“It tickles don’t do it, please no, bhai”, she chuckled as she tried to get free of her cousin’s grasp.
They were playing as usual in the lawn, the same game where bhai used to tickle her all over the body to cure her of her ticklish nature. But this time it was different, bhai was persistent even when she told him not to.
She was a girl of seven and bhai was five years older than her. He used to come live with their family during the summer holidays and sometimes during the winter vacations too. Every summer she used to wait for him, of her elder brother and his siblings. She used to dream of playing with them all year-long, she didn’t have anyone to play with, Baba used to be away for his job and Maa used to be busy in-house chores. Maa rarely let her get out of the house to play with the neighborhood kids, she used to say just one thing when Samia used to cry and beg her to go outside, “Shaitaan (devil) roams around in the human form outside and he can hurt you”, so it was only her cousins for whom she always longed for.
The next day bhai proposed to everyone that they play darkroom and everyone seemed to be happy with bhai’s choice of game. It was Madiha’s turn to find people in the dark room. Bhai hid everyone and then hid himself with Samia, when everyone was in their place and Madiha came knocking to ask if everyone was ready, bhai told her he wasn’t because he was hiding Samia in her place.
Samia was close with bhai, he used to buy her chocolates, take her side when everyone was fighting and was against her and when no one was playing he used to play with her.
In the wake of the night when everyone was outside in the lawn because of no electricity bhai used to come to her maa and baba’s room where Samia used to be fast asleep and when no one was looking as the door used to be wide open he used to pull up Samia’s shirt and plant kisses all over her bare skin and then he used to pull down Samia’s pyjamas and then the underwear and then he used to pull his own pants and underwear down and sit on top of her and then he used to ask if Samia liked it, Samia didn’t know what to respond or how to respond or if it was right or wrong, maybe it was wrong but she used to nod anyway. This would continue until the one hour load shedding time was over or someone used to be in close vicinity of the room. Sometimes bhai used to play this game with her during the day when they were alone.
When Samia got older and she realised what was happening it was too late, for apparently there might be no physical damage but her self esteem and her soul was brutally scarred and crushed to rubble. She began questioning her morality, her own self, she began questioning of what could have been right had she known this before or had she shook her head in negation instead of affirmation. Did she know it was wrong all along or did she not? She wanted to burn every inch of her skin where bhai touched her, kissed her, inserted his genitals into her. How could she be so foolish to trust bhai, to trust someone who was just using her? How could bhai breach this wall of trust? How could bhai take advantage of her love? How could bhai be so heartless? He was her elder brother, her confidant. She should have known everything. How could she be so much naïve, so much of an idiot? And the list of the questions grew but there doesn’t seem to be any answers. All there was the blame, the blame that she put on herself for not knowing, for nodding, for not raising her voice. But how could have she raise her voice when everyone suppressed it? When no one helped her when she was bullied by the senior girls at school or when the cousins used to fight with her, call her names, make fun of her irrationally. Everyone thought they were playing, children do it. It’s all normal. It’s all normal, that’s what she thought, that’s what everyone made her think.
Maa used to say that there are monsters hiding in the skin of people outside, didn’t she know that monsters hide under our beds and closets? That Shaitaan can take the shape of the most trusted of relations. That people wear make-up to hide the zits and dark circles. That people grow beards to veil the devil inside of them. That people misuse trust and love. That people play games not just for the sake of the game but for their own enjoyment and fun. That what people play are not just games. That the physical scars heal but what about those that are obscured from others? How to heal them? What’s the cure? Which ointment to apply? Which pill to take? Which syrup to drink? Where’s the doctor for the wounds inside? Can we trust the doctor? How do you build that wall of trust again? What kind of bricks and cementing material is used? What do you do? Does Maa and Baba know all of this? Why didn’t she know about the masked devil? Why didn’t she protect her from the devil? Why? Would people accept her if she revealed? Would they think of her as a whore? Would they blame her? Was it her mistake? Did she find it pleasurable? Did she really?
These unanswered questions haunted her, hit her like an iron ball. Killed her every time. Pierced into her like knives thrown at her. How can she stop the nightmares that first started from her rape and then engulfed her mother and then her female cousins? The monsters under her bed seemed innocuous now because there were villains much more fatal and horrible, much more scarier and they didn’t just loose free during the night, they conquered day too. The scars they leave are for lifetime and the way to their cure is not written in any of the books. Bhais are not bhai anymore, mamus and chachas are not mamu and chacha anymore neither is any other relation. How could you trust someone unknown when the knowns stab you with burning poisons of the soul? What’s the correct way? What’s right and what’s wrong? Because now the lines of wrong doings and right doings seem to be blurred so much that they can’t be seen clearly even with the aided eye.