I was as usual well ahead of the bell for the classes. Just as I was entering the portal of learning, I saw a white Ambassador car driving out of the gate in great speed, a quick glance told me the car was loaded with people and they were peeping out of the windows trying to catch a glimpse.
My gang was there at the usual Velu’s tea stall sipping their morning cuppa and lighting up their cigarettes. The moment, they saw me, Albert shouted, “hey, you just missed them Shruti, there were here, a car full of people looking for you!” I was aghast, who could come looking for me early in the morning, much before the college time. “You must be mistaken Albert, they may be looking for somebody else,” I shouted back and by which time I had joined them at the stone benches that doubled up for the chai shop and acted as a brain storming gossip brewing adda. Ralph and Subbu were there discussing about the world that day and the unfolding classes. In unison, they said “no Shruti, they were indeed searching for you, and they asked us a few questions with regard to your disposition, behaviour, conduct and other personal details!”
This time, I listened to them in earnest and wondered who they could be, their description did not match anybody that I knew of and why on earth, would few people seek information about my conduct! I could not concentrate in the classes during the morning session but by lunch, with all the banter and bonhomie, the thoughts faded away. It was business as usual in class with the chit passing and pulling the legs of friends and foes alike.
The routine evening walks with my uncle and aunt (Periappa and Periamma) were moments of reckoning, accounting for each and every moment spent in college, about classes, about teachers, friends – who said what, yes with dialogues, and the customary advice and instructions. These walks over the days made me from an introvert to one of the most talkative girls and I carried this demeanour to class as well making my presence felt everywhere. I had a huge gang of friends and college life was merry, joyful and fun. However, I dreaded to bring them home to my uncle’s place as they were very orthodox and did not appreciate my friends belonging to different castes and communities, venturing into the sanctity of the home, especially the puja room. So somehow, we preferred to meet outside in various ice cream parlours, movie houses and other favourite hotspots of the temple town.
Life was hunky dory with cool dandy things happening until the summer of 1991. Things started changing dramatically with my parents keen on getting me married. I was still finishing my first year of MBA and dreamt of a nice career as an Ad copywriter and did not want marriage to become a stumbling block and tried to protest. The attempt was feeble, I guess and my mom, convincing as ever, got the better of me and said “Look, you can finish your studies, this Jathakam (horoscope) business takes a long time, does not happen overnight, I am sure by the time we scout for a good boy, you would have long finished your course and placed well, so don’t get too perturbed by the proceedings, we have just begun it.” The proposal looked alright and I succumbed to their boy hunting process!
The summer began with a bang like the world wide web in India. The boy searching process lasted just a couple of weeks, the month of April saw the boy seeing the girl parade, and I fell hook, line and sinker for Ram and the rest as they say is history! Ram exuded a childhood innocence that blew me away! The whole family looked very sweet and nice like it is in usual such match seeing ceremonies and especially when it is the destined time for tying the knot.
My mind raced back and forth at the swiftly moving Ambasaddor car out of the college gates, did this have a connection with the match making process, I wondered! Maybe they were checking me out!
Ram was also pursuing his masters and his job alongside in a nearby town and would visit me every weekend on some pretext or the other with lot of goodies and normally all Mondays to college were never manic driven but clothed in nice new dresses that my fiancé had bought and my friends would lovingly tease me “yes we know Ram was there over the weekend”.
Otherwise, life continued with the same regimen, the daily walks and on this day in May, I observed that my Periappa was brusque and not in his usual elements. He brandished his stick at a street dog and I was wondering why the hell and fury at an innocent four legged creature. I looked at Periamma, she was also quiet and silent. I mustered all the courage and asked “Periappa, what happened, any issues?” He turned to Periamma and said “ Vrinda, you only tell her about the letter.” I was confused and bewildered “Letter, what letter I asked?”
Periappa fished out a letter from his shirt pocket and thrust it into my hands and said “What do you make of this?”
I cringed at the snail mail post addressed to Dr. Subramaniam in a bizarre handwriting and opened the cut envelope and the contents just blew me to smithereens. Here was the guy who called himself as the well wisher of the Subramaniam family and warned them of dire consequences if they went ahead with the marriage of their niece Shruti. There was no identity on the sender but he claimed that he had got information from reliable sources about the misdemeanor of Shruti and her jaunts with her boy friends. The letter alleged that I was of loose morals and not fit for a family of their stature. The assertion was that I was hanging around with lot of boys and bringing the family to dis repute.
I was dumb founded at the substance in the mail and the tone, it sounded almost in a threatening expression to call off the wedding in the best interests of the boy and their well to do family. Back home, I was restless and gave a call to my Appa, bursting out in tears, I recalled the crudely written letter and then handed over the phone to Periappa who took it away on a different plane. Though he expressed surprise at such a anonymous letter, he added that we should prove our innocence and inform the boy’s family.
I expressed dissent over this and said “why make a mountain of a mole hill? Some idiot writes some nonsense and here we have to give the agni pareeksha…rubbish, I will not do any of these”. My dad too indicated likewise and said “we should just let it go Anna, I know my daughter well and I am mighty sure that she is not of that type and I am a liberal minded person and if she had an affair, she would have disclosed that to me.”
I heaved a sigh a relief but soon things started going haywire. The next morning, when I woke up, I was surprised to see my would be inlaws at the doorstep, my uncle had informed them of the letter and he deemed it as the right move. There were lot of altercations between the families and my dad and mom sensing the predicament, reached uncle’s house the very next day. The tussles and the tangles turned ugly and eventually, to settle the brawls, my grandfather intervened and made me to apologize for any action that might have instigated this kind of letter. Much against my wishes, I faithfully obeyed him just to bring the situation to some sanity.
Ram was at a loss to understand but said “See Shruti, I believe you and the matter ends there.” But the matter did not end there, this was the beginning of a series of taunts by my stalker to last for many years!
I am no celebrity but have been stalked and that is abuse!. This has caused great unrest within me, the perpetrator, still do not know who it is even after 30 years, has assaulted me mentally that has left bruised scars.
Ram and I were walking back from the bus booking office with the ticket for travel to my hometown that weekend and I was pretty pumped up, for a newly wed to visit her parents not so frequently, this brought me great joy. On the way, hubby said he wanted to check his E mails, we still did not have internet at home and stopped by at the cyber café. I thought it was a good idea little realizing that there was a bomb in the inbox awaiting to explode on our faces. Amidst lot of unopened mails, was one from a person who addressed himself as RR. When Ram opened the mail, out popped an animated video that showed a guy in an armchair sipping a mocktail and the letters screaming in a bubble “I am your worst nightmare.” We were thrown off our seats, despite the slow internet speed in the café, the words were literally hitting us like a tornado.
The next big thing to occur in the household was internet connectivity and the passage of time not only saw us graduating from Sify connection to dial up with Modem and finally to the wireless and alongside all the shadow mails of my stalker RR in myriad forms!
The WWW saw him with a flourish, sending animated videos on youtube and the like when the world was just waking up to them. To put it in his words “I am your worst nightmare” which he was, and the ordeals were just like hallucinations. Initially, I just tried to brush it under the carpet as someone who was unemployed and a regular at cyber cafes whiling away his time smoking a cigarette! Or someone who was madly in love with me and I never knew about it and this desperate bloke was going over the top with my engagement. But this incompetent suitor continued with all audacity never to show who he really is; however, he was there like a shadow knowing when I was about to sneeze! The intensity and frequency increased exponentially to the point of insanity, but I was clueless as to the identity!
He knew when I went out of station, he knew when I had visitors, he knew when my family was visiting me, he knew when we had fights in the family, he knew the names of my classmates right from kindergarten to post graduation, he knew when I had stomach cramps, he knew when my brother had changed his house.…he knew it all!
For each new development, I had him chatting to me virtually in all the possible chat messengers cropping up from nowhere, hacking into my system and leading me to his den of filth and gutter. I presume it was this sickly nasty guy who hacked into my Facebook account making it into an account that I dreaded to open with all the slime and contamination. All my files went corrupt and day and night the shadow was cast on me and my actions. All my privacy vanished in thin air falling prey to this pursuer. He would send mails in my name to my parents, who fell for all his gimmicks and answered to his mails thinking it was their daughter! I could feel his presence everywhere and he sent his messengers to my home when I was not there and then they would evaporate and fade away. I could feel his gang inching up to me each time I was walking in my neighbourhood, something that would signal the presence of the stalker syndicate.
I did my own investigation into this that lead me to exotic locales such as Canada, Kochi and Bengaluru, only to leave my imprint and never to discover anything or anybody and even contemplated cyber bullying but then who would go after all this and thus gave up.
The intrusions of this person in my space left me traumatized, esoteric and insane! He *appeared in the pre internet era through the snail mail with hate stuff and threats that caused relationships to sour, marriage to be on the rock and me perpetually on tenterhooks. Intimidation and harassment continued unabated, but I steadied my rocking boat. Each time I tried to forget, he would come back with renewed energy and gusto to hit fresh salvos and we would cringe in pain and anguish and disenchantment.
Who is this morbid villain? What is the intention of this hideous and ghoulish character? Is he a man possessed or obsessed or is he a psychotic or a narcissist? The answers I know none, but life goes on as usual with that macabre sword hanging down by throat forever!
Here is a poem I wrote about the stalker …..
To laugh or cry, to rejoice or sulk
at this looming shadow
I am the princess
and he the palanquin bearer
The shield or the ghoulish sentinel
The Sun playing truant with the clouds
appearing when least expected
but leaving its golden rays
the glare piercing through the somber
To laugh or cry, to rejoice or sulk
at this haunting ghost
can sense the masked apparition
from the corner of my eye
That palpable obscure spectre
haunting me every moment
UNSEEN, baffling and covertly
Experiences lasting night and day
Hellish, horrible and harrowing
The undercover agent spying
To laugh or cry, to rejoice or sulk
at this eternal hallucination
For the defenseless prey
like a crouching stealthy TIGER..
(This is a true story; the names of the characters have been changed to protect their identity)