to endure.

1

A life in Clothes is a five part autobiographical series I did in support of the slutwalk Delhi to illustrate what it can be like to live in a male oriented, judgmental world.

Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4 || Part 5 || Part 6

When I married for the second time. I thought I was older, wiser, I was making the right choice. However, in hindsight, I realize I lack any sense for what is normal, hence I am not able to see warning signs for when people may not be so good for me.

When I returned to Mumbai, and met an old friend, it was a comforting feeling of touching roots again, in a place that had started feeling alien to me. Instead of turning right around and heading out of the city again, I chose to find a way to settle in it. This friend, among the oldest I had among mountaineers was a comforting whiff of the outdoors in a cement jungle.

I thought he was necessary to surviving in a city. He thought that I was attractive and exotic enough to be a good partner for him in business. I wanted to continue working in the outdoors. And I fell into a kind of love that can destroy mercilessly as it holds you immobile.

There were warning signs everywhere. Big glaring ones. Orthodox parents whose wishes were paramount. No problem, I thought. I'd lived rural. How orthodox could it be? Well, it could be very, very confining. My entire personality was submerged in some kind of a new identity I could not recognize. Small rules, easy to adjust. Small responsibilities, easy to take on. Small things that were offensive, easy to avoid. Before I knew it, I was someone else. Someone I didn't like.

Far from being in touch with the outdoors, I found that this new life didn't include it at all unless we were earning from it. My role was to play the ignorant woman in the outdoors, while wooing clients to bring business. I took to facilitating learning groups, and found a new direction of growth that enriched me.

But I couldn't escape the know-it-all critic watching every move. What should I do, how I should deal with clients, how I should budget, how I should facilitate, how profits should be spent... I was the proprietor of a business I didn't own. My actions increasingly got overruled by him, useless business decisions were insisted on because he thought they were better. A new narrative began "You are so clever, you do things I could never do, but you must channelize your potential" and the person who couldn't understand what I did was apparently clever enough to channelize it. Whatever that meant.

The facade of high voltage adventurers stayed for a while, but I was now the ignorant office partner while he was the outdoors partner mentoring me. My experience was shoved aside as irrelevant, which increasingly became apparent as his view of it as a flaw - I was living in with a man when it happened.

While none of my history was hidden from him, it was now narrated as his rescue of me from a life of shame. Increasingly alcohol was becoming a bigger problem in our lives, with him being irritated with me in public, which I found so offensive that I stopped going out. I became responsible for communicating with his parents, whom he didn't get along with. I became responsible for paying all the bills in the home, including his phone bill and petrol expenses, because he worked for our business. The business never took off that well. I ended up paying from my pocket to avoid conflicts.

When I had my son, shit hit the fan.

Till then, I was working in partnership with him, supposedly, though most of the home was run from my considerably higher income from consulting. This stopped with the birth of our child. And with it stopped any respect I got.

I was now the target of a lot of frustrated anger over lack of money, though my expenses were always covered by me, the running expenses of the home were always covered by me. What had stopped were his phone bills, petrol expenses and his ability to find work. I should make it clear here, that we had always taken on our own freelance work all through. He had too, to the point of refusing better paying work for our clients in favor of that offered by a buddy. I was officially the bird in hand, but I was already in hand, and to be ignored.

His alcoholism grew the more unemployed he got, which in turn led to his increasing temper and inability to respect people hiring him. Soon he lost a lot of work, which made things worse. Nightly attacks of verbal abuse became the norm when he got home high on alcohol, and proceeded to vent on us. I got increasingly frustrated with my inability to protect my son from this nuisance. I was paying increasing bills with lesser money, and he then started getting angry if he saw me anywhere near a computer (I earn from writing).

My son developed the habit of waking up in the middle of the night and to date doesn't sleep well till early morning. Hours after my husband has crashed to bed, drunk. He blames this on me spoiling his habits by keeping him near a computer all the time. He ha developmental delays.He declared me to be the cause. He stopped giving any money at home, and no matter what I did, the reply was always a taunt. The taunts were increasingly public.

I started disengaging from everything. I got criticized in public, I stoped going out with him. I got criticized for going out, I stopped going out. I got criticized for the taste of food I cooked, I stopped cooking food. I got abused for objecting to a mess made after I tidied the home, I stopped tidying the home... till I do nothing. I escape online, I engage with my son, and I avoid the world completely.

Last year, I left home, but instead of moving in with friends as planned initially, I gave in to my father's invitation to stay with them. Another mistake. Within 24 hours of my arrival, the insults started again. I got bullied into returning to him, while he was told that I really wanted to come back. On my return, the first thing my husband told me was that he hadn't changed a thing and was still the same man, so if I wanted to stay, I should behave.

In the meanwhile, his parents decided to sell the home we are living in and to move to a cheaper locality and keep the balance money, since neither sons provide any money at home, and I stopped being able to provide for two households once my son was born and income stopped. While initially the mother in law had said she would provide for me and get me a separate home if need be, when the time came to buy, she did not. The writing on the wall was clear - she didn't want the shame of the two of us living apart, so she had sold the security from under my feet hoping that this would force me to not leave, even when she saw the behavior of her son and disliked it.

On his part, the husband gave me clear ultimatums. If I wanted to live in the new home, I'd have to live as he dictated. By now, nothing I do or say is acceptable. Nothing is told to me without a taunt attached. On my part, I have become so disinterested in the home, that I have all my clothing on the floor of the bedroom in a mess for a month, because I started packing, but couldn't decide if I wanted to live on my own or move to the new home. Rather poetic a metaphor for what happened of my life in the marriage. Taken out for some purpose, stagnating in a limbo.

And I am finding my solutions, because I woke up. Late, but better than never. It is time to start living again, or this autobiography ends because what follows will be a depressingly mundane story that will be too tragic to ignore, and too boring to write.

I must find me.

1

I fall in love at the drop of a hat
I love the world and I love knowing that
I am too intense to be pretty
A whiff of the wild within the city

I am a creature of ideas. A thinker, a dreamer, a romantic. So I think it is good that I am also able to come up with useful thoughts. I have had a tough life, but I have been able to turn it into an adventure. And I have been able to learn skills that let me share my learnings with the world.

I think I am a rare and much needed presence in the world. I trigger new thought, I invite change by living it openly, freely and making the pursuit of ideals a little less scary for all (including me).

In my life, I have experienced courage, compassion, brilliance, caring, integrity, tolerance, generosity, hardship, luxury, challenges, victories, defeats, threats, reassurances, inspiration and enough boredom to think. I have learned the value of these. The freedom in being me fully – sparkles and warts and all.

In the process, I have discovered humility. I have learned that I am not invincible, I am not always right. There is the human in me to be found in crushing despair and euphoric joy. I have dissolved many boundaries fencing me in by reducing my need for agreement and approval. I have discovered the enrichment of diversity. I have let go of the need to prove myself in favor of being myself. I have let go of shame. I am perfectly me, no matter what. And I am ok with others being themselves, no matter what.

From differences to diversity, is my learning. I find opportunity everywhere I turn. I am curious. I love learning. Discovering that “I don’t know.”. I have learned skills to enrich this eager mind of mine. To deal with ideas, and set them free. To not cage them in opinions and conditions.

I appreciate my sensuality, my sexuality, my womanhood, my motherhood. I rejoice that I experience them. I relish the zing of attraction without guilt, the endless demands of a child without frustration, living in the moment, immersing myself in it.

I make no apologies for being powerful. To wield the power I need without needing sanction from those more powerful. I feel no need to compete for something that is mine. I cross imposed lines on principle. I place no blame on me for suffering the retaliation of a world that would cage me in. I endure wrongs I cannot change, but I bow to no beliefs that disrespect mine.

I am me. I live celebrating myself. I live claiming all the space in the world that I need. Sans apology or shame.

contest by Women’s web

1

I Am Woman Part 1 || Part 2 by Hanna Imogen Jones

Many moons ago I made an unsolicited offer to the wonderful woman @Vidyut that I write a guest blog post about feminism. Since making that offer, my mind has, many times, been whirling with thoughts of “What to write?”, “Where do I start?” The offer I made has never been far from my thoughts, and it has always remained in my heart. It was just a question of arriving at how I would approach this task, and what elements of feminism I would focus on. This is, after all, a massive topic for discussion.

As a little bit of background for you, I have always been a feminist. For me, that term has always represented the quest for equality with men. Well, you don’t have to be a feminist to see that there is a severe gender power imbalance in the world – and that this has existed for aeons.

One of my earliest memories of expressing an opinion towards this – or anything else, for that matter - is of being a little girl of around three years old. I was present at a family gathering, and one of the female grown-ups (I can’t remember who) turned their attention towards me in the midst of the discussion and said something to the tune of “Well, Hannah, when you grow up, you’d better make sure you marry a rich husband, then, hadn’t you?” Little Hannah stopped, turned to the lady in question and replied, most seriously “Well, no. Why can’t I just make my own money and be rich?”

I remember stunned silence from the gathering of adults around me – and a big wide grin from my Mother, who knew her daughter by now. Don’t ask me where my response came from. I have no idea. I have no idea if I even possessed any concept of money. I certainly had no awareness of the gender imbalance within society. I suppose it just seemed like the obvious, logical response.

My path towards feminism / equality continued. I think this was something natural within my life. I had never felt inferior to boys. I had never felt superior either. I have simply always felt like an equal, with everyone on this planet, for that matter.

When I was eight or nine and in Junior school, I was the only girl that used to play cricket with the boys every playtime. I was great! I was the best wicket keeper in the school – and could catch the ball from anywhere. My reactions were fast, and once the ball was in my hands it was swiftly delivered to the wicket stumps or the correct recipient, usually resulting in the poor batsman ending up out of the game. The boys used to clamour over who would have me on their team. When the captain of each side stood up to pick their teams, I was often the first person to be picked!

The funny thing, when I look back, is that it didn’t seem strange that I was the only girl playing. I was simply another player on the field. It also didn’t appear to seem strange to the boys - that I was there amongst them. I remember nothing but respect from them, and actually if anything, they held me in great esteem for my skills and abilities. I was considered a valuable contributor. I was celebrated as an individual and as an essential component of the team. How wonderful! Perhaps the wonderful attitude of the boys reflected the fact that they too, by this stage in their development, had not yet ‘learned’ that men in society were considered ‘superior’ to women in so many ways. Perhaps nobody had yet told them that I shouldn’t be there as an equal amongst them – and as such, they treated me as an equal.

When I was seventeen, just before going away to university to read for a literature degree, my father presented me with a book that was to change my life! The book in question was ‘The Female Eunuch’ by the world-renowned feminist Germaine Greer. The reason my father had bought me this book was because Germaine Greer was at the time a tutor in the literature department of the university. I think he wanted me to read a book by the famous tutor, so that I could impress her. It didn’t exactly work out like that, as she never taught me and I only once came into contact with her, when one day we shared a lift. I remember that her energy at the time was so powerful and so intimidating, that I just squashed myself into the lift wall and didn’t dare to utter a word to her for the brief journey. She was not giving out ‘invitation to speak’ vibes, so I didn’t. This, looking back, might have been a good thing.

At age eighteen, I went on holiday to Spain. One day as I relaxed by the pool, an ‘entertainment representative’ from the hotel announced that a game of water polo was about to begin. Great! He said that anyone who wanted to play should get into the pool now, and so, with an internal whoop of excitement I immediately leaped up from my sun bed and plunged head first into the pool in readiness to play! I had been bored doing nothing but lounging around, so the prospect of some fun and sport was a perfect invitation. When I surfaced from my dive and looked around, I was amazed to find that I was the only woman who had gotten into the pool. “Oh well” I thought. It hadn’t been the first time. The teams were allocated and the game began.

The only thing I now remember from the game is this. The ball was thrown to my side of the swimming pool. It went over my head and a few metres beyond me. This was my chance! In the close vicinity of the ball, there was just myself and a man on the opposing team. We both started swimming like crazy to be the first to reach the ball. I got there before him. I took the ball in my hand, and raised my hand above the water to throw it to my team. Before I knew what was happening, the man had his hand on my head and was pushing me below the water, hard and with force. I lost the ball. But he continued to push me beneath the water. This was no joke. It was no light play in a holiday resort swimming pool. The man was almost twice the size of me. He was angry. I felt his anger and his aggression. I felt his rage and indignation. He continued pushing me below the water, now with one hand on my head and the other on my shoulder. I couldn’t breathe and fought to come up for air. By the time I came up spluttering, he had roughly pushed me aside with one last shove and was swimming away. Let that be a lesson to you. I got the point. No longer wishing to partake in the unpleasantness, I got out of the pool to recover and contemplate the incident.

Perhaps ten years or so ago I might have been playing cricket with that boy, in fun, in grace and in equality of spirit. Perhaps today, those boys whom had celebrated and championed my sporting prowess, would also be pushing me under the water, attempting to drown me because I had dared to compete with them as an equal. What had given this man so much anger, hatred and resentment towards me? What indeed, happens to some men to make them behave in such a way? Was he really so threatened by me? A forty-year old big strong man, threatened to outrage by an eighteen year old girl reaching the ball before him? Now that I think about it as I write this, I feel quite sorry for that person. He must have had so many insecurities in his life. Why did he possess this level of anger, of inferiority? Of having to prove his strength by force alone? I hope that he has now reached a place of peace. I hope that his violence has not extended to other women and possibly men in his life. I would guess that this may not have been the case. I hope that the others he has assaulted in his life have been able to assimilate his actions to the proper cause, and also find some empathy. It must be awful, to exist as such an angry, limited and challenged being on this planet.

Moving on. One day when I was around twenty, I had just finished playing a netball match. I cannot remember whether or not we won. After the game, a friend and I decided to relax and discuss the game together at the pub. We showered and dressed and went for a glass of water. No alcohol straight after the game – we were far too health conscious for that. We drank our water, finished our discussion and left the pub to walk the 200 metres or so to the taxi rank to go home. We began walking along the narrow pavement and saw that coming toward us, making their way to the pub we had just left, were two men. We all intuitively moved into single file in order to pass each other. I was in front of my friend. As we reached the two men and the one in front was just about to pass by me, I caught a funny glint in his eye. Before I knew what was happening, he grabbed my crotch in a sudden move. Grabbed it hard, and held his hand there. I smacked his hand away, spluttering out something like “What do you think you’re doing?” One look at his face told me to challenge him no further. It was late and both men were huge. They reeked of arrogance and there was ready aggression in their eyes. They continued past us on the path, laughing to each other as if nothing had happened. I stood there in stunned silence with my friend. This is such a cliché – but I felt dirty. I couldn’t wait to go home to shower again, which I did. Even in the shower, of course, I couldn’t wash away the violation that had occurred. What was I wearing? You may well ask. Jeans and a great big navy blue woollen jumper that almost reached my knees. It may as well have been a potato sack, it was so large and shapeless. Flat shoes. No make-up. The only flesh on show was my head, neck and hands. Had I asked for it? You tell me! Would the incident have been more acceptable if I was clad in a miniskirt and boob tube? You tell me!

Continued ...

Part 1 || Part 2