top of page

Fourteen



Audio Version:




Content warning for abuse



At the time of writing this, I am twenty-five.

Ever so slowly closing in on my twenty-sixth.

It’s nearly April and I am taken by the fact that the anniversary of it all has crept up on me.

It has been nearly eleven years since that evening and yet, through all the therapy, sharing, help, support, what have you, I have found myself unable to write about any of this.


I consider myself a writer.


How great or awful I may be I leave to the better judgement of my editor and you the reader, but for all my claims of vulnerability and using writing to process my lived experience, it’s taken me ten years since the last time it happened to sit down and pen any of this.



It was the evening after a play rehearsal.

I had a small part in the production and yet somehow he felt that I needed the extra attention.

A hand on my shoulder, a gentle rub of the thigh, signs I mistook for genuine affection at the time.

He had always been super friendly.

Taking my enthusiasm for the literary arts as his in, and cheering me on at every step that I took in that direction.

I wasn’t an athlete.

I didn’t have the inclination nor the frame to be one, and yet debating and the odd part in the school theatre was my sport.

My arena.

If I were Adonis Creed, he was my Balboa.

Coaching me.

Training me.

Cheering me on.


Although, if I remember my Creed & Rocky movies clearly, Rocky never assaulted Adonis. Never drugged him to take advantage of him.

Never attempted to emotionally break him down only to pacify with a pathetic attempt to screw him.

This man was a predator, and his attempts to close in on me, which I so completely misread at the time, were evident in his every breath, slur, and word. From the very first moment we met, he was putting the game plan together.


In his every present moment with me;

He was grooming me.

Watching me.

Preying on me.

Waiting for the moment to make his mark.


He did.

In April of 2010.

In a seedy guest house.

While my peers slept blissfully in the room right next to me.

While my debating partner slept in a room meters away from our own.


The original plan for me was to share the room with two other boys.

Although they were senior in years and our school had this archaic hierarchical model, they were both lovely souls and welcomed the idea with a positive, “We’ll make room for you.”

My predator had other plans, and the decision to share a room with the other boys did not align with his more sinister intentions.

Through manipulation, a feinted attempt at showing care, he suggested that I would be bullied by the other two and that behind their genuine attempt was a secret plot to torment me.


The irony, to this day, is not lost on me.


I resisted.

He insisted.

I explained I would be fine.

He said he wanted to make sure I was safe.

Like the fool I was, supplemented by my real lived experience of our school, I gave in.


When I think about that evening now, I realize with the benefit of hindsight how deep his hooks were, how conditioned I was to his ways, that I chose to believe him over my own immediate instincts.

There was no threat from the other boys, my seniors. If I had chosen to stay with them, had I stood my ground, the worst that may have come from it would have been the snores from one of them.

Heck! Had they actually bullied me, the torment would have been pretty on-brand for what I was already accustomed to.

I would take the worst of what they could do, compared to the horror that I have lived with.


I don’t remember the evening after the glass of water that he made me drink before we went to bed.

I turned to my side; the dark room, the curtains, and the sound of the airconditioning are the last of what I remember.


What I do have a vivid recollection of is how I woke up the next morning.

I felt like something wasn’t right.

Words would fail me, they do when I have attempted to explain it, but the strongest way to ever describe it is that I felt, IN MY BONES, that something was wrong.


“You’re up sleepyhead!”

I looked around, I looked at my watch - It was time to get ready.


“I didn’t want to wake you up, you looked so angelic.”

I was still fairly discombobulated.


The feeling in my bones reaching the pit of my stomach and rising.


I rushed to the bathroom and spilt my guts out.


He muttered something in Bengali.

I continued to throw up.

“Would you like a glass of water?”

I strongly rejected the offer.

I washed, got dressed and proceeded to lose my first ever competitive debate later that day.


As we boarded the train, I kept my distance.

‘It probably was nothing.’ I kept repeating to myself.

“You okay beta?” he asked as I sat down on my seat.

“Just food poisoning Sir.” I held a pause, “I think.”


Weeks later, the memory of what had happened got swiftly repressed and I passed off the pit in my stomach as a reaction to the street food I’d eaten the day before.




 



It was April of 2011.


The school put up an annual English play and as you would expect, I was being preyed upon yet again by this man.

He hadn’t attempted anything in that time, partly due to my very busy academic and debating life and partly because I would keep him at an arm’s length.

That evening at play practice he suggested that we grab a quick dinner at his place and that while the meal was being prepped I could check my Facebook.

“I’ve something important to talk you about”, he said.


I nodded and post-Asthachal (our evening practice of meditation), I made my way to his residence across from Suraj Kund.


There was another teacher in there, who was promptly ushered out upon my arrival.

He didn’t ask any questions as to my presence in the house and I suspect given his general aloof disposition, the thought did not cross his mind.

I was on high alert.


I didn’t check Facebook.

I didn’t look up gossip on Google News.

I just sat on his couch and kept staring at the door.


He offered me a glass of water.

I put it down never to touch it again.

I knew better.


He then proceeded to accuse me of spreading rumours about him, for suggesting that he was a predator.

The truth was, I had lived in silence, not saying a word of what had come to pass to anyone. Burying it under layers of shame and self-blame.


“I didn’t say anything, sir. I don’t know why I’d say anything to anyone.”


His posture changed. He sat up straight, no longer the tormented teacher being accused of falsehoods.

His tone changed as well. More confident and certain.


“Come give me a hug.”


I did.


“I knew you’d never spread lies about me.”


They were not lies.


“I knew I could trust you.”


I didn’t.


“You’ve always been special to me.”


He proceeded to grab my ass.


In that split second, perhaps because I was triggered, perhaps because I could no longer bear to be special to him; For a lot of reasons still unknown to me, I pulled myself away, pushed him away, and walked right out of that house.


When I got back to my own student residence, I took the longest cold shower I have ever taken.


I got dressed, put on my best cologne and perched myself on one of the chairs outside the Housemaster’s residence and made my way through every newspaper and edition of Outlook that was on display.

This wasn’t out of the norm for me.

Most kids abandoned the newspapers once they’d had their fill of the Page 3 news and I would often sit there with a few of my peers, absorbing information that could come in handy for the next debate or quiz.


“Evening beta.”

My housemaster stepped out of his door and sat down in front of me.

“Evening sir.”

He looked at the only other student that was at the table and requested that he go fetch another student.

He was gone in an instant and it was just the two of us.

After a few silent seconds, he cleared his throat.

For Mr. Mishra, this was an unspoken sign that there was something he wanted to say and that whatever was going to be said carried a lot of weight.


“You’re never going back there again. Okay?”


Tears welled up in my eyes.

I nodded.


He did not have the details, he could not have known the extent of it, but my house director, my warden, my parent in this rock above the city knew that something wasn’t right and in his own way, he knew he had to protect me. A kid of 15 that had yet to realize the true scale of what had happened to him.


For years I kept quiet, for years I carried with me the shame.

I blamed myself for putting myself in that position, for not seeing the signs.

For not being smarter.

When the news broke that he had been expelled from school for abusing a kid that was eleven my heart broke.


If only I had said something.

If only.

I felt responsible.

I felt complicit in my silence.


In the years since I’ve opened up about my abuse but only in my most private channels and never revealing the true scale of what had come to pass.

This piece doesn’t capture the lived experience of it but yet I feel I’ve held my silence for too long.

A man, my teacher, a person that was meant to teach me of the great in the world robbed me of my innocence. But to hide his name, to protect him and carry shame, when the shame is his to bear; that I cannot do anymore.



His name was Jason.

He may have meant many things to many people but to me he was a constant reminder of my shame, of my failure to resist, of my failure to speak up.

He may have been a great teacher to many but to me, he was my tormentor.

The sight of him enough to throw me down a rabbit hole of panic and anxiety.



I write this because I know I wasn’t his only victim.

I’ve lived with that shame, and with every minute that I have worked on it, I know how difficult that journey can be.

It has taken me a decade since I walked out of that house.

It has taken me even longer to forgive myself.

To be kind to myself.


I was Fourteen.

I was just a kid.


I know I wasn’t the only survivor.

I see you.

I hear you.

I believe you.


Your story is valid.

Your experience is valid.

It doesn’t make you weak for not knowing any better.

The shame you feel, I know how it eats away.

The survivor’s guilt.

That shame is not yours to bear.

The guilt is not yours to bear.

It is his.

It always has been.

You were just a kid.


I know I wasn’t the only one.

And you are not alone.

I see you.

I hear you.

I believe you.






1 comment

Related Posts

See All

Vacuum

Chérie

bottom of page