When you're young and full of life, everything seems possible. Everything seems simple from a distance especially with the knowledge that you have enough time to fix things. At 23, I realize that things are not as simple as they seem to be. The closer you get to your goals, the harder it is to conclude what you started off. I got my license three years ago. My license to open my own medical store. But who would have thought that without the support of at least one well-wisher, it's a near impossible task to start something on your own. Especially for a young Muslim woman with no one to fall back on for support. For two years after I completed my diploma, I worked as a Pharmacist (trainee) in the same hospital where I did my course. It was one of the most hectic periods of my life but the good thing is, I managed to save up enough money to fund my graduate degree in B.Pharmacy. I could directly enter into the second year of this course due to my diploma. Nothing works in this country without proper degrees. There's no hope for the future of this country simply because people are gauged by the degrees they hold and not by their individual capabilities. B.Pharm is a tough course and I work day and night to successfully complete it. I don't want to end up with the same kind of grades that I scored for my diploma, thanks to all the drama with my ex-boyfriend.
"Things came back to me with a blow and I thought my head was going to explode."
During the vacation before the final semester of my diploma, I had to visit Chennai for a short internship that I decided to do on my own. And because I was travelling to a new city outside of Kerala for the first time since I got here, I was excited and truly looking forward to cherish every aspect of it. Joseph allowed me to borrow his camera for the duration of my internship. Unfortunately for him, he forgot to remove his memory card before giving it to me. And guess what I found there? Amidst all of our happy couple photographs were tons of photos of my best friend Simi. Pictures that were, by the looks of it, taken by a stalker while she was not even aware of being photographed. Pictures of her in our college uniform, at the railway station, at the grocery store, at the mall etc. Things came back to me with a blow and I thought my head was going to explode. Simi and I never spoke to each other after the whole episode where she was cornered by my boyfriend and his friends. And I still wanted to believe that my boyfriend was innocent.
When I called him up to ask him about this, he panicked. He completely lost his shit and began sobbing through the phone. He told me how one of his friends was stalking Simi and had asked him to help him out. Joseph had actually taken those pictures for that guy. He also shared them with some other friends. He assured me that none of them had any bad intentions and had done nothing with those photographs. But I couldn't stand it anymore. I wanted everything to go back to normal. I began to wish that I hadn't borrowed the camera. I wished that I hadn't seen the proof. I wished that I didn't feel as bad as I did for everything that had happened to Simi. I wished that I didn't feel so guilty. I didn't speak to Joseph for a whole week. He made me feel dirty and defiled. Later, when we got back on speaking terms, everything about him began to disgust me. Till then, the way his family had behaved with me in the past was something I never gave much thought to because I truly believed that things would change for the better. But now, for the first time, I began to associate him with his family. His father was cheap and I had made my peace with that. But his mother had been reasonably civil to me when we met. However, this woman would always make it a point to talk loudly in an abusive language whenever she saw that Joseph was on a call with me. She would start insulting Muslims in general every time she knew that I could hear her. And all of that was coming back to me.
"...he called me and asked me to moan into the phone so that he could masturbate."
I began to realize that Joseph's treatment of me per say, was not that exceptional either. The little things about him got on my nerves. The way he treated me like a possession was becoming unbearable. How he always talked about having sex with me when I would finally go back to Kerala was the most annoying bit. He made it sound like the sex was all that he missed with my absence from the city. Like that's all that truly mattered to him. One day, after a long day at the internship, he called me and asked me to moan into the phone so that he could masturbate. I have done this endless times before but on that particular occasion, I exploded. I told him that he was pathetic and selfish. That he didn't care about me or my well being. That he never listened when I tried to tell him about a bad day at work or college. And I concluded my speech by telling him that I thought he was as cheap as the rest of his family. He must have got the shock of his life, seeing me react like this. I immediately changed my phone number and never contacted him while I was still in Chennai. When I got back, he probably found out through some common friends. Anyway, all I know is that someone tipped him off that I was back for my final semester and since he didn't have my phone number, he visited my hostel one evening. This was a hostel run by very frustrated nuns and male visitors were usually put under a lot of scrutiny. The nuns didn't have to dig too deep for their gossip in this case. Joseph actually made it easy for them by shouting my name from the visitors' parlor, demanding that I come down to meet him, screaming all kinds of abuses at me, calling me a thief for not returning his camera, making it publicly known that I had spent many nights with him in the past and by threatening to share personal pictures and videos with my family.
I was too embarrassed to step out of my room for a while. Later, after he'd left, the nuns gave me two options. One was that they would call up my family and tell them what had happened. The other option was to leave the hostel within a week without collecting my caution deposit. The caution deposit was to be treated as my fine for the disturbance I had caused at a respectable and peaceful institution. I didn't seem to know how to get out of there without informing my parents about what had happened. Anyone would demand an explanation. I didn't know what to do and was on the verge of getting a panic attack. Quite understandably, my first impulse was to end my life. Again. Thanks to all the Gods known to man, one of my classmates who was a day scholar heard of my plight and agreed to let me stay at her house for the whole semester. She lived with her widowed mother who was more than happy to host me. I couldn't possibly be more thankful for their generosity and kindness. I couldn't thank Allah enough for helping me escape my end.
I collected the hostel fee that Vappa sent me every month and bought groceries for the family that I was staying with. I did this at least once or twice a month. I also saved the rest of the money as well as my meager pocket money to return the caution deposit to Vappa at the end of the term. Thankfully, my family never found out about anything that happened during my diploma. My grades suffered horribly due to all the emotional stress that I was going through. Thankfully, I could start my training with the hospital because of my previous grades and the internship that I had completed earlier that year. And I managed to move to a more comfortable working women's hostel facility close by.
Today, I feel embarrassed for the life I have led. I feel embarrassed for my past and the family that I was born into. For believing that it was okay for my parents to entrust the responsibility of my younger siblings on me when I was a mere child myself. For being naive enough to build castles in the air when the prospect of escaping reality with a boy was presented to me. For toying with a boy who was kind to me. For feeling disgusted with him when things turned against me. For blindly trusting someone who was never right for me from the start and for refusing to listen to my gut feelings about him. For losing my best friend to petty jealousy and for being the worst friend to her when she needed me the most. For my society that sees me as "just" a woman. For my unrealistic dreams for the future. For all the arrogance and the bad choices that came with them.
I tried contacting Simi a few months ago. I sent her a message on Facebook because I couldn't bring myself to pick up the phone and call her. I told her about everything that had happened to me. About how Joseph had treated me in the end. About how I began to see that I couldn't love him after all. And about how I suffered and broke up with him. She never replied. This is the time when I need her the most and I realize that she won't be there for me. I cry every other day, thinking about how we used to be. But there's no going back now, I guess. I could apologize but that wouldn't change a thing. She's probably too busy leading her perfect life with her perfect boyfriend. It's funny how some people are privileged enough to get away with anything. And some others are forced to pay for every wrong move. At this point, I wish I could be happy for her and the life she now leads. But I can't help feeling that our roles could have been reversed. I could have been born into a more well-to-do family and have had a normal childhood. I could have had the freedom to make my own choices. I could have been more privileged. I wonder if she would have turned out to be different if she were born in my place. I wonder if she would have survived. But I know for certain that I would have been more successful had I been born in her place, if I'd been given half the privileges that she had growing up.
All that I look forward to now is hard work. I will have to work hard and bring myself up the hard way. And God will give me the strength to do just that. All is not lost. I know this. I still have time. I have been blissfully single for three whole years of my life. There hasn't been a single guy or distraction and I will never let anything come between myself and my dreams. I will prove the world wrong and make opportunities for myself to thrive and succeed in. This, is my promise to myself.
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