Zainab suffered at the hands of a ruthless animal. Unfortunately her story is not unique. Many of us suffer the same fate. Silently.
I don’t even remember the first time it happened… But I remember every single time it happened.
I remember being six years old, with a rotund little laddu for a stomach and two messy ponytails.
My teachers often called me a chatterbox at every parent-teacher meeting, and my mother often said I had verbal diarrhea.
Yet, I found myself speechless when this strange man’s face contorted into a smile that made my stomach turn, and his foot took the first step inside my house.
My parents were asleep and I didn’t want to wake them up, and the uncle told me not to wake them up.
I begged him to come back later when they were awake, and he said he would. Just not without a hug from guriya. So his arms found his way around my torso, and his calloused hands familiarized themselves with my skin, and he left.
I remember being eight years old, the laddu belly made no effort to disappear and the hairstyle stayed the same.
My teacher let us out early and I walked to my bus. My plastic water bottle, slung around my neck, clanked against the metal tie-clip as I ran to get my favourite seat by the window.
The conductor, with his bushy moustache and bug-eyes, sat next to me and didn’t say a word. I asked him about his day and he grunted. He looked around the bus and slipped his hands between my legs.
I felt uncomfortable and I felt sad.
I knew where my head, shoulder, knees and toes were. But I didn’t know where he had touched me, I just knew I didn’t like it.
I remember being thirteen years old, smudged eyeliner and stubby black nails had replaced the innocence.
Aunty had told us her son is very good with kids, everyone looked forward to visiting their house because bhai was so much fun.
I looked forward to being in a new country with this supposed cool bhai.
He came upstairs one night and asked if I could give him a massage, his head was hurting.
I was told he would give me a massage too, and when it started to hurt I told him to stop.
He said he would send us all back if I told on him.
I remember being twenty years old, being yelled at every time I cried.
I told him I loved him and he told me he was learning to love me.
He asked to cuddle and then I was bent over.
I just remember blood and tears after that.
He threw me a towel and said if I hated it so much I should have never come.
In between the incidents, I received many messages and heard various catcalls that made me feel as dirty as my first experience.
I was tired of the haya I was responsible for, and I wanted to leave my body at home.
I never signed up for this responsibility.
Nobody told me that my breasts and vagina would be a war zone, with countless people attempting to conquer me and make me their property.
Nobody told that Zainab either.
Just like me, and just like hundreds of other little girls, Zainab was a child.
Her shiny hair adorned with colourful clips and teeth painting a smile, it all suddenly disappeared when someone held her hand.
In between #metoo, #timesup and #justiceforzainab… how many of us will it take to end the war?
Cover image via: shutterstock.com