It was after her fifteenth birthday that she realised there was something a little different about her. All her friends seemed to have changed – they dressed better, seemed more interested in their appearances, talked about boys. She felt least interested in their talk about clothes, cute actors, jewellery and shoes.
She seemed to feel more at home with the opposite gender. She enjoyed talking to them about cars, motor bikes, internet gaming, cricket and heavy metal. She remembered one incident in particular….they were listening to Opeth and head banging. All boys and she, the only girl.
There was a knock on the door, and a girl’s voice said, “Open up!”.
The girl who came in wore a short skirt and tight T shirt, and her black curly hair hung loose about her neck. She said, “Turn down the volume! Mom is getting angry.”
“What a noise!” She added, “God knows how you listen to such stuff!” She then caught sight of the boyish-looking girl in the midst of all the boys and gave her a strange look mixed with pity and disgust. The look made her feel, for some inexplicable reason, ashamed and angry with herself.
Then one day, they were talking about a girl. A boy asked her, “What do you think of her?”
“She’s really hot!” she had responded, spontaneously. Immediately the mood changed. They all looked at her in surprise. And then burst out laughing. “Hijdi!”, a boy called out. She looked down and went red in the face. She could not understand what had prompted her to say such a thing. It had just come out of her mouth.
Many such small incidents and she began to feel she was neither here nor there.
Things had changed…The boys still wanted to hang out with her- but now, she no longer felt like one of them. It seemed to her that they tried to make her say such things to have a good laugh. She felt more like their latest amusement than their friend.
As for the girls, they either disliked her or pitied her. Her own attitude towards other girls had also changed – she felt awkward, uneasy and self conscious in their company. And the boys just laughed at her. They all called her ‘Hijdi’. She began to withdraw from every one. When she got into college, she had a bad time. She buried herself in books and work, to get away from it all. All the other girls had a string of male admirers following them about adoringly, while she was all alone. One of her friends had asked her, “How many men have proposed to you?” She was silent. None. That was the answer.
She finally said, “Er…..not many.”
Her friend responded, “Oh, you poor thing!”. She looked at her friend, with long loose shiny hair, her bright shirt with short sleeves, tight jeans and hated herself more than ever.
What was wrong with her? She looked at herself in the mirror. Her hair was cut short, she always wore jeans and T- shirt.. Maybe she should dress in more feminine clothes…..She had tried once, but felt so constrained. The clothes felt like a costume – and she did not feel like herself at all.
But on the other hand, there were lots of other girls with short hair, who wore jeans and T-shirt all the time. No one laughed at them. What was wrong with her? The boys laughed at her, and the girls avoided her when they could – those who did speak to her did it out of pity. The only time of the year she liked was exam time – as she suddenly became very popular then.
Her parents were very worried about her. They talked about it. “She is twenty, and just look at the way she dresses!”, her mother said.
“The other day, the lady who lives on the top floor asked me how my son was doing!”
“She is different from other girls”, her father said, thoughtfully.
They thought it was just a passing phase.
The years had passed and nothing changed, except that she also became silent and introverted. As a child, she had always been expressive, affectionate and talkative.
She gradually withdrew and spoke so little that you often did not notice that she was in the same room. She had hardly any friends and spent most of her free time reading and studying. At her age, when a woman is supposed to blossom and look her best, flirt and have fun, people mistook her for a man! How would they get her married?
They decided to take her to a psychiatrist. After two sessions, he asked them to come and see him. “Your daughter has something to tell you” The girl took a deep breath, hesitated and looked at the doctor. He nodded reassuringly.
“I’m a lesbian”. She blurted it out.
“No! She is just a tomboy. You’re wrong! There are lots of other boyish girls about, who are …okay.”, her father said.
The doctor responded, “While that is quite true, it does not apply in this case. Ask her yourself”
“It’s quite true”, the girl said, “It explains so many things”
“What! Oh my God! How could God be so wicked?” her mother exclaimed. “My own Daughter?”
Her father said, “Can it be cured?”
The doctor gave him a long look, and said, “This is not a disease. It is just part of who she is. Of course, some therapists advocate conversion therapy….but the success rates are poor. I, for one, would recommend that you just let her be and support her.”
“Let us get her married. Then she will forget all this nonsense”, the mother said.
“That is the worst possible thing you can do to her”, the doctor said. “You should have brought her here earlier. Any way, it is not too late. Life has been very hard for her till now and will be harder still. Unfortunately, our society is very intolerant to anomaly”.
He paused and said again, “Please, I request you. Do not be angry with her. She cannot help this. Support her. Be with her. Do NOT force her to get married”.
If only the father had replied “Yes, of course we will support her. We are her parents, and will always be with her, no matter what”.
But, no! He told her instead, “If I hear any more of this lesbian nonsense, I will throw you out of the house.” He had then turned to his wife and said, “There is only one possible course of action. Let us get her married. Does that idiotic doctor know what is good for my family or do I?!”
Both of them had rolled up their sleeves and set about getting their daughter married.
Months passed, a year passed, even two years, and nothing worked. They became desperate- she was now twenty two, and it would soon be too late.
Finally, someone agreed to come and see her. A young man had liked her photo. They had been overjoyed. Despite her entreaties, they fixed up a meeting with the boy and his family. When he came to see her she felt very awkward and kept fidgeting. She wore the elaborate dress they had got her for the occasion. She curtly responded to the questions they asked her and asked none in return. They had gone away, saying they would let them know. A few days later, they said “Sorry, but their horoscopes do not match.”
He had been furious. It was all her fault. A perfectly good match and she had thrown it all away thanks to that doctor. What on earth would they do now? In despair and anger – he had said to her, his own daughter, “We worked so hard to find someone for you and this is how you repay us! You bloody eunuch! Get out of here and never come back again!”
Then, next morning, they found her in her room, a note by the side of her bed, along with an unfinished glass of water, and an empty strip of sleeping pills. He had held the little crumpled up note in his hands –
Dear Mom and Dad. I can’t go on like this anymore. I can’t take this. I’m not a bad person. Goodbye.
Even today, he remembered all these events as clear as day- as though it had happened just yesterday.
He remembered the horror, shock and dismay he had felt at the time. He still cried when he thought about it.
If only, he had been more loving! How he wished he could go back in time and rewrite that part of her life. But, alas ….it was twenty five years too late …. too late to be a good father, too late to be a good person – too late – the two worst words in the English language.