During my early youth I believed that adolescence was the most wonderful period in a person’s life. And I thought every teenager in the world was in a blissful state. It made me feel miserable. Because I wasn’t having ‘the most wonderful time’ in the least!
I think it was Urdu poetry that played mischief and filled my head with romanticised notions of youth. I am sure fiction didn’t do any harm because for one thing, it was ‘taraqqi pasand afsanay’ I was reading since class five; for another, they must be going above my head at that time anyway.
Whatever poets said about ‘sweet sixteen’, to me it was nothing but sour. All my complexes (inferiority complexes) intense ambivalence (particularly toward my mother), fights and frictions (with siblings), dreams, aspirations, frustrations, etc, made my mind a confused jumble of thoughts and feelings, and my ‘stream of consciousness’ a torrential, frothing mass. But mercifully all that was behind a placid facade: I was quite a quiet person.
That was the period most of my wishes had “…. if I was a boy” affixed to them. That was the time I most resented doing the home chores. That was the phase I was filled with intense rage at my mother’s pregnancies that in turn led to extreme guilt which gave me nightmares and woke me up sweating and terrified at the dead of the night.
Once I secretly nurtured such hatred for the child in her womb that when my kid brother was born I didn’t want to see him and didn’t visit the hospital for two days. But when I went and looked at the baby, so lovely, soft and pink with silky black curls and shiny button like eyes, I thought how stupid I was, and how could any one, how could I, ever hate the baby!
Such were my feelings, ‘here today, gone tomorrow’, in those awkward days called adolescence.
Later when I grew out of that age and read what I went through was ‘identity crisis(or some such thing), I had a good laugh because it sounded so simple (though a bit harsh on the tongue) and didn’t convey any of the weird, inexplicable, complicated feelings that went with it and I said to myself with a sigh if I had known then that it was only an ‘identity crisis,’ I might have spared myself the confusion, the intensity of it all!
I remember when I was sixteen, and in college, a boy from the neighbourhood had started bothering me. He used to follow me silently to the bus stop and in the evening I frequently saw him strolling near our house. I didn’t mind it in the beginning but later his persistence annoyed me. He was stupid, I thought. I was plain, pimpled-face and lanky, with thick, broad-framed glasses that sat smugly on my ‘hopeless’ nose. ‘Why doesn’t he go chase pretty, plump hussies in town?’ I was furious.
When I couldn’t tolerate it any more I told my elder brother. “Does he tease you?” he asked me after listening to my tale of woe. “No. He doesn’t say anything. He just follows me,” I said. My brother went into a reverie then said, “Look, what we shall do is to wait and see for a few more days. I think he will stop bothering you”.
So I let a few days pass but the pattern didn’t change. I told my brother again that the boy was still following me. He looked concerned but said, “Let’s wait for a few more days and if he continues I’ll give him a good beating.”
I felt angry at my brother (inwardly though). My brother was a thorough pacifist and bookish (and I adored him). ‘He can’t even give anyone a punch, sissy’. But I kept my mouth shut.
One morning as I stood at the bus stop the boy was there as usual. Suddenly he came near me and said “Do you love me?’For I while I was stunned. “I hate you. I wouldn’t even spit on you. Leave me alone or I’ll call the police.” I whispered. (I didn’t know from where I mustered up the courage).
But a fierce whisper it was (I couldn’t help but whisper. Being timid, my voice was usually inaudible) because the boy was petrified and then stepped back as if stung, and stood at the other corner. As nobody at the bus stand had heard anything, everything remained normal. But I was shaken and flushed with anger and humiliation and tears streamed down my face well-hidden behind my glasses.
I didn’t go to college that day, came back home and announced ‘stomach cramps’ to my mother who was bewildered at my unexpected return. She hurriedly produced a tablet and gave me a warm glass of milk.
My brother never asked me about the boy and I didn’t tell him what happened. It was a closed subject and I soon forgot about it (of course, the boy stopped bothering me).
Ah well. All those stupid years I might have been dreaming about boys but when one followed me I hated him so much and frightened him away! No wonder men find women rather puzzling (even women find themselves quite puzzling)!
Why didn’t my brother help me? Did he know instinctively his shy, coward of a sister would handle it in her own way? I think his not helping me, helped me: For I learned to fight my own battles.