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Voicing Silence 7

Monday, October 16, 2017

Why now?, asked my mother. Why are you telling me this now? If you had told your father something then, he would have slapped him hard with a slipper, she added holding her palm up as if it were a slipper. I knew this was coming, I had seen it a mile away. I knew this question would be her response when I told her that yes, I too had been sexually assaulted. But the brutal manner in she had tossed it back to me. As if it were my fault all along for not saying much, for keeping quiet, for rolling the words over and over in my mind and each time faltering at the last hurdle. Why are you telling me this now? That question again. Why have you remained quiet for so long? So I told her then that I had not the words for assault of the kind I had endured when I was a child. And when as an adult, I had confessed, there were no slippers that were raised, no anger that was displayed but a mere cowardly silence. And quiet words asking to be left alone. Deal with it yourself, it seemed to say. I will not join your fight. I will not even raise my voice in anger or display disgust, fight your own battle like you have always done. That voice that fights so many other battles, refusing to lend its weight behind mine. I fight alone like I have always done. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

The vegetarian is in the oven

I cooked rajma, roti, dal and vegetables for lunch yesterday. Nothing unusual about that. Except I cooked thirty portions of each for paying customers at a local vegetarian cafe. This is not something I could have foreseen myself doing as recent as a year ago but the opportunity presented itself and I decided to take it up. Having already spent a couple of days helping out in the kitchen, I was familiar with its layout and roughly knew where everything was. But it still left me incredibly nervous about cooking live and not just for family and friends who are obliged to eat it and be polite about it. These were customers who expected to be fed good food and would not hesitate to complain.

Even the sight of plate after plate returning empty did nothing to reassure me. And hearing the owner
tell someone over the phone that there was some delicious Indian food on the menu just added to the anxiety. It was only while hanging up the apron for the day and resting my feet after seven continuous hours of standing that I let myself accept that perhaps, just perhaps, that the food had turned out alright and those that came in looking for food had rather enjoyed their meal.

As for the title, in response to my question about where the vegetables were, this is what the German lady assisting me had to say. I can assure you that the vegetarians were all outside and the oven was too small to accommodate anyone anyway. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Uncomfortable

He was a great man, your grandfather, I have heard them say. He would sit for Maths tests and his answers would be so brilliant that they would award him a 120 out of 100, they would say without irony. His English lessons were so brilliant that students would loathe to leave the class and come back year after year just to hear him recite Hamlet. He was destined for the green hills of England when the sudden demise of his father meant an abrupt end to his plans and he remained at home to teach in a college on a dismal salary. Marriage and children further scuppered his dreams and he never recovered from the sourness. But his oratorical brilliance or that supposed mathematical wizardry  is not what his third born, my mother remembers.

She recalls instead in vivid detail her mother, the only daughter of a tahsildar cowering in fear, while her father yelled at her for not seasoning the rasam. My mother remembers all too well her mother's wedding saree, the cherished six yards of silk being ripped to shreds by a madman wielding a pair of shears. She remembers her father's curmudgeonly behaviour which meant that his wife would be sent to a local government hospital to terminate her sixth pregnancy after bearing five children in a decade, rather than be cared for privately. She recalls being told that her mother would not be coming back home as she had contracted lock jaw and had died. Even after seven decades of bereavement, my mother still misses her mother acutely and says that some days she talks to her, asking her how she could leave her children to face the frightening world alone. But no, they would not talk of her. Instead, they talk of his brilliance. The legions of students that recall his command over Shakespeare and Chaucer and his great facility with numbers. A kind father, a genial grandfather, an erudite scholar. Not a wife beater, not that one. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

A quick tale 229

"Do you remember this?", he asked holding the winding up toy.
"Chumuti!", she exclaimed, recalling the name her toddler son had given the toy.
"Yes, it does look like I finally found out where Chumuti had been hiding all the years", called out her husband from behind the boxes which they had set out to clear.
"Was it in 92?", she wondered holding her hand out for Chumuti.
"No, this must have even earlier", he replied tossing it to her. "By 92 Sumanth was already six and he had outgrown these toys. Must have been more like 89 or 90 that we bought it for him".
"Yes", she nodded, her mind already half way back to 1990. How Sumanth had wanted the wind up toy and how much her husband would not buy it for him. Too expensive, too fragile, not now, may be later, the reasons had been plenty and each one valid but Sumanth had worn his father down with persistence until he gave up resisting. The toddler had taken the toy to bed with him the night they bought it for him and the night after that and for nearly every night for a whole year until another toy had come along and Chumuti had been forgotten.
She ran her fingers through the grooves of the toy remembering with aching fondness how tiny Sumanth's fingers once were when they held Chumuti. His fingers that were part of a small, perfect muscular body which held a fiercely independent spirit that astonished and frustrated her in equal measure. His stubborn streak that seemed disproportionate in someone so small. A characteristic she recognised as one he had inherited from her but one she would never admit to.
She checked the time and mentally calculated what the time was where Sumanth lived. He must be at work, she figured. Perhaps she'd try his cell number rather than at home. He answered in quiet voice.
"Everything alright, Amma?", he asked. He had started to roll his 'r's recently. Said it made it easier for him to be understood over the phone. She had wanted him to speak normally with her, as she could understand him perfectly without the affectation, but she had not told him so. She did not want to irritate him.
"Appa found Chumuti", she said holding the toy up to the phone absentmindedly, "you remember?"
"What, ma?"
"Your toy, Chumuti!"
"If it's not too urgent, can I call you back, ma? I am running late for a meeting."
"Don't worry, it's nothing too urgent. What are you eating?"
"Just grabbing some toast. Say hi to Appa. And send me a photo of Chuputi okay?"
"You gave it its name...and it's Chumuti."
"Chumuti, then. Got to go...I'll call you later, okay?"
"Eat something more than just toast, Sumanth"
She held Chumuti a little longer. Elsewhere in the house, she could hear her husband going through the boxes, wading through the paraphernalia of her children, throwing up old toys and outgrown clothes with casual disregard for the heft of the years gone by, for the years when her children were truly hers alone to enjoy and to be exasperated about, for the years when she would sigh deeply at the weight of motherhood but delight secretly in its demands. She could never go back there and it was rather pointless wishing for those years.
"Throw the box away", she called out to her husband. "It's full of useless old junk, just sitting there gathering dust and taking up space."
Her husband looked up surprised. "Are you sure? I thought you might have enjoyed looking through the kids' stuff."
"No, I don't. And if you find something don't bother telling me. I'm going to make myself some coffee, would you like some?", she asked making her way to the kitchen. Her husband's reply was drowned out by the noisy cappuchino machine Sumanth had gifted them on his last trip home. 

Thursday, September 07, 2017

A School Turns 80 But Asbestos Has To Go

Dear Chakku Akka

There's a photo that hangs on one of the walls of the Children's Garden School office. It's a picture of your German mother Mrs Ellen Sharma (nee Teichmuller) sitting on the steps in front of the office, surrounded by little girls who were no more than five or six at that time. Some of the girls went on to graduate from the school in 1990 and I am one of those writing to thank you for the wonderful start you gave us in life.

Akka, we are now a group of forty-somethings who live in different parts of world leading disparate lives. Some of us have gone on to get doctorates, some work with young people, some, like you are heading schools, some others are working in technology and some are raising a wonderful next generation. A few among us have defied great odds and with your benevolent support have gone onto make something of our lives. But all of us carry within us the light that you lit all those years ago. 

I look back on our years at Children's Garden School and realise my time at school was as much about music and dance as it was about Maths and Science. The emphasis was on all round education and not just the academic. I took part in writing competitions, sang in the school choir, threw javelins, essayed lead roles in the annual school drama...not because I was any good at it, but because I could. And my teachers saw no reason why I shouldn't.

Unlike other schools in the city where the children wore fancy uniforms complete with shoes and socks (imagine, in the hot and humid conditions of coastal Madras!) we wore slippers to school and took them off before we entered class. What use was a colonial hangover of an impractical uniform for children who needed to be dressed in tune with the surroundings? Our education was in harmony with our environment.

Even today the smell of cooking cabbage never fails to take me back to school days and the free hot lunches you offered. Those were perhaps the only hot meal of the day for some of my classmates. You knew that children cannot learn on an empty stomach and proceeded to address this issue. 

Our classes were made up of children from from different economic background, yet it mattered little when we slipped on our green skirts and white shirts and plaited our hair up in green ribbons. We were all students of Children's Garden School.

A couple of years ago, one of my classmates who grew up in an orphanage told us how you had funded her college education and when you saw how stubborn she was with wanting to study further, you funded her Master's degree too, then found her a good man to marry, gave her off in marriage and today her son calls you 'Paati' (grandmother). For many like my classmates, the school was much more than a place where we came to study.  

And our teachers! What an extraordinary lot you managed to recruit and retain, Akka. I still remember when I was thirteen, spending several days during my summer holidays in Lakshmi teacher's house working on a magazine which I hand wrote and illustrated. And still younger, my kindergarten teacher Miss Bertha Paul was entrusted with the unenviable job of feeding me eggs (despite her best efforts I continue to abhor that vile stuff). How they went above and beyond their call of duty! 

From Seethalakshmi teacher to Nalini teacher to Kusuma teacher to Neelambal teacher to Saroja teacher to Lakshmi teacher to Pankajam teacher...our school definitely had an amazing gathering of teachers who ignited young minds.

Our school was founded this very day 80 years ago by a German woman and her Indian husband who wanted to start a school that combined the best of Indian tradition with the liberal thoughts of the West. The school has evolved considerably from its humble origins of just seven students to educate hundreds today. 

Yet it pains me to hear that the classrooms have asbestos roofs over them. I am glad that my classmates and I are doing our bit to fundraiser to replace them with more suitable materials. 

Akka, we are proud to have been your students. And it gives us infinite pleasure in being able to celebrate the 80th anniversary of our school. Here's to several more decades of educating and instigating a love of learning in tomorrow's generation.

Namaskarams at your feet.

Sincerely 

A. Abhirami (class of 1990)

P.s. Anyone interested in contributing towards our fundraising efforts, please click here https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/abhiarumbakkam

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

At Sea

I would like an island.
-What do you mean?
You know...island...i..laaa...n...d.
- Meaning?
You know, a land that lies in the middle of water.
- I don't get it.
An island...you know...like a country with water on all directions.
- Okay...
Do you understand?
-No
Okay, an island means a country with water in all directions.
- Right
For example...Great Britain (where they speak English) and Sardinia (where I went on holiday twice and where I wish I were right now). You understand island?
- I don't know.
I want an island but only in my kitchen.
- Like Great Britain? In your kitchen?
No, no, that was an example of an island. This island will be in the kitchen.
- And there's water everywhere?
No, no, no water. Just floor. On the ground, in the middle of the kitchen, I would an island like.
- I don't understand.
I want a small kitchen island in the kitchen.
- My sister speaks better English than me. I will call you on Wednesday and you can explain to her what you want, okay?

The entire conversation was had in German and repeated in varying volumes and at different speeds in the fond hope that it will be understood. The conversation was had between me and a local Handyman. I am not sure I am getting a kitchen island shaped like Great Britain, but I am certainly getting a lot of wear on my German muscle.

Here's a picture of a kitchen island. You can imagine it as a country floating in the North Sea.
Image courtesy Ikea

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

A Duplicitous Life

Picture this. It has only been a couple of hours since I have had my first child and I am lying dazed on the hospital bed wearing a sleeveless night gown, looking around me, taking everything in through a haze of euphoria tinged with mild confusion and a definite awareness of ungobackableness. And I hear my mother apologise to someone, most definitely a hospital nurse. Oh no, I hear her say, we don't normally wear something like this in our house. She is usually more appropriately dressed. It takes me a small fraction of time to realise that it was me that she was referring to. And it is the fact of me showing off my armpit (freshly depilated - I remembered to shave even in the middle of my labour pains) to the world that was bringing forth the apologies. A note went into my mental filing cabinet, into the folder marked 'To Be Done Surreptitiously'.

Like most Indian children of a certain age (perhaps even now?) doing on the sly things that their parents disapprove of is nothing new for me. But somehow I assumed that going away to live on my own, getting married and begeting a child would mean that I would no longer need to pretend. Granted I would not rub it in their face, but I had thought I would not have to walk on eggshells for fear of disapproval. I had thought that perfectly adult behaviour would escape derision or scorn. But how wrong was I! What I did as an adult mattered just as much as it did when I was a teen and my shockingly short haircut earned me the privilege of not being spoken to for weeks on end.

Which is why when I was out for lunch recently with a friend and another who had brought her visiting mother-in-law with her, I was surprised to hear them discuss animatedly about which wine to drink and then order a glass of wine each. The mother-in-law came from a very conservative teetotalling vegetarian community and seemed very accepting of her daughter-in-law's choice to drink wine at lunch time (at any time really). But then what choice does she have, said one of the friends later, she either accepts it or risks alienating herself from her son and his family. She has chosen wisely to overlook the differences and to embrace them instead.

How refreshing is such an attitude! To not constantly measure your children by your own duplicitous, questionable standards but to accept them with all their choices, however hard it might be and however bad you might think it will make you look in other people's minds (here's a tip: no one really cares).

Indulging in a spot of
Skinny dipping. I was
Right. No one cares.
I had these thoughts racing through my mind while out shopping for furniture with a friend and stumbled upon a lovely Sekretär. My friend is an artist and has a keen eye for the aesthetic and promptly suggested that we turn it into a bar that would sit slap bang in the middle of the lounge and would invite guests, rather brazenly to partake of its bounty. But, but, but, I spluttered in my mind, what would visiting family think? Would they not disapprove of such flagrant disregard for good upbringing? Would the flasks have to be hidden away (that old trick) to make way for more acceptable bottles? But aloud I said, Great idea! Let's turn this into a bar!

I guess there will always be something about us that will rankle those that raised. Some mild disappointment with our comportment, some Major disagreement over decisions, some outright disapproval over choices but I have to realise that it is okay. It is absolutely fine to not see eye-to-eye on everything with a parent.  Looking back, I wish I had raised my arms, displayed my pits to the world and watch the onlookers stumble about in shock and consternation. Or watch them shrug their shoulders and carry on. 

Photo Life

Looking at the photo, even now I can feel the trickle of summer sweat down my back, remember the hastily downed meals which always seemed to interrupt endless play times and the afternoons spent being combed for headlice. With so many visiting us that summer, our large and bustling household seemed to have somehow expanded to accommodate even more.

When I look back on these years, I can see how much these experiences shaped who I am today. Given that it was my house that always played host, I was expected to share everything. Skirts, pillows, sheets and my parents' attention to a large degree. It has made me less fastidious about possessions but more particular about swarms of people. After any large gathering, I find myself craving a quiet place to retreat and to recover. A sanctuary from the roar of other humans.

In the photo, we seem to have been hastily assembled. Someone must have called out for those who were nearby to gather around for a photo and we must have obliged. Taller ones to the back and smaller ones up front, they must have said. No one seems sure about smiling and we appear rather tentative about it. The sole adult in the photo seems to be wishing he were somewhere else.

I recall the dress I am wearing rather vividly. I had had it sewn a few months earlier and on the
tailor's recommendation, added a Magyar sleeve which was all the rage back then. Wearing it, I felt terribly on point with the fashion world back then. Regrettably, the girl on the left wearing a white top and partially hidden by the boy in shorts passed away from encephalitis when we were sixteen. Once as children, when we were out in public, I demanded that she return my skirt that she was wearing immediately. I was rather horrible with her and she kept her nerve. It was not one of my finest moments and I never properly apologised to her for my behaviour.

Childhood photos can evoke deep nostalgia but this one does none of that for me. It was a captured at a time when I was ten years old and barring one, stars people with whom I have no contact. It was as if, like in the photo, in life too we were thrown together for a short while before heading our separate ways. 

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Small, Rectangle And Blue

If you climbed past the narrowing staircase, crossed the brick flooring, past the long rooms filled with assorted memorabilia and its peeling walls with cracks covered over with old calendars bearing garish images of Saraswathi and Lakshmi who bear suspicious resemblance to the film stars of those years, you might find somewhere in a corner a blue tin box.

I don't know what colour it must have been originally, but someone must have thought to paint over it in teal blue. Its colours matched the walls around it which suggest that the left over paint from the walls must have been dabbed on to the box. Perhaps no one thought to move the box as the paintwork was being carried out and by the time it was finished, perhaps it was covered with dripping that they spread it around until it was blue all over.

Some two feet long and about a foot wide, this box became mine when I was about ten years old.
And in order to establish ownership, I wrote my name down on its side in indelible pen. Over the next few years it would become the receptacle that held my worldly possessions. Notebooks, diaries, hair clips, report cards, certificates, birthday cards, wallets with a few desultory coins and much later a stack of love letters exchanged between a friend and her then boyfriend given to me to keep for fear of being discovered by her parents. I once peeked inside them a found rough scribblings in brown ink which my friend later confessed was blood. They were consigned to the bin soon thereafter, much like their love affair, I imagine.

Soon we will be moving into a sprawling house whose empty halls echo with the sound of nothingness. I've been shopping to fill it with the noise of our lives. Clutter that quietly boasts deep wallets and an emergence from our former conservative, middleclass selves. The box would have no place here and yet on some days I find myself recalling with deep affection its sharp edges, its peeling paint, its rusty surface and an easy life that could be tidied away in a blue tin box.


Friday, September 01, 2017

Words For Hire




From my very first bloggers meet. There was no audience.
We paid for our own teas.



Blogging is big business apparently. A close friend recently attended a conference of some sort where top Indian bloggers spoke about making a living from their blogs. My friend was in awe of the fact that the speakers had quit their lucrative jobs to pursue blogging full time and it was paying. They get given freebies, go on paid holidays and manage to turn over a decent sum. So are they expected to their honest opinion on these products that are offered?, I wondered. Not entirely, it appears. It seems one of the speakers said that she was getting paid for her time and not her opinion.

Perhaps I am in the minority, but when I read someone's blog post, I want to know what they think. I don't want a write up that is a mouthpiece for some product that I don't need or some overpriced service that I don't want. Don't the bloggers have any loyalty to their readers? The ones who visit their blogs, read their drivel and leave a comment? The ones whose footprints have landed them these deals in the first place?

I know, I know. I know what you're thinking. Jealous cow! No one is offering you a free trial of their latest avocado seed remover and that's why you want to piss on their parade. Unfortunately, that is the truth. The most I get offered is spam comments which ask me if I have erectile dysfunction or invite me to live webcam with someone called Tatiana from Russia. I have turned down both these offers though not before considering them carefully.

So let me cast off this semblance of loyalty to the readers and lay it open in public. Here's my offer to write and feature anyone willing to pay me. I can extol the virtues of your very wonderful enema kit and tell both my readers how their lives will be more enriched if they use your dry cleaning service. This place is for open for sponsorship and this writer is for hire. Now, if you will all form an orderly queue please.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Well Connected Life

Years ago I heard someone complain that she never had a chance to miss her husband since they both worked together and lived together. I wish he'd go away for a little while so I can miss him properly, she said. I had a chance to recall her words earlier this week. 


I have never been very good at keeping in touch. I have a tendency to make friends and then move on, leaving it to them to remain in contact. If they do, I am delighted that they have and if they don't then that is fine too. And perhaps this was the reason why I found Facebook and suchlike overwhelming. It thrust people and their lives crammed with detail on to me and the noise left me drowning. I unplugged from it one Tuesday morning several years ago and have not gone back to it since.

When Watsapp made an appearance on the scene some time ago, I bought into it but when I found its demands unable to keep up with, I uninstalled it. But a dear friend insisted that I reinstall it when the free phone call facility was introduced and this way, we could chat more for free. Soon enough I enrolled into a few groups of old school friends and gradually grew accustomed to the noise from everyday interactions.

The ubiquity of a life too connected has meant that I never have a chance to miss anyone. Barring the case when someone really close passes away, nearly everyone is readily available everywhere at the tap of a button. And therefore not really missed that much. The downside to such instant access is that I do end up seeing people rather more than I would like to - and they of me. This fact was brought to my attention a few days following an interaction on that wretched Watsapp. An unsolicited rude message was my awakening to pull away and to remain that way.

Back in the day when I used to meet with old friends, we would bid each other goodbye and promise to remain in touch. A promise I would promptly forget and be chided for later at the next reunion. I felt no need to know the birthdays of old classmates or indeed wish them or be kept abreast on their children's well being. These were minutiae that I simply had no headspace for and on those warm summer evenings when it was just that bit too hot to sleep, I would find myself wondering whatever happened to an old friend. And upon finding no satisfactory answer, I would invent them a life, throw in a career, imagine a partner, some children and drift off to sleep. That was enough for me.

Lately, after all the exercises in being social, I have come to the conclusion that if you really want to keep a friend, unfriend them on social media. Don't know too much about their lives, keep somethings a mystery, save some for conversations to be had when you do meet them. And whatever you do, do make an effort to miss them. Miss them properly, wholly and let them miss you too. And when you have had enough of missingness, pick up a phone. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Full Year In Germany

Me: Sprechen Sie Englisch?
Call centre lady: Nein
Me: Okay...leider mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut aber Ich versuche...

Normally we coast along for a few minutes conversing like this before invariably hitting a technical snag word like 'leakage' or 'confirmation'. And then I have to begin apologising again for my lack of fluency in German before beginning the arduous task of explaining the whole thing. This usually involves breaking the problem down into small words like water, fall, little by little and bathroom before I succumb and say it again in English slowly and loudly. And somehow hope that the volume and pace of my English would make a difference to her comprehension. At times it works, often it doesn't.

On my good days I resolve to get better at German but on those days when I long for some simplicity and don't want to feel like I am wading through a sea of bafflement and incomprehension, I curse this place and all its people. Bloody Germans! With a language so complicated that few countries in the world dare speak it.

Have you had the joy of interacting with a German noun? They are staggeringly long, often made up of smaller words and have a gender. They are like a group of children who have climbed on top of each other to form a pyramid of some sort and then covered themselves up with a cloak and given themselves a mask and demand that you call them by a neutral gender. You want to give them a clip around the ears, ask them to quit horsing around and behave. The nouns are most silly!


Pictorial representation of German nouns 

Yes, it is hard but I have to be grateful to be given an opportunity to be challenged as an adult. Bizarrely enough, we never once thought to visit Germany earlier, always choosing to go holidaying in its neighbouring countries instead. Yet it's only upon living here, that my family and I see how beautiful this country is. We live in a stunning part of the world and on clear days, can see the Alps from near our house. It's also a very affluent region with plenty of nature and good food to offer. We experience distinct seasons through the year and live within driving distance of some of the best ski slopes in Western Europe. And yet there are days when I long to just be understood without needing to say, 'wie, bitte?' time and time again.

Perhaps it is in my nature to not be content with my lot but to constantly yearn for something else. That said, on those days when I do successfully manage to communicate or understand what is being said without needing to google translate or look up the dictionary, I am overcome with a genuine sense of achievement. I find myself picking up German books to read and actually managing to understand parts of it - I deliberately choose books in those subjects which I don't understand in the first place. This way, in case I don't understand something, I can just say, 'never got the point of management books. So much jargon!'

It has been a year of enormous learning. My children have adapted to this country way better than I have as I constantly fear transgressing some immutable, invisible social norm and be told off by some stern German person (as it happened early on when sneezing on the underground train made someone tell us that we were "disgusting"). It still feels very alien and have yet to find the warmth and the feeling of 'at homeness' that I found instantly in Britain. I miss the easy access to culture and art that I so took for granted while in Britain and find the provincial attitude of several Germans many of whom live and work not far from where they grew up, incomprehensible. 

As an expat I live in a bubble and little idea of what is going on in the local area. Listening to the news, I can gather snippets of what is going on but then find myself going on the Guardian or the BBC to gather more detail. So this is how it is. There are days when I am awestruck by this place and days when I find it small and stifling and cannot bear to remain. It is pretty but dull. Pretty dull, pretty boring, pretty cold. But where do I go? With each passing year, the places I come from and where I have lived recede further and further that I had better unpack my bags and plan to stay here for a while. Willkommen in Deutschland. 

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Ed Fringe 2017 - Reviews

Porridge with fruit, paper version of the Grauniad and dull, wet
weather - it was good to be back in Edinburgh
There is nothing quite like theatre to make you feel quite so alive. And nowhere is this more evident than in the corpulent overdose of theatre that is Edinburgh Festival Fringe. As with every year, this year too I attended the Festival for my annual dip into the madness. And for three and a half days, I rolled with the punches and tumbled in its excess. What a glorious ride it was. I ate, drank and indulged in a lot of diverse forms of theatre. Personal and metaphorical journeys. Scripted and improvised storytelling. Technical marvels and pared down theatre.

And now that I am back, I am left wishing that I had watched more, stayed out later, braved the cold (yes, even in August, it's Edinbrrrgh) and thrown myself unresistingly into its artful melee. But I rest in the knowledge that I will be back next year and the year after and the one thereafter. For now though, here are brief reviews of  nearly every show I watched.

A Super Happy Story About Feeling Super Sad - Can you make a musical about depression and make it light and frothy while delving into darkness? This show gets the balance just right. 8/10

Eggs Collective: Get A Round - Dark side of a night out with friends. They are soon to be on BBC. Great energy but I didn't quite feel the pull. 3/10

Instructions For Border Crossing - Technical issues hampered this play. Lots of audience interaction but didn't like the actor. Was confused about what he wanted from us or what his stance was. 1/10

salt. - A searing, powerful exploration of identity. Selina Thompson, an adoptee of Afro-Carribean origin who grew up in Birmingham, went on a cargo ship tracing the journey her ancestors would have taken on a slave ship and has written a play about it. As she smashes a large rock of salt ("salt of the seas, salt of the tears"), it splinters and shatters across the stage and into the audience like the lives of those enslaved, resonating across continents, across ages. We were given a rock to take with us as we left. It weighed heavy in my hands. 10/10

Seance - Spooky twenty minutes in a pitch dark shipping container. A long table runs down the length  of the container with chairs laid out quite tight on either side of the table. The participants are advised to wear headphones, place their hands on the table, lights go out dramatically and the Seance begins. Brilliant sound design that unsettles and challenges every rational notion you have. Is this theatre? Is this art? Brilliant entertainment. 10/10

How To Act - This play by Scottish National Theatre meant its posters were plastered on buses. Pity such publicity could not save the lacklustre play. It's set as a masterclass with an acclaimed actor and whose dramatic exercise with one of the participants forms the length of the play. Gradually, the lines between reality and retelling blurs and there's a moment when something dramatic is revealed but it flops and we are urged to "speak the truth". Whatever. 1/10

Out Of Love - Writing that scorched and scalded and soared from the pages. Beautifully acted and realised. The power of female friendship, fierce, convoluted and glorious - all laid out in just over an hour's time. Oh, to be able to write like this! 10/10

Man Watching - An anonymous woman has written about her sex life and each night a male comic reads it out cold, for the first time in front of an audience. Interesting, funny, gimmicky. 5/10

Kafka And Son - Based on the letters that Franz Kafka wrote to his father that were later published as a book. Kafka was bullied by his overbearing father and this appears to have had a lasting influence on his life and his writing. The play was sensitively told by the actor playing both the father and the son to great effect. 8/10

Shape Of The Pain - What is it like to live with chronic pain? What does it look like? How does it sound? What triggers it? What worsens it? How do you live with it every breathing minute? Shape Of The Pain attempts to articulate chronic pain syndrome - something one of its creators suffers from. Its a visual, aural, technical and verbal description what must be indescribable. At the end like many in the audience left with my limbs aching, my head throbbing and my eyes stinging. 9/10

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything - A boy and a girl are born in Hull and their lives are traced over three decades - from New Labour to Brexit Britain - via plenty of live music. The evening of my show, the actor who played the narrator was given a special award by The Stage for being one of the best at the Fringe. His high octane, high energy performance was certainly a highlight but the rest was glittery and loud and distracting. 3/10

Cosmic Scallies - Skelmersdale in Lancashire is a monument to all things tried in failed. It was a town where, in the 1960s planner attempted to create a utopian housing scheme and didn't succeed. It's the setting for an unlikely friendship between two friends who go all the way back to primary school. It is tender, funny and at times brutally honest but the play is shy of going just that bit further. 7/10

EntryNoEntry - A performance art piece by a Srilankan artist who invites you into a dark cave, dances with you, asks gently probing questions of you about who you are and where you come from and leaves you bewildered and blinking into the lights. 6/10

The Road That Wasn't There - A trigger happy old woman, her concerned son, a half-torn map, a graveyard, a young girl in far away New Zealand and some puppets are among this rather Neil Gaimanesque story for children. The kids in the audience seemed riveted. 5/10
Blurrie with Guardian theatre critic Lyn Gardner 




All shows (bar one) were booked on recommendations by Guardian's theatre critic Lyn Gardner. You can read about my experience and my Primer To The Fringe here.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Voicing Silence - Feedback

Voicing Silence was shown at a film festival in Toronto some time ago and here's the audience feedback. You can read about how the animated short came to be in this series starting from 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.



Monday, June 12, 2017

What Use Is Knowing...

...anything if no one is around
to watch you know it?

These are the opening lines of an eponymous poem by Kaveh Akhbar that I came across in The New Yorker recently. I am increasingly given to believe that people and words come to you bearing insights at a time when you were meant to read them. That it would be foolhardy to dismiss them as mere coincidences.

I read the above lines a couple of hours after an exchange on Watsapp which had caused me to wonder if perhaps I should not be giving away so much of what's going on. I began to question if the importance of the event is any less if it is not shared with others or liked by others. Is an event only valid if has been seen by others?

There was something about the culture of oversharing that made me pull out of Facebook some years ago. A decision I have not had cause to review ever since. And yet, it was precisely the kind of 'look at what's going on' that I was indulging in recently.

It was also what made me stop in my tracks to wonder if, I was taking part in whatever it is that I was doing - attending concerts, running races, visiting places - so I can share it with others? And did it matter at all if I didn't do so? Would I still be doing all the things that I was doing if there wasn't an audience? Most likely, but would they matter as much?

As for the poem itself, I couldn't follow much beyond the second stanza. It seemed like broken up and disjointed sentences which may have retained some coherence if had been written in a paragraph as running prose. But then I don't understand such obtuse poetry and I am left wondering if I should have shared with you the fact that I read the New Yorker or that some poetry leaves me confused. I will go now.

You can read all of What Use.. here

Monday, April 17, 2017

Carnatic And Chaos

The last time I attended a kutcheri was a good decade ago at a sabha in TNagar in Chennai when I spent much of the two and a half hours worrying that someone's mobile phone might go off right in the middle of a Ragam-Tanam-Pallavi or that a Nokia ringtone would interrupt the neraval. And invariably, when a phone did start to ring, I heaved a sigh of relief at no longer needing to be so angst-ridden.

A few days ago, as I sat at Kabaleeswarar temple mandabam listening to Sanjay Subramaniam sing, I
remarked how much more natural the setting was. It was part of a series of free concerts organised following Tamil new year's day and the kutcheri unfolded amidst the everyday chaos of temple occurrences. There were regular temple goers who'd stopped by to listen to a song or two as much as those who had turned up a whole hour earlier to grab a prized front row seat that made up the audience.

Large screens had been erected in the temple corridors and the audience spilt over
to fill up those spaces as well. I saw families that made a picnic of it, eating pongal prasadam on a donnai, temple bells being rung as part of evening poojai, ubiquitous blue plastic chairs scraping against the smooth mosaic tiles, coconuts being smashed in thanksgiving and a small bajanai goshti walking around in a procession clapping hands and singing. And all the time, Sanjay was belting out some of the most exquisite Carnatic music in the contemporary scene.

It felt right, it felt appropriate that the music should be played out in its most organic state. Not in a sterile environment but in the middle of everyday bustle, high art drawing from the rich soundscape of pedestrian life. In the distance, I heard a horn blare, a child behind me shreiked and Sanjay picked up a high note and somehow, in this uniquely Tamil setting, it all sounded harmonious.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Running In Madras

I'm no stranger to running in Madras. I began jogging in the early nineties, at a time when joggers were not commonplace and you only ever saw one when he (rarely a she) was chasing a bus. As an NCC cadet I used train to run 3 kms and would regularly clock 5 kms in order to improve my timing in the 3 km race.

Back then I used to be laced up and out on the streets by 0530 latest in order to beat the heat and the traffic. But the early hour also meant that I was a target for street dogs to chase and for perverts to grope or slap me under the cover of darkness.

In the intervening years, much has changed in the running scene in the city which hosts its own annual marathon and several smaller runs that it was tempting to experience it first hand. So yesterday for the first time in more than two decades, I signed up to run a 10 km race in Chennai.

The start line was brimming with lycra clad enthusiasts sporting an assortment of running gadgets that have become almost mandatory for anyone who aims to  put one foot in front of the other over a certain distance. By contrast I looked at my nylon socks that I'd borrowed from my father-in-law and the canvas shoes that I wear on a daily basis that I was now going run the race in. I looked ridiculously underprepared.

Where was my ipod? Where was the heartrate monitor, the sun glasses, the bandana, the sun cream, the petroleum jelly, the pace band, the Vibram, the leg compressor? Heck, I hadn't even had a proper pasta dinner the previous night. I'd had sambar rice and mixed vegetable and coconut curry and vaadam and thayir saadam with oorugai.

At least I'd had the good sense to pack a sports bra. I sighed, carried my mother in law's orange tupperware bottle filled with water (what? No even an isotonic sport drink?, I hear you ask) and lined up to run 10 kms at 5.45 am in what must have been at least 33-34 degree temperature. As we began running  (jogging in my case), I was struck by how different the sights and sounds are to my usual route. Bizarrely I felt like a tourist in my own city of birth. I had never taken part in a race in Madras and the novelty of running on the streets that I'd only ever driven on was striking (including on the evocatively named Elephant Gate Road).

For one, there's dodging the traffic but there's also unusual things that you wouldn't expect to find on a regular running trail. Like a horse drawn carriage being decorated with flowers by a group of women in order to carry two Jain nuns (I waved but they didn't reciprocate). Like a water lorry (I had to stop to let it pass). It was life as usual getting ready to unfurl while a motley group of runners made their way round a loop.


(edited to include photo)
And that's when I was struck by an epiphany. Running and exercise should be organic and integral to regular life. It shouldn't require fancy geekery to set it apart as if it were something unnatural. I finished the race with ease, in a less than personal best of one hour and four minutes. Or at least that's what I think it was. I hadn't worn a watch and had to rely on other people telling me the time. Not that it matters one jot.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Voicing Silence 9

(To get a background on this series, I suggest you start with the first post here and then scroll up)

In the days since I first posted this series, I have had several responses. The most common among them is "You're so brave!" and I thought I'd talk about that a little bit in this post. First of all, I feel a bit of a fraud for being called brave. I feel uncomfortable accepting such praise and it is not just false modesty talking here. Let me explain why I feel disingenuous about considered brave. 

I began sharing my experience at a time in my life, where, by doing so, I stand to lose very little. There is hardly anything at stake here. No lives whose course could change dramatically or limbs who could be severed by my admissions. If I had come out with these allegations several years earlier when the extended family was enjoying grand camaraderie and bonhomie with each other, and done so in such great detail, there is every possibility that the aunts, uncles, cousins and their spouses would have denied everything and reacted with rancour and rage (precisely as they have done in another instance). But saying so now, since the relations have already ruptured beyond repair, there is no new damage to be done.

I am at an age when I have been married for so long and have had children that, barring the inevitabilities of life, my life at present enjoys the gentle boredom of middle age. My current major pre-ccupation in life is figuring out if the new word that I have just learnt in German has a masculine, feminine or neutral article (Der Apotheke? Die Apotheke or Das Apotheke?*). If this had been say, 20 years earlier when, as an as yet unmarried woman I had made these allegations, the ramifications would have been much more. Any potential husband material would only have to google my name to land on this blog and then get cold feet (let's not pretend it doesn't happen, okay?) and knowing that such a possibility exists, would have made me hesitate in the first place. 

I chose to articulate what had happened to me at a time that suited me best. I have said what I have to, as to carry on any further would have eaten into me, leaving me sick, angry and bitter. What I have done is a selfish act of self-preservation and self-improvement. It is anything but brave. 

*it is die Apotheke, since you ask. 

Watch the feedback to Voicing Silence here 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Voicing Silence 8

(To get a background on this series, I suggest you start with the first post here and then scroll up)

It's almost two weeks since I posted the last instalment of Voicing Silence and I have heard from a number of people including some with whom I had lost contact years ago. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to do a FAQs. This list is by no means exhaustive and will continue to grow. Please feel free to add to it by either commenting below or by writing to me.

FAQs

1. I cannot believe something like this happened to you. Looking at you, I would never have thought that. Are you sure you are not imagining it?

Sadly, I am not imagining it. It is true what happened to me. 

2. But you grew up in a traditional Tamil Brahmin household in cozy 80s Madras. Such things don't happen in our community. It's a foreign invention.

Yes, they do. No, foreigners didn't invent child sex abuse.  

3. I still don't believe you. I think you are out to besmirch your family. 

Okay.

4. Why have you come out with these revelations now? After all these years? Couldn't you have remained silent?

There was never a good time to say what I have said. It was always going to upset someone. I commissioned Lucy to create Voicing Silence because it was the first time in years that I was ready in my head and knew I could afford to pay her for her services. No, I couldn't have remained silent any longer. 

5. And now that you have spoken out, have you got any closure?

I don't know what closure means. If it means zipping something up and putting it away for posterity, no. I don't know if I can ever be rid of the event or stop reacting to it. But what it feels like is this. Some days, it feels as if a scab has been freshly picked open and the festering, pustulating wound has been laid bare. It will heal eventually, I hope. 

6. What do you want out of it all?

To be honest, in the course of writing it and creating Silence, what I want out of it has changed over time. Initially, I wanted retribution, then it became articulation. Now, I just want to be able to share my story in my own words. I want more of us to acknowledge to our own selves what has happened and seek professional help. It really is not worth carrying on living compromised lives. 

I used to see initiatives around teaching kids 'Good touch, bad touch' etc and used to wonder why so little was being done to address the trauma that adults were coping with. While it is vitally important to prevent such instances happening ever, it is paramount we talk about those who are living in the aftermath of horrific abuse from their past and I felt not enough was being done about that. 

From personal experience I knew that there were several in my own small circle who had experienced abuse and I knew that none had sought professional help. And all the time I kept reading about kids and safeguarding and all that. In my head I kept hearing, 'but what about me? I am not dead, know. I matter too.' I sincerely hope more adults begin talking and taking care of ourselves. 


7. What has happened since?

Lots, I am happy to report. One of the first people I shared this series with is my friends from school, including some whom I first met when I was three. My posts sparked a lively debate and it broke my heart to hear some say how they needed to borrow my words. Another friend from the same primary school group shared an incident which I have no memory of. 

She said that this happened when we were eleven or so. It seems it was my birthday and my mother had brought some sweets to the school but it appears, I had had a meltdown earlier in the day and my mother tearful when she talked to my class teacher about how I threw tantrums and how little I appreciated her efforts. Although I don't recall the exact incident, I know that that would have happened not long after the assault and it was when I started to get really, really angry. Just listening to my friend's recollection was touching. It meant that she had seen me, seen what state I was in and noted the instance when my social mask had slipped. 

I have heard from a cousin who wrote in a long email about how one can never be neutral when someone confesses as I had. And how he could not understand how anyone would doubt such an allegation. It was especially touching as it is the first time I had heard from anyone in the extended family circle in over a decade when similar allegations were first raised, which tore the family network  apart with several choosing severe ties with us. 

Long-forgotten friends and readers of this blog have written wonderful emails expressing sadness and promising support which has been lovely to read. 

8. Someone has just told me that they were abused as a child. What do I do?

Disclaimer: I am no professional or an expert in this matter. Please seek appropriate professional help. 

If someone tells you that they were abused as a child, please, please, please do not discount them. Or worse, doubt them. Listen to them. It takes a lot for someone to summon the courage and the words to say out loud what must have been whirring in their heads for so long. If they have chosen you to confess, they have placed their trust in you. Please just hold their hands and listen. And then very gently, guide them to seek professional help. 

9. All of this makes me very uncomfortable. Why can't we talk about something nice instead?

Yes, it is uncomfortable, yucky and unpleasant to talk about something so gross. For all the wonderful people who have written to me, there are a fair few who did not reply when I shared the blog series with them. And I understand their reluctance to engage with something so discomfiting. We would all rather run a mile than be confronted with something as horrific as this. We think it has nothing to do with us and we don't know of anyone to whom something like this has happened. 

There is a truly appalling statistic that says that as of 2007, nearly 53% of Indian children had been subjected to one or more forms of sexual abuse. I have no reason to believe that this number would have been less in the past, which means a majority of today's adults who grew up in India have suffered abuse. That's truly an epidemic proportions. Now tell me, do you really think there is no one in your family or friends group who has not been abused? 

We can either look away and hope that someone else will deal with it or step up and start doing something about this ugliness that pervades our every day life. The choice is ours. 

And since you wanted something pleasant, here's a picture of me and two people I am utterly besotted with. 


My babies and their mum


Read the next extract here at Voicing Silence 9

Friday, March 03, 2017

Voicing Silence 7

(To get a background on this series, I suggest you start with the first post here and then scroll up)

Headphones recommended




(Click on image for link or click here)

Written and narrated by 
Abhi Arumbakkam

Animation and edit 
Lucy Lee

Sound
Louise Brown

Music
Nefeli Stammatogianopoulu & Stelios Koupetoris



Read the next excerpt here at Voicing Silence 8


Thursday, March 02, 2017

Voicing Silence 6

(To get a background on this series, I suggest you start with the first post here and then scroll up)

One of my favourite speeches is this one that Neil Gaiman gives as the commencement address at an arts college in the US. In it he urges the students that whatever misery may befall them, to turn it into art. Use it as fuel to power their creative engine. I had decided that the best way to articulate my story was to make an animated short video of it and my friend Lucy was ideally placed to realise it. That said, how do I communicate the Madras of 1980s to someone who has never been to India?

I recorded a narrative and gave the audio to Lucy and she came up with her own set of question. Where did you sleep when you were young? Did you have beds? Did you change out of your day clothes to go to sleep? Did the rooms have windows? Did you grow up eating jam? What common insects would you find around the house? Would you sing or dance? Did you use ceramic mugs and cups? What did you wear on your feet when you went out? What sort of taps did you have in your house? Did you celebrate Christmas? Did it mean anything to you?

I started crowdsource responses including some from my school Watsapp group who were highly bemused with my request of photos of their kitchen sinks and utensils. My father sent me a whole bunch of photos from my childhood which prompted a blog post too. I sent links to Louis Malle's L'Inde Fantome which had significant portions shot in Madras but a couple of decades early. I sent links to some of my favourite Ilayaraja songs from that period and also some Carnatic music tracks which I grew up singing and listening to.

Lucy would get back to me every now and then with a line drawing or colour scheme that she was trying out and I would respond enthusiastically to it. I had left the artistic vision and the direction of the story entirely to her, secure in the knowledge that she would do it justice. She had watched the animated story of Malala and came back to the project refreshed.

Lucy wanted to bring in a sound designer and a musician that she had worked with earlier on board and as ever, I nodded eagerly. I also knew that she was juggling so many other projects and that the creative process some times takes as long as it does, so didn't want to push her too much with deadlines and demands.

Mangai introducing the Voicing Silence
troupe to gathered street theatre audience*
Me performing as part of
Voicing Silence*
I had decided to call it Voicing Silence, shamelessly plagiarising the title from a project about female infanticide and foeticide in Tamilnadu from the mid-90s that I had been a part of. It was also a lazy hat tip to A Mangai (aka Padma Arasu), whose ideas and work on feminism and theatre and gender and language I admired tremendously.

By the time Lucy shared with me the final version of Voicing Silence, I had watched the drafts so many times I couldn't react to it with fresh eyes but I knew it would be a conversation starter. Lucy had shared it with those in her circle and that prompted many to voice their own trauma which had not been spoken of for decades. But not everyone was as willing to react. It was difficult to accept that my own admission could startle and shock people that they would rather not say anything. Some people I sent the video to didn't reply and that is something I had to learn to accept.

Close friends responded with kindness and compassion. One of them called up and spoke exclusively about the film and  didn't say anything about the incident that had triggered it. She later wrote about how angry and how sorry she was that I had to go through what I had. She said that she found it easier to write because she would not have been able to say it to my face.

Lucy began sending it out to various festivals and we decided to give it year in the circuit before publishing it on the web. So tomorrow, with great joy and pride I give you Voicing Silence.

* images are screen grabs from A Mangai - a documentary (link here)

(This is a series of every day posts which will culminate in publishing an animated short film Voicing Silence that I commissioned and helped create documenting the sexual assault that happened to me as a 10 year old).

Read the next excerpt here at Voicing Silence 7

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Voicing Silence 5

(To get a background to this series of posts, I suggest you read the first one here, the second one herethe third one here and the fourth here)

For years I had been wondering how to articulate my trauma. And then, a little while after I'd moved to the UK, I'd done courses in documentary film-making and had started telling factual stories. Could there be a possibility there? What purpose would retelling a personal story in all its gory detail serve? And is this what I wanted?

In 2013 I watched Yael Farber's Nirbhaya in Edinburgh to an auditorium full of sobbing men and women. I found its portrayal in all its attendant specifics and bit too real. Even the actors playing it had each suffered horrific abuse and it was their own story that was being told. It was discomfiting and I knew I didn't want to go down that route.

With Leslie Udwin
A year or so later, I met with Leslie Udwin, director of the documentary India's Daughter, the day
after it had been banned in India. Leslie was deeply upset about the ban and couldn't understand the reason for it. I however, only got it too well. We would much rather look away and will it to go away than be confronted with its dark underbelly of entrails.

So what do I do with my experience? It had been playing in endless loops in my head and I wanted to share it with others. And the answer was hiding in plain sight.

With Lucy Lee and our respective boys
I had known Lucy Lee for well over a decade and we had worked on a few projects together. Our kids - her first and my second - were born within months of each other and we compared notes on motherhood frequently. For a while, Lucy would bring her newborn to mine on Tuesdays and we'd spend the day listening to talks, discussing pressing issues and setting the world to right.

Lucy also happens to be a talented animator who graduated from the National Film & TV School which is widely regarded as one of the best film schools in the world.

So I decided I would commission Lucy to do an animated short documentary of my experience. After all, as Lucy would often point out, the advantage with animation is that it is the medium of metaphor. You could say a lot without showing anything literal and letting the audience fill in the gaps. I sounded her out and she was delighted to be asked and we set to work straightaway.

There was only one issue. How do I communicate the world I grew up in - its sights and sounds and smells - to someone who has never been to that part of the world?

(This is a series of every day posts which will culminate in publishing an animated short film Voicing Silence that I commissioned and helped create documenting the sexual assault that happened to me as a 10 year old).

Read the next excerpt here at Voicing Silence 6

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Voicing Silence 4

(To get a background to this series of posts, I suggest you read the first one here, the second one here and the third one here)

Some years ago, my mother mentioned to me that she had attended my sexual assaulter's Sashtiabdapoorthy and I was appalled. This filthy beast was a pillar of the society and had had the temerity to invite my parents to its (no human pronoun for it) birthday celebration. Suffice to say I was apoplectic.

It was also around this time that the whole sordid episode of Jimmy Savile came to light and I had a thought. I began to wonder if I could take my abuser to court on historic sex abuse charges.

My shorts-wearing, middle-finger raising, Guardian-reading,
mobile-carrying, pineapple-wielding (not idea why
pineapple, may be 'cause the fronds resemble her hair?)
Kali 
For days I fantasised about dragging the filthy piece of shit to court and have it look me in the eye as I would recall in graphic detail what it had done to me. Then, I would watch with glee as it lost its house, its job, its status in the society and delight in the gradual unravelling of its life.

I would have my perfect revenge. I would be able to show it that it had not undone me and I would laugh the laugh of the triumphant survivor, the defiant avenger. And I would dance the dance of The Righteous And Indestructible Kali as my nemesis lies reduced to embers.

The reality however was starkly grey.

When I told my father about this idea some time later - it was also the first time I had told him of what had happened to me - there was none of the anger I had expected (note: people's reaction rarely matches your own expectations of how they would react). There was not even a hint of surprise. He just sounded immensely tired and wearily accepting of what I had told him. He then said that he would not be interested in becoming involved in such a legal battle.

Given that he was perhaps the most qualified person for the job - I don't know of any one else who has been practising criminal law in India for fifty plus years - it was disappointing to say the very least. I consoled myself that perhaps it is because he would not be able to be objective about it in the same way as he is when he handles sexual assault cases. So I had to reluctantly give up on the idea.

But I was not about give up on the thought of retribution. It would take some time but when the thought occurred to me, it felt like a jolt of lightning passing through my entire being.

(This is a series of every day posts which will culminate in publishing an animated short film Voicing Silence that I commissioned and helped create documenting the sexual assault that happened to me as a 10 year old).

Read the next excerpt here at Voicing Silence 5