How are things up there? I am going to assume it’s heaven because I liked you, as a child. You were mostly good to me, though a bit strict & particular about things I didn’t fancy giving importance to back then. I remember how you would oil my hair every Sunday then let it rest in for about an hour, rub oil into my skin to make it softer than it was because it was never soft enough, never firm enough, never smooth enough. Then you would draw a bath for me & tell me stories while working up a lather in my hair. As if that ritual was not enough, you would then rub in dollops of moisturizer into my skin because, it was never soft enough…
You made sure that I was always well dressed. I had the neatest appearance as a child because you ensured that my dress was changed the minute there would be a stain or even a wrinkle.
You loved cooking my favorite meals. I recall how I loved minced mutton with a boiled egg in the center prepared in your own choice of spices. I relished the chocolate pudding you made me & you were a hit among my friends because you loved offering them food too! It was a good life. It really was.
They say that childhood is the golden phase of a person’s life. Everything is larger than life when you’re a child. Every experience leaves a mark on you & makes you who you are in your adult life. A nostalgic trip down the lanes of childhood mostly bring back delightful recollections of fond moments spent with family. Mostly.
You must be wondering, why am I writing this letter to you? Especially now, that you would not be able to read it because you are no longer among us. But you see that’s the whole point. I feel your perception about people in this lifetime was extremely flawed. And if there is an after life, I don’t want you to misjudge people the way you did back here.
I remember all too well, the gatherings Grandpa was fond of hosting. He had his own circle of friends, acquaintances, admirers & followers, some genuine others, not quite. Of all his friends, most of whom I have forgotten, I do remember Mr…. let’s just call him Mr because I do not remember his name , what he looked like or any details about his appearance whatsoever because I was just about 6 years old when he did what I am about to tell you. I only recall ‘what he did‘. I also recall what it made me feel back then & what I feel about it now. It was one of Grandpa’s gatherings. I don’t recall many details , I was too young, my apologies. All I can think of now, is my powder pink dress, the one you had lovingly picked out for me, the way it flared above my knees each time I took a twirl & the laughter that ensued between you and Mama when I tried to show her the dress & my twirl & the flair it caused, over the phone as she was away somewhere with Papa for some time. I recall the sheer joy I felt upon strutting around in my pink dress. Then I remember greeting the guests with a well taught ‘Good evening’ & then sliding away to sit quietly in the corner or running off toward the kitchen to see what ‘Victor’ , our cook was up to. Every time I entered the kitchen, Victor rewarded me with something scrumptious to eat. I liked Victor. He made me smile.
After one such trip to the kitchen, I was called upon to greet Mr. He was an old man. He was my grand father’s friend. A regular visitor in our household. He was somebody of absolutely no consequence to me. I greeted him & he petted me on my shoulder with a loud laugh. I ran away to the kitchen, where I knew Victor would be ready with a treat. The kitchen had an entrance from the drawing area & an exit toward the back that led into the kitchen garden. From the kitchen garden, I would sometimes sneak out towards the main entrance of the house to play hide & seek with the neighbor’s children, children of our household help, puppies. Basically whoever I could find. It was dark, as I made way into the kitchen garden & then ran outside to where the guest cars were parked. I had given Victor a warning that I would be running out to hide & that he was supposed to come look for me. I heard Victors voice fade away as he said he was busy & that I shouldn’t head out as it was dark. But when did I ever listen to Victor?
I found a little puppy I could play around with. I had played with him before & named him Fido. Because he liked to be fed a lot. I assumed he will come looking for me when I hid behind a car parked in the freeway. I noticed Mr not far away, with something in his hand that he brought to his lips on occasion only to take it away again. It was lit up & he breathed out smoke. I understand now that he was out for a smoke, something I hadn’t witnessed anybody in my house indulge in. I sat squatted on the ground, trying to hide from Fido. Mr casually looked in my direction & said “What are you up to?” while sporting an annoying grin. “I am hiding from Fido” . This was the end of the conversation as far as I was concerned, so I started looking behind my shoulder, trying to spot Fido somewhere. That’s when I felt his hand upon my thigh, quickly reaching beneath my pink dress. “Do you know what this is?” he asked while he touched me in a way that nobody ever had. I don’t know if it was the question that made me wiggle away or the touch of his hand. Whatever it was, it was the single most disgusting experience I had ever undergone. As I moved away from him, he got even closer but to my relief, I heard Victor. “Come back inside, you shouldn’t be out here. Can’t you see it’s dark? It’s not safe for little children”. Mr hastily withdrew his repulsive hand away from me & I ran towards Victor like I had never before. He picked me up & casually carried me back inside while I held on to him like he was dear life. Even inside the safety of my home, I held onto Victor tightly because I just couldn’t feel…safe…anymore. Much to your annoyance. You never liked Victor picking me up or holding my hand while bringing me back from the bus stop as I returned from school. You reprimanded him each time I held on to him, or pinched his trouser for a treat I couldn’t reach. “She is a child, but you must know better than to touch you master’s grand daughter inappropriately”! But with Victor, it was never that. His touch was unintentional. It was always I who had a purpose behind tugging at him. A treat. A sneak outside. A cover up job in the basement after I smeared it with poster colors. Quite unlike Mr. His touch was sinister. Repulsive. Lingering. Intentional. And he was back into the drawing room now. He headed straight toward me, picked me up without hesitation & said “What an adorable little sweetheart…I think I am going to bite your cheeks!” Which he did as you laughed & looked on without the slightest of objection or hesitation. I shrieked in pain & disgust, both inside & out, as I struggled to let myself free of his grasp. The harder I tried to push him away, the harder the two of you laughed. I ask you this. Were you deaf? That you couldn’t hear my pain? Were you blind? That you couldn’t see my obvious discomfort? How could you be so insensitive? As you laughed away while I cried, struggling to break free. And yet, It was Victor who unnerved you. But that’s the thing. Victor NEVER made me feel so repulsed in my own skin. Mr was like a serpent lingering inside my gut. I just couldn’t get it. After he had his way with me, as much as he could in your presence, he finally let go. I ran towards my room. Shut the door behind me as hard as I could & I sobbed. I had never missed Mom so much. Ever. I felt she would have understood. She would have done something to stop that monster from gnawing at my flesh the way he did, right in front of your eyes.
I still feel violated, to tell you the truth. Not as much by the thought of Mr’s hands on me, but by the very fact, that he was able to get away with it, in your presence. You let him inside our house. You didn’t come looking for me. You didn’t save me. You let him violate me & humiliate me even more inside our home, where I thought the ordeal was supposed to be over. Victor was my only source of comfort. He looked out for me. He saved me. His embrace was reassuring. And yet you despised him, but absolutely adored Mr.
I understand now that it was the outer appearance that mattered to you most. Not what a person was made up of inside. Mr was rich. Of the same class as you. Wore fancy clothes. Spoke the way you did. Ate the same food. So he had to be good. For you, his was the good touch.
Victor on the other hand was poor. Your servant. From a lowly caste. Couldn’t afford the luxuries you could. Ate left overs. Spoke a broken language you couldn’t comprehend. He was bad. For you, His was the bad touch.
But that’s not how it really is, Grandma. You were wrong about this, all your life & I couldn’t tell you because you wouldn’t believe me. And it’s a shame too because, you have no idea your prejudice made your judgement so clouded, I often wonder what kind of people you surrounded yourself with. No wonder you cried alone at times. But that’s another story.
It’s not how someone appears, but who they are inside that matters. And that’s what makes their touch, good or bad.
That’s all for this letter. Will write to you if I feel you need to learn more about life from my experiences.
Your Grand Daughter.