To the Aunty Next Door,
Do you remember the first time you crossed paths with me? I was 14, wearing a cute little dress. Your gaze scrutinised my body from head to toe, an expression of disgust glowing on your face. The dress I thought to be sweet now disgusted me as well. That was the first time you affected me with your negativity. Little did I know that it would not be the last.
The second time I met you, I was 16. With a bag full of hardbound books that were supposed to determine my future, I made my way to one of many tuition classes. You stopped me on the way and interrogated me with those prying eyes; suspicion clear on your lips as if I were about to sneak out to a drug den. You did not trust me then, nor do you trust me now.
You always had a way with words; menacing and convincing, you managed to coax others in the neighbourhood to keep an eye on me, to follow me with interrogative gazes. Was it because I never looked down when you looked up at me? Was it because I carried myself with dignity and spoke up against your snide comments?
The third time, I was 18. I got into college but you were the one stressed about it. Your face frequented the window facing the road, scrutinising every friend of mine who wandered near me. Boys dropping me home after a college fest – ooh she must be fooling around with them; girls spending the night at my place – ooh she must be abnormal, into girls.
But despite my incessant energy to stand up against you, your negativity touched me in ways that I never imagined. Today, whenever I see a new dress, I think – what would the neighbours think when they saw me in it, what would you think? I try to shove this thought into an obscure corner of my mind, my feminist side getting a hold of me. But they are still there, peeking from behind a veil of fear and insecurity. Whenever I pass your door, I step up to see if you are seeing me. The familiar old road near my home no longer welcomes me with vigour. Instead, they stare at me with questioning eyes, as if asking ‘where have you been all this while?’
I know what crosses your mind every now and then; you are a moral guardian who is looking after my well-being. You are being an angel to see that I don’t fall into wrong hands. You are ‘like my mother’. It has been this way through generations; your grandmother had looked after my mother, peering through the curtains, burning a hole with their gaze. But step back for a moment aunty. Because it is not only me whom you have infected with your disgust and apprehension. Thousands of girls across my nation are being watched upon by a “guardian angel”; an aunty who lives next door; an aunty who carefully plants seeds of doubts into growing, confident minds. What if it was your little girl walking down the street with her head held high. Would you want a “guardian angel” for her? It is my hope to see you answer my letter someday.
The Shy Girl Next Door
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Hi! I’m Rapti Mukherjee.
I am a media science postgraduate and currently a freelance script writer. An aspiring storyteller, I am a sucker for all things Bollywood. Even though I am a major procrastinator, I’m really passionate about feminist and socio-cultural issues.
Email – raptic96@kyoshi5
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/rapti.mukherjee.71
Editors: Grisha and Anushri