FIRST PERSONS HOME INSIGHT

Tormented By The Ghost Of Youth, A Girl Visits Home To Change The Future Of Other Girls.

In our little eastern village, sunflowers were almost always in bloom. The footpaths were almost always lined by it. And on our way to the stream, we’d pluck and weave them into crowns for ourselves and those we were happy with.

What was almost always in fashion, also, was the stream. It was always fun and refreshing. That is where we knew we could find play and excitement. Everyone gathered there in the afternoons, when it was sunny, to wash and swim. Or swim and fetch water. Or wash, swim and fetch water. You’d hear rings of laughter and chaotic echoes of activities several yards away. And if you stayed at the top of the hill, you’d see an arrangement of different colored clothes spread out to dry, and clusters of people engaging in self-pleasing acts.

In the evenings, we’d gather to dance and tell stories, until our mums called us into the house, to retire for the day.

Mornings of weekdays were spent in school, till two in the afternoon, when everyone streamed out like an army of ants toward home for refreshment, and some number of chores before fun at the stream called. That is the story of my childhood. We played, worked, and studied. We dreamed as much as our environment inspired. We hoped to someday be a part of something big that our hunch told us was out there. But that was not to be, because girls started turning up pregnant, one after the next, like a contagion. And that marked the beginning of the end of play and studies for most of those I knew.

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The stream continued to be full and fun for other age segments, but there was a strong wind of grief and shame blowing through our segment. We’d turn up and sit in silence, full of speeches, but too depressed to speak. We all knew that the sum of everything could be grouped into two columns: love and rape. Yet, we were lost in the maze of it all, and couldn’t properly navigate to safety.

Gradually, our meeting places became deserted. It started with the mothers of those who were yet to contract pregnancy, keeping their daughters covered and indoors. And the mothers of the pregnant ones following suit to shield their daughters from ridicule. The next thing you knew was, the daughters who were covered and indoors started turning up pregnant, and the desk next to yours was left vacant. Those vacant desks kept increasing as you went up the academic ladder, such that you don’t know the exact moment you started thinking that perhaps your desk will be next. Or maybe, your desk wasn’t next, yet, because you were not pretty enough? And what were you doing stressing your brain with formulars and anatomical drawing of things, when you could just be a mum like everyone else? What was wrong in being a teenage mum, anyway? Jojo’s husband is always buying her things. Quincy is always talking about how much her husband loves her and the things they do together. Bridget doesn’t say much. You’ve caught sadness in her eyes, many times, but when you asked, she said the baby keeps her awake at night.

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That is all your rare encounters evolved to: husbands, babies, meals and how to keep the house clean. No more bellows of laughter, independent thought and dreams about big and better ways of doing things. When you tried to direct everyone’s focus, you found they couldn’t engage at an elevated level of awareness with you. And your new friends wouldn’t fit in your heart, as they did. The ones that did, eventually left because the past had too much bearing on how you were approaching the present.

What they didn’t know is that every time they talked about husbands and babies, Quincy’s bloodied face, Jojo’s hawking tray, and Bridget’s dead eyes flash through your mind, several times.

That is not an easy place to be. It is not a place one can easily disconnect and stroll away from. The worst thing about that place is the guilt you feel for being the only one that made it, because Quincy was more intelligent, and Bridget was raped, and Jojo was a kid.

You were not a special kid among them. You were just lucky. So, could you have used your luck to help them steer their lives to a different outcome? This eats you up, in your corner office at the forty-fourth floor. As you preside over meetings, you wonder what it would have been like if Quincy, Bridget and Jojo were your business partners. Maybe you would have fallen out along the way, you thought. Even that sounded more comforting than where they were.

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Hence, one girl went back home to try and fix the nightmares of her youth. The stream was still fun and crowded in the afternoons. Girls still gathered to dance and tell stories in the evenings. Not a lot had changed, infrastructurally, because dreams were still dying on the bed of pleasure, every day.

This girl had lived long enough to figure out that what the people needed was simply personalized knowledge about reproductive health, and the rights and safety of women and girls. Therefore, anywhere there was an opportunity she gathered girls and talked. She helped them to download period apps, and gave individual counsel on boys, sex and the choices available to them. She fought for pregnant girls to be allowed to keep attending classes, and insisted on their right to respect and dignity.

This girl gave out period products and validated personal aspirations. To those whose dreams were blurry, she helped to define the scope of what is possible. Before she left, she set up a system of sustenance for the program. In that way, was the past atoned, and Quincy, Bridget and Jojo redeemed.

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