Call Me:

There was nothing different about that Saturday. I put on my favourite turquoise dress and we soon headed to my Nano’s majestic house. As an eight-year-old girl I was intrigued by the grandeur. I used to pretend that it was my castle and that I was a princess. I would run up and down the wooden stairs and my cousins would follow. The backyard had dozens of trees and a swing that clumsily hung from one of the branches. That was my pretend throne in the game where I was a princess. Cousins, a castle, a swing that hung from a gorgeous gigantic tree and my grandmother… it was the perfect recipe for a perfect day. I always looked forward to going to Nano’s.

I sat on the swing, pushing it with all my might in efforts to reach for the clouds. I felt a push on my back and soon I was high up. This was very exciting for a child who was trying to get the swing going and with a smile I turned to look at who the kind soul was. It was a new helper that Nano had hired. His name was Ashraf. Back then he seemed older so I called him ‘bhai’ but now that I am 25, my guess is that he must’ve barely been twenty at that time. As my mother called me inside, I saw Ashraf signal me to come to him. Having been taught to be extra respectful to the helpers and the poor, I ran hastily towards him in efforts to not seem rude.

He showed me a candy that he took out of his pocket and told me that it turns into chocolate after a while. I remember letting out a gasp of wonder. My state of marvel was interrupted by my mother’s harsh tone of voice. I ran inside to eat lunch. The candy was magical in my head and I couldn’t wait to go grab it from him, and so I went to him.

He was still washing clothes. I told him that I wanted to trade his candy for ten rupees. Obviously, I was not going to just take it since he was just a helper. He told me he could only give it to me if I go up with him on the roof to play. Suddenly, all the ‘Stranger Danger’ talks that mama had had with me flashed in my head and I knew this was not right. I said ‘No’, a word I was rarely able to use when someone asked for something. Ashraf on seeing that I was taking a stand, threatened to tell Nano of the money I had stolen from her purse. But I had not stolen any money. I did not know what he was talking about, yet I felt scared. I was easily manipulated. He continued threatening and blackmailing me to the verge where I started believing that I had done something wrong. He also added, “You can’t tell anyone where you are going.” I did really want that candy as much as I wanted for Nano to not know about his ‘story.’

I followed him to the roof. The next thing I remember is that I was standing and Ashraf had his hands in places where they shouldn’t have been and had placed my hands in places where they shouldn’t have been. I knew something was not right but I also was too scared to move. It would be my fault if anyone got to know. This went on for a few minutes but we were suddenly interrupted by my four little cousins running up to the roof. Ashraf moved back and left when he saw them. I didn’t think anything of it at that time but now that I look back, I could’ve been raped after being molested. Maybe I was?

I don’t remember much but a feeling of guilt and disgust. I also remember snapping myself out of it and joining in with my cousin’s play. We all had food and I sat with my grandmother and everybody laughed and chatted. There really was nothing different about that Saturday, except that everything was.