I felt his hand roam all over my thigh.
It was rough but very warm.
I was six. We were on a bus.
I was standing at the front of the first seat.
He was someone on the foot-board.
It was crowded and smelly.
And when I thought the heat would make me puke,
He put his hand on my thigh and began to massage it.
In a way, it was comforting.
It reminded me of my papa’s hands
When he rubbed my cheeks
As he put me to bed.
But there the comparison ended.
Because this man played with my panty.
I had worn the colour-colour spotted one.
The one I always liked because it was soft and cool.
Because it had all the colours.
And I still didn’t have a favourite.
Though, Amritha, my best friend, liked pink, she said.
It was too crowded to see his face.
I genuinely thought there was some mistake.
I thought he meant to put his hands under some big girl’s dress.
And instead he had found my thighs.
I was six. I knew the facts of life.
I suffered in silence and a growing annoyance.
You would think a man would know a little girl’s legs when he felt them up, and that he would stop in confusion, in retreat.
You would think he would stop and feel a woman up, like the neighbour Aunties said they did in buses.
You would think he would slip off the foot-board if his hands were caught up under my skirt.
My mother yanked me off the bus as our stop came.
“Are you sick? Do you want water? Do you want to puke?”
I nodded. No.
Unconvinced, she moved to where my father was waiting.
I launched myself in his arms.
And when he rubbed my cheeks, and pushed the hair away from my face,
I realised I was so wrong.
His hands were nothing like my papa’s.
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