After FGM – Today, I publish the account of the painful genital mutilation I was subjected to when I was just a little child. I am a married woman, blessed with daughters. Truly, parents of girls live in the land of angels. Truly, these girls are blessed to have my wonderful husband as a father. And I am blessed to have a man who pushes me to live for my dreams, stands by my side, proud and unafraid.
I’ve always had the belief that my life is for a reason. And I strongly believe that each and every one of us are defined by our experiences and our attitude towards them.
My experience has become the reason. I have been defined by it. My life was shaped around it. It is inescapable.
Please know that I remember that miserable day in all its small details. The event of going for the walk with my mother is etched in my memory. My screams were deafening. I remember the lack of mercy. And I can never let go of the anger.
Once upon a time, there lived a little girl. Tiny, pretty, happy in her world of brothers and sisters, G.I. Joes and Barbie. Loved like no princess has ever been loved.
One day, she was innocent, like a rose bud. Her eyes filled with wonder at paper lighting up under the magnifying glass.
The next day, she was innocent no more.
That girl was 6.
She was me.
I am from a happy, loving Bohra family. We lived in a joint family and my grandmother loved us kids more than she did her own. She enjoyed us, spoiled us, took delight in our conversations, watched over us, laughed over childish jokes with us. She told us about her childhood, India – back then, her father, her short schooling.
My father lived to make us happy. He religiously took us out to parks, spoiled us with tons of ice-cream, long drives, holidays. He encouraged us to do the things we wanted despite his fears.
Anyway, my dadi (grandmother) really loved me profusely, or so I was made to believe.
When I felt that my questions would be received, well enough to get a response, I asked my mother why she did not make her case to grand-mom. I was probably 16 or 18 and my probing was unwelcome and elicited an awkward reply from mama.
Mama said that she did. She begged. The only response grandma gave her was that ‘no one would ever marry me.’ and that ‘their name would be spoilt.’
Then she said that they had to do it.
Mama came to my dad. Dad said, ‘do whatever my mother tells you to do.’
Mama was disheartened, miserable. She spoke to an uncle, a doctor. He was against the practice. He tried to talk my father out of it, and my father was unshaken.
Then my mother came to me with the most hilarious of lies ever.
We were a few minutes away from home.
Mama took me for a walk in the evening, after I had finished milk and snacks.
(Putting this down is almost feeling like I’m violating a very private part of myself. I am ashamed of writing these lines that sealed my fate and a part of me feels protective about my mom – I don’t want to portray her as a deceitful fanatic and I don’t want you to laugh at her choice of words either. It was so embarrassing and shameful to write this down, every time I read this, I wish the Earth would swallow me.)
She said to me, “You know we have to take you for a small operation.”
“What operation mama?”
“They will brush your susu. It won’t hurt so much.”
“Brush my susu, mama the doctor will brush it with a tooth-brush? Will the doctor hurt me lots?” I asked her with the understanding of a seven year old.
“Yes baby, with a tooth-brush. It will hurt a little… so will you come?” She pacified me. “You will get a special gift after it.”
“Ok.” And that was that.
Her mission was accomplished.
(Should my mother have a great memory, she will know that the only person who could write this is her daughter. I remember this conversation word to word. It shames me, makes me feel so small. My mother’s choice of words makes me want to laugh until I cry. How happy I was that day, walking-hopping holding her hand, wondering what special gift I was going to receive!)
My grandmother, mother and I left from home. I knew what day it was. The day of the Operation. I had worn my favorite dress. We hailed a cab to Bhendi Bazar. I held onto my mother’s hand. We walked through the dirty bylanes until we reached a dingy building. I wondered why we weren’t going to a hospital, but didn’t say anything. We walked up the stairs till we reached the home of a lady. Her house was huge, but sparse. It was clear to me that the lady was really poor. Everything inside her house seemed old and the furniture was dirty and broken.
I found three other ladies inside. My grandmother asked my mother to go and sit elsewhere. She obeyed.
One of the ladies asked me to take my panties off and lie down. I did. Suddenly, the three ladies were surrounding me. My grandmother was by my side.
My grandmother put her leg over my chest in a way that restricted my movement and view. I couldn’t see what was going on and told her that. She said, “Nothing, you just lie down.”
Now I’m guessing that the ladies must be preparing the blade and the other things.
The ladies spread my legs and both of them pinned my legs to the floor. This was when fear spread through my body. Why did they need to constrict me? And this was when the lady who opened the door to us, touched my clitoris. I found it odd and ticklish. Then she began cutting me. Cutting away. I screamed and screamed in pain and agony. I was begging her to stop. I was screaming for my mother. Where was she? My screams and tears and cries of help were of no use, she wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t see. The pain was blinding and ravaging. I was screaming and gagging with my spit. The tears wouldn’t stop. I thought it would never end.
All of a sudden, it was over. The woman pulled me to sitting position with a jerk. And before I could see what had happened inside, she took a small piece of newspaper and stuck it on my clitoris. Then she showed me a black piece of something and told me that there was a cockroach inside and they had to remove it. “Would you like this thing to be inside you?”
Meekly I said, “No.”
They told me to put on my panties. My mother appeared out of nowhere. My grandmother gave her something. I think it was money and we got out of there.
I was quiet all the way home. The look on my grandmother’s face was one of accomplishment. Something that says, “I had to do it, I did it.” My mother had a look of resignation.
Then instead of going home, my mother took me for a walk. We didn’t talk about anything. She walked me into my favorite toy shop. And bought me a My Little Pony – Applejack.
That was my special gift, a stupid pony.
I got Applejack in exchange for my sexuality.
What an awesome deal!
On our way back from the toy shop, we stopped at the grocers for a big bottle of Dettol. Once we were home, she softly explained that each time I urinated, I had to pour some warm water mixed with Dettol on my susu until it healed completely.
I obeyed and for days I continued pouring Dettol and water on myself, secretly looking at my clitoris wondering how she cut me, was it still there, finding that the look of it had changed.