Handle With Care

Renita
Posted May 17, 2017 from India

When I was a student in college, our Professor teaching Contemporary Issues set us a unique assignment which seemed like a drudgery at first. He asked us to visit the Kalaghoda Art Festival and document our experience of it. We were told to write an essay or poem about any one of the art pieces that touched us the most.

On my return from my visit to the Art Festival I didn't need to rack my brains much to decide what I wanted to write on. The sculpture had been unnerving and scary to say the least and I couldn't imagine what must've gone through the artist's mind while creating it.

I wrote a poem about Child Sexual Abuse on seeing the sculpture based on child molestation. What I wrote was mere fiction, putting together stories I had heard of before. But the result startled me.

Handle with care

When people brushed past her, she flinched

The touch of another’s hand would often cause her to cringe

Her brown eyes would follow their footsteps intently watching their way

She’d learnt her lesson in her younger days, she wasn’t going to fall prey

Though her mother missed her, she liked living on her own,

She was glad she had left her nest and away from it, had flown

Her mother had showered her with love and provided her with care

But the thought of home brought revulsion, there was no way she was going back into that lair

This was her own turf where she had to fend for herself

Away from the place she had fend off monsters who had hurt her little ‘self’

The memories of those monsters had left her bruised and scarred

She tried to hide them under her clothes and her tired but brave façade

She remembers when she was four,

Awaiting her cousins sitting at her front door

Hunched in a circle, they would tell each other stories at night

But these couldn’t compare with the ones that gave her fright

The youngest in the family, the apple of everyone’s eye

Pampered and loved beyond measure, then, she wasn’t shy

Of all her beloved relatives, her paternal uncle had been the best

Bringing her gifts and food galore, he cared for her, at least more than the rest

He came visiting a rare day, when she was home alone

Bringing delicious jalebis, fond of which she had grown

No one refuses such sweet delight, to herself she had thought

As she gobbled up and enjoyed the entire lot.

But then her whole world went hazy. Had she relished it too much?

She fell to the floor, and then recoiled, as she felt her uncle’s touch

There was a look behind those eyes that she had never seen before

A tighter grasp that roughly caught her and pulled her off the floor

Her hands went numb and feet went cold, she stared blankly, totally aghast

Seeing his face inches from hers, was the moment she remembered last!

When she woke up to her senses, she felt so ashamed

What was she to tell her mother? Could she be the one blamed?

Her body wasn’t hers anymore, it felt impure and defiled

She felt dirty within her own skin and couldn’t wash away the memory even if she tried

Her heart pounding, she made her way to her mother’s room

Hard as she tried, she couldn’t describe how she had just been consumed

Gradually she lost her voice and turned into a shell

Barely alive, she was living a different kind of hell

Her soul had been tampered with, it could never again be whole

With her body and her mind, her innocence, he stole

She tried to come to terms with it and bravely faced all

When he turned up home again, with his usual charm, calling her a doll!

The terror that ran through her heart, she hid away petrified

She tried to speak to her mother again but remained tongue-tied

“How can that demon stand there, so brazen and so bold?

His desire has turned me into an object, an empty shell, so cold”

The words remained in her heart and did not make it through

His terrible act kept recurring till the age of twelve she grew

Bearing this heavy burden, she had turned into a ghost

She had lost faith and hope in the people she loved the most

Since she couldn’t find the words, in a letter she wrote

That she couldn’t live life anymore and planned to slit her throat.

This set off the alarm and brought attention to her call

Her parents found the letter and saved her before her fall

Now she lives in the city, she has left behind her past

A meagre income, a simple job, but enough for her to last

The memories still haunt her, she cannot get over the scare

She now walks around with a signboard saying, ‘I’m broken. Handle with care.”

When we were finally asked to submit our assignments, the Professor chose mine as one of the pieces that had struck a chord with him. He read my poem out loud in class and people appreciated it later.

What I remember to this day is when one of my classmates called me aside and asked me whether I had experience abuse as a child to which I replied "No' in quite a carefree manner. After all, what I had written was an amalgamation of stories. I had written fiction. She replied, "What you wrote about is what happened to me. It's eerie the way you wrote about exactly what I experienced and felt."

That sculpture at the art festival had inspired me to write about something I had never experienced which in turn helped my classmate break her silence for the first time about the abuse she had faced as a child. That's the power of art I guess.

This story was submitted in response to Art for Action.

Comments 13

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Yo
May 18, 2017
May 18, 2017

Dear Renita,

That was a very touching post. Yes, I believe that art can bring about many memories and feelings, and it had obviously brought to the fore some stories that you have heard about previously. Your poem was beautifully written, and I am not surprised that there were people (including your classmate) who was moved by your poem,

Renita
May 18, 2017
May 18, 2017

Thank you so much for reading my poem and such positive feedback.

Evelyn Fonkem
May 18, 2017
May 18, 2017

Inspiring story

Renita
May 18, 2017
May 18, 2017

Thanks, Evelyn :)

Lisa Anderson
May 18, 2017
May 18, 2017

Dear Renita,

What a powerful poem you wrote after visiting the art festival and seeing this piece. I imagine this had a major impact on the woman in your class who approached you. It's uncanny that a fictional poem resonated so deeply with someone who had experienced abuse. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful writing and reflections.

Warm regards,

Lisa

Renita
May 18, 2017
May 18, 2017

Dear Lisa,

Thank you so much for your kind words and for providing a platform like this for us to share our work.

Regards,

Renita

Tamarack Verrall
May 22, 2017
May 22, 2017

Dear Renita,

Your poem is truly powerful - beautifully and so realistically written. The sculpture is amazing, and what a great act on your behalf to choose it and to write on such an important subject. As I read I was gripped by its reality. What a lovely surprise to discover that this had not happened to you, but by your sensitivity, creativity and courage your writing has helped another woman speak out. Welcome to World Pulse. I look forward to whatever you write next.

In sisterhood,

Tam

Renita
May 23, 2017
May 23, 2017

Dear Tam,

Thank you for your kind words. I look forward to writing more.

Warm regards,

Renita

Insia Dariwala
Jun 09, 2017
Jun 09, 2017

Dear Renita,

I am glad that this piece of Art inspired you. The concept was mine, and inspired by the pain inside me as I am CSA survivor. It was executed by an artist Shree Hari Bhosle, and I am very glad that 'Betrayed' inspired you to write this beautiful poem. I am also happy because it inspired another survivor to share her story with you. That is the power of stories. Keep up the good work, and feel free to connect if you lie in Mumbai.

Hugs

Asha Thomas
Jun 09, 2017
Jun 09, 2017

Dear Renita,

It was nice to read your story and the poem. Your friend could share her pain with you Sharing is caring. It shows you are lovely girl. Welldone. Keep it up

Renita
Jun 12, 2017
Jun 12, 2017

Hi Asha,

Thank you for reading my poem and your kind words. It means a lot.

Regards,

Renita

Renita
Jun 12, 2017
Jun 12, 2017

Dear Insia,

I'm sorry that you experienced CSA. It's great and amazing how you've survived and kept going and are changing other people's lives now. The concept and the sculpture have the power to say a lot without saying anything at all. Thank you for your kind words of appreciation. I have met you once, I think :)

Warm regards,

Renita

Jai sewa
May 19
May 19

Dear Renita, the poem was very nicely written