This year we wanted to celebrate the Holi festival with newfound zeal after missing the revelry for two straight years due to covid. We recently relocated to a new city as my husband’s previous company shut shop. We found ourselves amongst unfamiliar faces and decided to stay on the side lines, making sure our daughters were playing in a safe environment. This strange uneasy situation evoked a far-off memory and I confessed to my husband that I was about our daughter’s age when I stopped playing Holi because I was touched inappropriately by the boys. This happened in the neighborhood where I spent my entire childhood. My parents continue to reside in that bleak, ugly and backward place. Those boys grew up to be men who have daughters of their own and they’re struggling to ensure the safety of those girls.

My heart still  burns with rage every time I visit that place. I feel guilty of staying quiet at the time. The collective mindset of ignoring inappropriate touches is highly prevalent in this crowded, fast-paced city. I still remember how helpless I felt at the local train station more than a decade ago. A man touched me behind and I immediately landed a few blows on his back before he escaped into the crowd. Not a single person stopped to even look around and enquire, leave alone catch the culprit. None of them wanted to miss the train by a few seconds. I hope this no longer happens as there are CCTV cameras everywhere. But that should not be the only deterrent.

My main duty as a parent is to make sure that my daughters don’t associate events and places with such bad memories. I try to teach them to have the courage to be kind to themselves first and never to silently suffer the misdeeds of others. I hope this world is kind to them in return.

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Hiral Rai

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