A friend is someone who one knows, likes AND trusts. The latter being the most important of the three as friends are supposed to be the family we choose for ourselves. The people whom we trust around our loved ones. The people whom we feel safe with at any point of time in life. The people who we believe will protect us when the world is against us.
After Father left us, I barely knew what Mother went through. I wandered in my own innocent world. I witnessed a few friends coming forward to help her in every way possible and this made me think that the world was a wonderful place. But Mother would repeatedly insist that, in front of people, especially men, I behaved like a decent damsel and nothing more. I wondered why, because to me everyone had a good heart. If I wore pants and sat with my legs apart, her stern eyes would make me join them close. My guiltless mind would wonder why she kept penalizing me for every wrong posture; after all I wore clothes, so I couldn’t give anyone free shows.
Due to disturbing events of the past, I have always kept my distance from certain ‘uncles’ and ‘married’ men. Vaguely, I remember that I had been partially traumatized at around 3 when a ‘family friend’ inserted his fingers into my private part while my folks were busy with chores around the house. Till then they trusted him enough to sleep on the same bed as us while he stayed over. Those were the days when most of us lived in one bedroom apartments and sofas were not that comfortable to sleep on. Hearing me yell, my folks came running in as I screamed with pain and blurted out what I felt between cries. The next thing I saw was my dad thumping the ‘family friend uncle’ and pushing him out of the house. I never had to see that person again but the unpleasant feeling that came about around similarly profiled ‘uncles’ lingered long after.
More than half a decade later, financial situations led us to live with another ‘family friend uncle’ and his siblings for a few months. After we (Mother, little brother and I) moved into our own apartment upstairs, our family friends still looked out for us in case we required anything. Early one evening, while at work, Mother insisted I took an adult along with me, as she would be terrified with my bravery of strolling on the streets alone whenever I wanted to visit my school friend a few buildings away. I went to the ‘family friend uncle’ downstairs and asked him if he could drop me to my friend’s. After all, everyone in the family trusted him, didn’t they? He agreed and told me to wait until he got ready. I nonchalantly sat on the sofa and watched some television while I waited, patiently. All of a sudden, he came out, said something unimportant and before I knew it, I was being smooched, for two seconds.
At that moment, I did not have anyone to run to and neither did I have anywhere to run. I was stumped. In my shock, he dropped me and went back. I stood outside my friend’s door until I got myself together and could behave normal after that. I still remember him asking me not to tell on him or my Mother would yell at me. Scared, I kept shut. As I grew up, I realiZed it was just a way of getting away with something he had done wrong. Mother would’ve scratched out his eyeballs if she knew how he decided to insult the word ‘friend’. There would be fire between both families.
Similarly, many young children are bullied and molested when ‘family friends’ know how to persuade them! Believing that our own parents would not believe us, is the reason many a time similar instances go hidden. What disgusts me most is that, both these so called family friends’ have daughters. Don’t they have the slightest scare that karma could turn on their little princesses too? That someone somewhere could be molesting their offspring without their knowledge? That someone they trust could be betraying their friendship that very moment? Or are these some of those people with no conscience? Are they eligible to be anyone’s friend? What kind of a friend are you?