‘….The day Toi-toi left, Ma had to work alone in the kitchen lighting the oven, peeling the vegetables, cleaning and cutting the fish and meat before starting lunch. When it came to lighting the oven, Ma could not find the box of matches. This was a job always done by either Phulbahari or Toi-toi. Only they knew where the matches were kept.
“Go and get a match from Amanuddaula,” Ma said to me. She knew uncle Aman would have a box of matches since she had seen him smoking cigarettes. Uncle Aman had been given the same room at the back of the house which used to be full of fire-wood, where uncle Sharaf had taken me one lonely afternoon, saying he would show me something interesting.
I opened the door and went into the room. Uncle was lying in his bed. He looked like my father. Curly hair, a sharp nose, large eyes, thick dark eyebrows, a fair complexion. If Papa could be pressed under the bricks and flattened somewhat, and his height reduced, he would look no different from uncle Aman.
The room, I could see, looked completely different. There was no fire-wood, no rats. A picture in a frame hung on the tin wall. It was one of uncle Aman himself. His hair in the picture looked wavy, on his feet were pump shoes. To the right of this picture was a calendar with a woman’s face on it. A comb and a mirror were tucked in the tin. On a clotheshorse lay his clothes, unfolded.
“uncle,” I said, looking at the calendar, “Ma is asking for matches.”
“What is your Ma going to do with matches?” he enquired, getting out of bed and rubbing the hair on his bare chest.
“She’ll light the oven. Then she’ll cook.”
“But I haven’t got any matches!” uncle Aman told me.
At these words, I turned around and took a step to walk out of the room. Uncle dragged me inside. “Wait, wait, take your matches. I have got some,” he said, grinning.
Suddenly, as if by magic, a matchbox appeared in his hand. I stretched mine to take it, but uncle Aman moved his own hand away. I tried again, he moved it once more. One minute I could see the matchbox, and the next minute it was gone. It felt a bit like watching a glow-worm. A flash of light one moment, darkness the next. In order to lay my hand on the box of matches, I moved nearer to uncle Aman. He pulled me even closer. Then, instead of giving it to me, he started tickling me under my arms and my stomach, laying me flat on his bed. I shrank like a snail. He picked up my tense, curled-up body and threw it in the air, as if he was playing cricket. He was the bat, I was the ball. Then he caught me as I fell, his hand sliding down my body, stopping at my panties. Then it began pulling my panties down. I tried to roll off the bed. My feet were on the floor, my back still on the bed, my panties near my knees, my knees neither on the floor nor on the bed. Around my neck hung the medallion to protect me from danger.
Uncle lifted his lungi. I saw a big snake raise its head between his legs, poised for attack. I went numb with fear, but to my greater horror, the snake did attack, in that little place between my thighs — once, twice, thrice. I remained totally petrified. Staring into my wide eyes, uncle said, “Would you like a candy? Tomorrow, I will buy you candy . Look, here’s the matchbox, take it. And listen, sweetheart, don’t tell anyone that you have seen my cock and I have seen your little sweet pussy. It’s bad to talk about such things. You must tell no one.”
I left his room, the box of matches in my hand. It ached between my thighs, I felt to pee, but saw my panties were already wet. I had no idea what this game was called, this business of stripping me naked. Nor could I guess why uncle Sharaf and uncle Aman wanted to climb over me. Uncle Aman had told me not to tell anyone else. I started to think he was right. It was not something one talked about. At the age of seven, suddenly a new awareness rose in my mind. It told me that whatever had happened was shameful, it would not be right to talk about it, it had to be kept a secret.
Even today, sometimes I wonder why I did not tell anyone about those two incidents. Was it because I did not want people to think badly of my uncles? Had anyone put me in charge of protecting their good name? Was it because they were older than me and, for that reason alone, worthy of my respect, because I had read in a book that one had to respect everyone who was older? Or was it because I had believed them to be good people, and did not want that belief shattered? As if what had happened was just not true, it was a lie from start to finish, no more than a nightmare; or, may be, those men only looked like my uncles, but were really two different men in their guise, enemies from some distant past! Who struck me dumb, and told me to hide my pain and suffer in silence? Was I afraid that, if I did talk about it, no one would believe me, they would dismiss my allegations, say that I was possessed by some evil spirit, or that I was either a liar or totally mad, a trouble-maker? No one would then hold me close and kiss me, but slap me and hit me hard instead? Or could it be that no one seemed to be my own, no one was close enough to whom I could go and cry my heart out, tell them everything without holding anything back, show them my wounds? Even Ma was not that close, although she was my whole world. I lived under her protection, she was like a tree, I sat in its shade when I was tired; she was like a deep, clear pond, I drank its water when I was thirsty. She had given me life, she nurtured it. If I could not turn even to her at a moment like this, who else could help me?
After that incident, I felt myself split into two. One half went out with all the other children, played games and ran around. The other half sat alone and depressed, by the pond, or the rail roads, or the steps by our door. Alone, even in the middle of a crowd. Thousands of miles began to place themselves between this lonely girl and all the others. Even when she stretched her arm, she could not touch anyone across all those miles, not even her mother. If she tried, all her hands could ever grasp was emptiness….’
[From the translation of my memoir ‘Amar Meyebela'(My Girlhood)]