Amidst the pollution in the national capital region of India, love is in the air. And if you drive around, you will see passion— be it couples shopping together at South Extension or
literally grinding up against each other in the nightclubs at Hauz Khas.
The “passion” I speak of is omnipresent in the lives of everyone out here. The walls are adorned by graffiti spurned lovers have left. Trees with lovers’ names carved are also a common sight. Even the middle-schoolers have their “crushes”. These are usually the preteens who extract money from their parents to buy the lucky boy or girl Cadbury chocolates on Valentine’s Day.
As I sit in the car on the way to my house in Gurgaon, I cannot help but wonder why life is this way. Why is romance such a prominent element in the lives of the people here? Why are we so needy? And considering the rate of sexual violence here, we are forceful, too. I do not claim to understand what goes on the mind of a predator, but what is within does intrigue me.
What is it that they think, before robbing someone of their innocence? Can they differentiate
between consent and a firm NO? Is a predator’s psyche as sick as their actions? Can they distinguish between love and obsession?
These thoughts have plagued me for long. The “love” in the air is nothing but lust, and the “passion” is nothing but stubbornness. And in that instant, I go spiralling back in time, I am ten years old again.
I stood in front of the swimming pool, somewhere in southern India on vacation with my
parents and baby brother. I wore a pink, black and orange swimsuit that covered me modestly. The instructor, that mom and dad had asked the hotel to provide, beckoned at me to
enter the water. So I did.
The fifth grade had not been a very good year for me. Still questioning my sexuality, I had forced myself to like a boy. Of course, he was the popular one that every one of my friends also had a crush on. In other words, the fear of men was not intrinsic to me then.
The chlorinated water stung my skin, yet I proceeded to the deeper end. The instructor asked me to float, so I grabbed the edge of the pool and did so. And what went down after never really left my memory. He told me I wasn’t floating straight enough, and that I had to let loose a bit. As he approached me to help, I felt a deep sense of dread wash over me. We had covered the chapter on good touch and bad touch right before the vacation. I hoped he
wouldn’t touch me like that. With a harsh motion, he grabbed my legs and lifted them to the level of the water, snaking his fingers to my crotch a moment after. His other hand held on to my childish breast. I was beyond terrified, beyond uncomfortable.
I made a random excuse and went to my mom, who was busy on the phone. My dad and brother were nowhere to be seen. I hid in our hotel room for the rest of the lesson.
When I finally confided to mom, she shook her head. My lessons were cancelled, but not once did she acknowledge the fact that I was traumatized.
Looking back at this incident after eight years, I realize that she probably had no idea what to
do, and I no longer resent her for it. I have made peace with my demons and so has she.
I look at my face in the car mirror. It is stained with tears, but I am okay. The pollution makes
it hard to breathe, I have reached home.
I check my phone to a missed call from my beloved. Yes, it is a she.
Maybe things would have been different if not that afternoon at the pool. Maybe I wouldn’t be as afraid of men. But for now, I don’t think I want to know.
And I don’t think I care either. Happiness has found me.
Because amidst the pollution of Delhi NCR, love is in the air.
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